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What's It Like For a Developer To Go Into Sales?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the there-have-been-weirder-career-jumps-before dept.

Businesses 85

An anonymous reader asks: "I've worked for a single, very large technology company since graduating from college in '89. My degree is in Computer Science, and I've written everything from embedded machine code for big iron to applications with Smalltalk. I'm still in development, but since '99 my programming tasks have been replaced by project management, some customer-facing work (technical-ish presentations, demonstrations, training, and the like), helping our marketing people position my team's work, and other things that programmers generally don't like to do. Are you a former developer who went into sales? If so, what were your experiences like from a professional and personal perspective? What advice would you give to a developer considering a new career in sales?"

I find that I enjoy the broad, technical perspective that comes from working in the field, and I'm thinking about moving out of development and into technical sales. Moreover, I've interviewed several techies in my company who are now in sales and all tell them they love it. Several have reported that a techie can make more money in sales. However, I do have several reservations: I am an introvert and a full day of face-time can really sap my energy, many sales people I've worked with are 'sharks' (which I simply cannot be), and I don't like the idea of putting part of my salary at-risk.

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Mneejh (0, Troll)

Helen Keller (842669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274898)

Mneeh mnnng PSOT!

Here's a good one (0, Redundant)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275016)

do whatever makes you happy... not what we think you should do.

Re:Here's a good one (0, Troll)

Shads (4567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275694)

Here's another one--

See a psychiatrist if you're seriously considering going into sales. Sales is one of the most deceptive, lying, bullshit filled fields on the face of the earth... and you WANT to do this? Voluntary commission based sales people are at best one step above lawyers who are exactly the same except they also ruin other peoples lives at the same time... and both are at the bottom of the slum pit.

Re:Here's a good one (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276052)

Um, what about the CEOs who make it all possible?

Re:Here's a good one (2, Insightful)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277766)

I disagree. Sales is only as you described if you choose to make it so. Granted most sales people are full of shit. For my company my number one goal is honesty first. In fact, we try to undersell our product and support a bit to be certain we exceed our customers expectations.

Sales honesty and integrity is easy. That is of course assuming you have a corporate culture to back it up. The problem is, sales people are treated like restaurant waiters. Here's a place to work, now go hustle for tips. Oh btw you get to essentially work for free for that privilege. Shit jobs motivated me to graduate college, so I do owe them a bit of gratitude.

If people want honest sales they have to make it where the time to do the groundwork isn't spent stressing over commissions. My company gives bonuses for sales but they don't work like commissions. They are spread company wide, so everyone is a part.

Re:Here's a good one (1)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18291748)

Voluntary commission based sales people are at best one step above lawyers who are exactly the same except they also ruin other peoples lives at the same time..
Chances are you work at a company.

Chances are that company sells something.

Chances are you help build whatever your company sells.

Chances are if your company had no sales force, it would sell no products.

Chances are if your company sold no products, it would go out of business.

Chances are if your company went out of business, it would not be able to pay you.

Chances are if you were not being paid, you would not be able to pay your ISP to allow you to make ignorant comments in web forums.

So give those sales people some love. Your flamebating depends on it.

I'm in Sales (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275028)

In Sales, we constantly have to lie to people, be fake, and manipulative. If you can live with yourself, you should be OK.

There is constant pressure, no matter how hard you're working, to do more, make more calls, etc. If you can live with this, then you might actually enjoy sales.

But I should warn you, the sales managers that I have worked for have been some of the most evil scum I've ever met. They encourage using every tactic to con people into buying the crap we're selling, regardless of whether it is needed or not. Salespeople (including myself) are the most useless people in our economy. We can't get by without doctors, teachers, engineers, construction folks, etc, but if all the (outbound calling) salespeople in the world suddenly disappeared, the world would be a whole lot better off. No pressure calls (just to touch base, yeah right) would mean people would only buy what they needed, not what they were talked into buying.

Shakespeare was close. He should have said: "First thing we do, lets kill all the salespeople."

Re:I'm in Sales (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275332)

> In Sales, we constantly have to lie to people, be fake, and manipulative

So how can we make sure that in your post you were not tring to lie, being fake and manipulative ?

Re:I'm in Sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275958)

He'll tell you... for only $20. Normally it'd cost you $100, but since this is Slashdot, he's feeling generous. Think about that. You're saving $80! If I walked up to on the street and offered you $80, would you say no? Of course not! So, make the wise choice and find out for only $20.

Re:I'm in Sales (1)

TheOtherChimeraTwin (697085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276024)

You don't want some shoddy discount information. After all, you get what you pay for. You are worth the best; you DESERVE the best! Find out the truth about sales for only $249.98.

Free shipping. Visa and Mastercard accepted.

Re:I'm in Sales (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275378)

This is where you work, perhaps. This may even be the norm at some large companies. But any reputable company worth its salt does not build its sales foundation on a pack of lies.

Good salesmanship doesn't require any level of deception. In fact it is anathema to being a good salesperson, as your reputation will suffer unless you are one hell of a liar, and likely somebody else in your department/division/etc who is not dishonest would contradict you anyway, causing your reputation to suffer.

I've done sales work as a developer and while it's not the most pleasant experience all the time, it's certainly not dishonest work, and you can convert plenty of sales without resorting to deceptive tactics. If this is an institutional thing (you are encouraged to lie to customers by your bosses), and you are in any line of work other than "car salesman", you should leave immediately.

Re:I'm in Sales (1)

ravenfan (1070656) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275502)

Another thing to watch out for is don't get down too deep in the weeds. While it's important to go over the features and functionalities of the product, chances are the person you're taking too isn't technical enough to understand.

Re:I'm in Sales (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278220)

"the world would be a whole lot better off. No pressure calls (just to touch base, yeah right) would mean people would only buy what they needed, not what they were talked into buying."

You're describing a large-scale movement from "push" technology and marketing to "pull" mechanisms. I advise you and OP to read Cluetrain: http://www.cluetrain.com/book/index.html [cluetrain.com]

If you haven't already

Re:I'm in Sales (1)

woobieman29 (593880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279304)

I'm in sales also, and I don't lie to my customers, co-workers or management. At all. Period.

Want to know why?

Because lying doesn't work if you want to be one of the best, and make your living in a sales organization. Out of all of the *top producing* sales professionals that I know, *ALL* have a very high degree of integrity. The reason is that in this field you not only need to close the initial deal, but you need to continue to work with the same people and organizations month in and month out in order to truly build a real sales pipeline. THAT is where a real sales professional will make most of their success - repeat business from a growing core group of customers that know and trust them.

Yeah, there are sneaky, evil people in this profession as well as any other. Perhaps there are more, as some evil fucktards might be drawn to the potential to make quick money on lies. These people end up hopping from one bogus job to another, moving on to another green field opportunity after they have laid waste to the sale prospects of their prior company. They generally do not last in sales for the long haul.

As far as sales people being useless, don't paint us all with the same brush that colors the organization for which you work. The objective of any true sales professional and professional sales team (especially in technical sales, like my position) is to represent a product that you KNOW TO HAVE VALUE to the proper people that can benefit from it, and help them to do business better through use of your solution/product. If you do not believe that you are doing the right thing by attempting to help another person or business through use of your product or service, then you are in the wrong place.

Back on the original topic, the best way to determine if it is a good idea for you to move into technical sales would be to continue to platoon yourself out to cover in sales situations when you can, in order to see if this fits with your personality and what makes you happy. If you indeed get worn out by lots of customer contact, you will likely have a high level of stress to deal with, as success dictates that this sort of contact should be how you spend the bulk of your time. Think about whether or not this sort of social discomfort is something you want to change about yourself - if it is, you will be uncomfortable at first, but over time you will grow more comfortable in these situations.

Good luck either way

Re:I'm in Sales (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18294328)

"In Sales, we constantly have to lie to people, be fake, and manipulative. If you can live with yourself, you should be OK."

A lot of coders are like that as well, they just bank on the fact they will be long gone before things fall apart.

Re:I'm in Sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18312636)

> In Sales, we constantly have to lie to people, be fake, and manipulative.

I (have to) work daily with salespeople and based on my experience the above is 100% true
for some of the best salesmen. The worst part is that they usually use their skills
within company as well and try to manipulate others to get what they want.

That's why I don't usually talk with/tell them much, I just don't trust them.
The less they know the less they can use to reach their (selfish) goals.

Interesting choice (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275038)

Developer vs Salesman, thats like a dog becoming a cat... Sure the dog can think its a cat, it can walk along the back of the sofa and try to balance on the arm, can make a pathetic attempt at purring and rub up against your leg when it wants food. But in the end he is still a dog, still cocks his leg to pee, still barks when the mail man comes and still chews bones. Do you want to be hated by your fellow developers for joining the ranks of people who sell what you have yet to even think of writing?

I have a friend who went from being a developer into product design, sitting somewhere in between whats sold and whats developed. He loved that move.

Give it a try, you may find you love the life... And its not a permanent change, if you decide you hate it then come back to the ranks of developers.

Re:Interesting choice (2, Interesting)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275416)

To be honest, at a previous company, I think both the customers and the developers would have loved to have had salesmen that actually understood the product they were selling. Given the products that were being sold, that meant you had to at least be conversant in software development, as buying the software was only step one of many that included additional development to actually experience the ROI the software was capable of delivering. Instead we had empty headed fast talking imbeciles without half a clue selling some of the most sophisticated software on the planet to customers that wound up having long discussions with the developers post sale to figure out what they needed to do to realize the promised savings, and what the additional costs were going to be.

Re:Interesting choice (1)

kbjorklu (997228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277988)

Developer vs Salesman, thats like a dog becoming a cat...
Freeze it and saw it with a chainsaw.. meow!

Dare say no (2, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275076)

One of the worst pitfalls of being in sales (with the pressure of actually selling) is becoming a "Yes-man". The kind of sales person who will sell anything, regardless of the actual feasibility of the project.

If you dare to tell a customer "No" some execs might flinch, but in the long run you tend to get a reputation as a person who's honest and actually delivers.

Therefore, unless you can be confident you really can tell the customer what you won't do, don't become a salesman.

Re:Dare say no (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275138)

Agree. Don't say yes when your product can't do what the customer what the customer explicitly requires, especially in writing. I had a vendor do that to me once, and we sued and recovered not only the cost of the software, but our costs implementing their "solution" (which was 5 times the license cost) plus legal fees. That vendor will probably be a little more careful next time.

Re:Dare say no (2, Interesting)

putaro (235078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275214)

Amen. Not only that but many customers ask for things they don't really want, they're just kind of curious. If the product does do it then they're happy but if it doesn't no big deal. If the feature *is* a deal breaker, telling them yes when it's really no just means that the deal will get broken later. Even worse, if they though that the feature was a deal breaker, you tell them "no" but they like the product or company, they may rethink a bit and decide that it's not a deal break.

Lying catches up with the company eventually. Unfortunately it often does not catch up with the salesperson doing the lying.

Re:Dare say no (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275276)

Lying catches up with the company eventually. Unfortunately it often does not catch up with the salesperson doing the lying.


So true it hurts - I'm the developer who gets to implement whatever BS sales have sold to a client this week. Usually by the end of the day. Without delaying any of the other projects I'm working on.

Needless to say, I'm looking for a new job.

Re:Dare say no (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275866)

Ugh yes, I've seen some frankly utterly barmy feature requests, that got 'pushed through' because the salesdrone in question had already sold that feature to a customer.

Re:Dare say no (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278182)

> So true it hurts - I'm the developer who gets to implement whatever BS sales have sold to a client this week.

If these are feature requests going into an actual product and not some kind of pure service, find out who the product manager is. Talk to him or her and mention how some folks in sales are making bogus claims about the product that you're then expected to throw in ad hoc. PM's get pissed off to no end at that kind of thing, and they're generally high up enough to do something about it.

If you are doing some kind of service thing like a design shop or consulting, then well, it's kind of your job -- though you can usually get a project manager to put the Fear Of Reality into the salesdroid that now has to tell the customer how much it's actually going to cost in hourly billing.

Shit does roll downhill, but if you push it to a high enough level, it sometimes rolls down the other side, and in most cases, salespeople are even lower level than you.

Of course this assumes an otherwise well-managed company, which is probably giving the average company too much benefit of the doubt.

Re:Dare say no (1)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278826)

As a wise man once told me, "Better to be the bad guy at the beginning than to be the bad guy at the end."

Sales vs. Techy (4, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275090)

I did a bit of investigation into a 'Technical pre-sales role'.

My conclusion was that Sales can be fun, but ... well a salesman is fundamentally different in outlook to a techy - you're probably used to being well aware of what's wrong with a product, workarounds, hacks, and things that just plain suck

As sales, you _need_ to be focussing on what's great, why it's fantastic, and why this is exactly the thing they need in their business, beyond anything else.

My problem was/is that that's a bit too much like lying. You're telling your customer that yours is absolutely the best for them, and unless you're in a small subset of occurances, this is not the case.

Often, if it's obviously a 'bad idea' you won't get the sale, however you need to be deciding whether you can keep a straight face when you wholeheartedly recommend the product that gives you commission, over the one over there, that you use at home because it is actually better.

Some can, some can't.

Just remember, sales is far nearer to prostitution than to engineering. As a techy, you're looking for the best and most cost effective solution to their problem, out of a portfolio of options. As a salesperson you're aiming to look good, seduce your customers, and screw them for money.

Job vs. No Job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275264)

"As sales, you _need_ to be focussing on what's great, why it's fantastic, and why this is exactly the thing they need in their business, beyond anything else.

My problem was/is that that's a bit too much like lying. You're telling your customer that yours is absolutely the best for them, and unless you're in a small subset of occurances, this is not the case. "

Gee. That sounds too much like a resume, and interview. Hope you told your boss, someone else would be better?

Re:Job vs. No Job. (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275790)

I've walked into interviews, knowing I could do the job, and knowing I could do it well. And gave 'em an assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. I got the job in question. However with a product, you're not talking about a singular entity. Oracle can always cut more CDs and licenses.

Re:Job vs. No Job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18280356)

Hi, I'm also in Sales. You wrote: As sales, you _need_ to be focussing on what's great, why it's fantastic, and why this is exactly the thing they need in their business, beyond anything else. I don't see how this is any way like lying. This is not code, there's no "best way to do your business". Just because you're an autistic developer, doesn't mean that most people can't put across a point or market themselves. You wouldn't believe the shit we have to put up selling to techies - everyone is the smartest guy in the world. And then the others who aren't spend so much time asking you irrelevant questions, you wonder how they ever got their jobs in the first place or how they ever get any work done.

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275540)

> My conclusion was that Sales can be fun, but ... well a salesman is fundamentally different in outlook to a techy - you're probably
> used to being well aware of what's wrong with a product, workarounds, hacks, and things that just plain suck

You'll have to pencil in about 2 weeks off work for the lobotomy, plus another day or so shopping for a nice suit and a shiny pair of shoes.

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275976)

That bit about the lobotomy sounds about right.

One problem I've had when dealing with customers is that I try to explain why something is like it is.

Most customers don't want that. All they really want to know is whether or not it can do what they want. When you try to explain how it works, they just think you are either trying to snow them or that you think they are dumb.

If I thought they were dumb, I'd just tell them that it does what they want. I only try to explain anything to those who I think can easily understand the issue.

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283852)

Having been in purchasing you learn to know there are actually two kinds of sales staff, company reps and sales reps. Company reps when properly used are all about maintaining a relationship between the customer and the supplier.

They check to make sure service and support is properly functioning, that product is performing properly and they work to resolve any problems between the customer and the company (generally used to represent quality companies that produce quality products).

Sales reps off course are paid on a part commission basis and will simply say anything to sell product regardless of the consequences (generally used to represent cheap companies that produce bad products).

I also technically worked in sales, but more in what the software world would call a software design/analyst (I dealt directly with the customers and designed commercial and industrial buildings to suit their specific needs and the company would then build them based upon the budgets I produced). I am just industry shifting because, well, I am a computer geek.

So it really all depends on what kind of sales you actually get involved in and what kind of company you actually represent, as well as of course your own honesty and integrity and the skill set you have to draw on.

Re:Sales vs. Techy (2, Insightful)

Eivind Eklund (5161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275656)

As sales, you _need_ to be focussing on what's great, why it's fantastic, and why this is exactly the thing they need in their business, beyond anything else. My problem was/is that that's a bit too much like lying. You're telling your customer that yours is absolutely the best for them, and unless you're in a small subset of occurances, this is not the case.
You have worked sales a sucky place.

Seriously.

The best sales reps I've worked with were all completely honest, and the best sales coaches[1] seems to all recommend being completely honest.

I've come across some fairly effective sales people that didn't care, that would cut a corner to get a sale, that didn't care if what they sold were possible or not. But the best have all been doing "I want the customer to have this product because this product is great! I think this product will be the right one for this customer!", and dropped at least half their sales because they found that the product wasn't right for that customer. And - if the product they were selling wasn't the best for many customers, they switched to a different company (or a different product).

I've worked a bit as a sales rep. The primary danger I see with being a techie and going into sales - or at least what was the primary danger for me - was that I felt that I had to know everything about the product, to be able to answer any question, before I could sell it, and I too easily worked the logical side of the customer instead of the emotional. I went back to pure tech work because the place I worked with sales turned out to suck (deliver lousy value to the customers.)

Eivind.

[1] Check out Brian Tracy for technical stuff and Zig Ziglar for pure motivation.

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275824)

My experience of sales is limited, I admit - I've been to two places, one which had a sales culture based on bare faced lying, and bullying.

The other, where, to be fair, they were selling a pretty good product, but it cost >10x as much as an alternative which worked as well, for 95% of applications. (It had some high end bells and whistles. IF you had to have them, then it was worth it, but the majority, really didn't.)

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275962)

Hi Marge, I didnt know you posted on slashdot.

Remember, there is a difference between:
The Truth
and
"The Truth"

L. Hutz

Re:Sales vs. Techy (1)

howardd21 (1001567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300754)

I moved from techie into sales, and I find your statements completely ridiculous. A poor sales person lies, just a like a poor techie. A good sales person focuses on client or customer needs, and attempts to match the capabilities of the product or service they offer with the customer's needs. When there is a match, then a sale can move forward. When there isn't - then thank them for the opportunity, keep in touch, and move on to the next opportunity.

Sales people who lie will have a short lifespan, their reputation being damaged. I have provided pricing for work that was requested in a non-competitive environment, knew it fit their capability to pay, and knew it was exactly what they asked for - and then I told them they should not pursue the project, becuase it had no measurable business value. They thanked me for my honesty, and I have done about 7 times that amount of work for them since then on other projects.

While the desire for money is powerful, if there are dishonest people in sales, it is because they are dishonest people, not because they are in sales.

Practice sprints (2, Funny)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275120)

You'll need to be able to run fast, after you tell developers that you've just sold their prototype to a customer.

And you want to go into sales? (2, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275124)

"...project management, some customer-facing work (technical-ish presentations, demonstrations, training, and the like), helping our marketing people position my team's work, and other things that programmers generally don't like to do."

If you don't like the last two things on your list, you'd be making a big mistake getting into sales. The big question is "Are you a salesman?" That's all that's required to be in sales. I know it sounds simple but it's a very important question. Can you sell the product? Can you go out and find the customers willing to buy the product? It's a hard job and while they may be lazy at other aspects of their job, salesmen work their tails off to sell. I used to train salesmen on the more technical aspects of what my former company sold. As a general rule, salesmen can pick up what they need to know about a product to sell it faster than someone familiar with the product can pick up the sales skills needed to sell it. I'm surprised your company even offers you the opportunity to get into sales.

Re:And you want to go into sales? (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278950)

Exactly... and the software companies I worked for, I was astonished of the time spent by the sales droids on the PHONE. They only did face-face for the BIG sales. And it hit me... do these guys even care what they are selling? Nope.

An introvert should NOT go into sales. (5, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275156)

Face it, you just don't work that way. I was asked to go along with our sales guy to back him up. He was amazingly good at it but weak on the tech side, but no worries that is were I came in and it worked.

Only problem on the ride home I would be knackered, an early meeting would leave me useless for the rest of the day.

HR and Sales people by their nature are not introverts. They LIKE hanging out with people, a good meeting invocorates them, gets them buzzing and eager to make things happen. You will be wanting a siesta.

It is extremely hard for extroverts (the majority of people) to relate to introverts. it is NOT that we are anti-social, or don't enjoy being with people, it just tires us. Extroverts are charged up after a party, intoverts are drained. Typical HR fault when dealing with techies (often introverts) throw an early social meeting and then hope to get some work done. Good luck, all the techies will be drained, do socials ONLY on fridays at the end of the day, to the techie can recharge during the weekend.

Then there is an other aspect. Social skill, not that introverts don't have them, but ask yourselve this, do you have to remember others people birthdays, name of kids, golf score OR does that come natural to you. You don't ask about their family, you WANT to know about their family, it won't be a good day if you don't hear about it. Extroverts really care, they are not being social because they have too, they need too.

Not that introverts don't care, it is just that they don't HAVE to know. If they are told, they will remember and show concern but if you don't tell them that is fine too.

A introvert doesn't get "why did you never ask me about X, you don't care". They care but if you don't tell them they presume it is none of their business.

Sales people HAVE to show they care, that they know the customer, what he likes, what he dislikes. An introvert will find this very taxing.

I did sort of enjoy assisting the sales guy, it was intresting to see what goes on before the spec is drawn that you will have to build. But I also found it to be tiring with lots of senseless talking and not enough getting things done.

it was nice to do as a change of pace, but to do that the whole week, year in year out? Your choice offcourse but don't make the mistake of thinking that something you like doing every now and then makes a good career. You might like sex, but would you enjoy becoming a porn star?

An introvert should NOT go into posting. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275782)

There's just one small problem with your post. Introvert/extrovert isn't a binary state. It's a gradient.* Also sales just like any profession is a learned skill (several actually). And last "sales" isn't a blob. There are different degrees of sales. The first step he should take is "Know Thyself". Grab a copy of "Zen and the art of making a living: latest edition", and work through the exercises. This will help regardless of what one wants to do with their life.

*It can also change over time.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into posting. (1)

stry_cat (558859) | more than 7 years ago | (#18281158)

Also recommended is "What Color is your Parachute"

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276022)

While I am seduced by the idea, I think it's risky to categorize people as extroverts and introverts and declare that introverts are doomed to suck at sales.

Following your logic, I completely qualify as introvert. I don't think that precludes me from going into sales (i'm a hard techie right now), and I am interested in broadening my experience.

Let's take an example of selling I had to do: myself. Writing my CV and cover letter was like scratching my nails on a blackboard, at first. I once spent a whole sleepless night on a cover letter, trying to find the right words that would both appeal to the target without making me vomit in disgust.

It got better, though, as I understood that this was what my correspondents expected, that they of course took it all with a grain of salt and wouldn't hold it against me. Adding a layer of varnish is important in dealing with people who don't have the same background and interests as you.

My point is: sure, you can be an introvert who is at first uncomfortable in an extrovert's position, but you're a human being, and you will learn and evolve.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (3, Interesting)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276818)

Only problem on the ride home I would be knackered, an early meeting would leave me useless for the rest of the day.
The best definition of "introvert" and "extrovert" I have seen is than an extrovert is someone who is energized by interacting with people, and an introvert is someone who is drained by interacting with people. This definition especially holds true for large groups of people, but what qualifies as "large" varies from person to person.

(Your post hinted at this, I wanted to highlight it explicitly.)

Deep down, we all believe everybody is "exactly like me", but I'm pretty sure they are both kinds of people in the world.

The nice thing about this definition is that it is fairly value-neutral, and it accounts for reality better than most definitions. An introvert is certainly statistically more likely than an extrovert to be socially inept, but it's not an intrinsic failing, it's simply that the extrovert is likely to have more practice, because they enjoy social interaction more. Nothing stops an introvert from becoming socially capable, and I find definitions that try to work social skills into them fail to model, well, most of the programmers I know, who are mostly introverts, but none of them are totally socially inept, really.

By this definition, yes, an introvert should absolutely not go into sales. Extroverts will likely have a harder time as a programmer than an introvert, because programming has significant bits where it's just you and the computer. However, that's not the whole job and an extrovert can survive on the collaboration parts; I've seen it. But since sales is pretty much 100% dealing with people, introverts should follow some of the most ancient advice, "Know Thyself", and stay away.

Oh, and this is of course a continuum, not a binary distinction.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18285760)

Nothing stops an introvert from becoming socially capable, and I find definitions that try to work social skills into them fail to model, well, most of the programmers I know, who are mostly introverts, but none of them are totally socially inept, really.

I agree with what your post said, but I'm sorry, that sentence should be taken out and shot.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285912)

This definition especially holds true for large groups of people, but what qualifies as "large" varies from person to person.

This is where you should clarify the "interacting" bit--introverts are no different from extroverts when they've giving presentations or otherwise doing one-way communication with large groups of people. It may be easier and more fun to an introvert than, say, a party.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277504)

You might like sex, but would you enjoy becoming a porn star?
Yes. Oh, yes I would.

Seriously, though, the reservations he mentioned (introverted, risk-averse, not a 'shark') preclude him from being happy in sales. I am also an introvert and risk-averse, and while I *can* be a shark, I don't like to be one, it makes me feel icky. I've done sales, and while it was lucrative, I was miserable within one year -- and that affected my sales figures.

Sales isn't for everyone. If he's not sure, then he can give it a shot -- but should make sure he's got a fall-back plan if his experience is like mine and yours.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278830)

Sales people have to drink the kool-aid. Period. They're irrational, bloviating, pie-in-the-sky kindergartners on crack with no sense of reality. They have a lot in common with religious zealots that attend church services four or five times every week.

By the way, what the hell is "invocorates"? That sounds like a word a sales person would invent. Sales people often have the worst grammar and spelling on the planet, so perhaps one handed that down to you? :D

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279042)

You might like sex, but would you enjoy becoming a porn star?
Yes, please.

Re:An introvert should NOT go into sales. (2, Insightful)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18280768)

I disagree. I am an introvert, and a developer, and I spent two modestly successful years in sales.

Sales isn't a single task, and it can be handled with a variety of styles. Cold calling, glad-handing, and schmoozing are all extremely tiring and stressful for introverts. And you hardly need any of it. I think introversion is a special case of a person's overall tendency to focus narrowly and intensely. Floodlight people have broad interests and as such do well with broad interactions with lots of people. Laser people -- which developers tend to be -- have narrower interests and prefer narrower interactions with fewer people.

I believe that most introverts can do quite well in sales by spending more time with fewer costomers, getting to know them and their needs well. Extroverts do better with the shotgun approach, replacing depth with volume. It's kind of like the Laffer curve, where success can be achieved at two price points.

One of the best things about the small-base approach is that it rewards depth of understanding and the quiet, introverted research this entails. Learn as much as you can about your products, their strengths and weakensses. Then learn as much as you can about your customers and their business needs. Match the business need with the best product and present your case to your customer. That's sales, in a style that involves planning, diligence and honesty, and very little bullshit.

I worked with another sales rep, a very floodlight sort of guy. He was very experienced, and naturally pulled in higher figures than I in the first year. In the second year I pulled a bit closer to him and he told me that it was for two reasons: First, I was simply getting better at dealing with people. Second, and more importantly, the prospects I paid close attention to in the first year remembered me, and when they were ready to buy, they knew I was someone they could rely on to set them up right. He was a very good saleman, who met and talked with many more people than I, and made our employer a ton of money. He was making sales, but he told me that what I was making customers, which in the long run are actually more valuable.

A final advantage of moving from development to sales is that you have the technical savvy to communicate with the customers' technical people, because you speak their language. You can answer their questions, can face their hard challenges with hard facts, and best of all you can understand the questions behind their questions.

At any rate, the Asker says he's already gained some experience in management, which is significantly more people-oriented than development, and has spent time in customer-facing roles, which is not only people-oriented, but oriented towards people's satisfaction. It sounds like the Asker is not a hard-core, head-down introvert at all. Sales would not a dramatic transition.

One word - boring! (3, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275160)

I've been a software developer or software developer manager for most of my career. There was one six month stretch, though, where because of some very strange reorganizations in the company I was working for I found myself a sales engineer in a field sales office.

The first problem was that the product I was selling, disk arrays, was so simple at the sales level that I was bored silly. You can only go over the feed and speeds on a disk array so many time before going completely batty. Second, I had no respect from the development team back at headquarters. When I installed the first unit off the assembly line at a customer and ran some benchmarks against it that came back really bad the response from HQ was "you don't know how to run benchmarks." I'd spent the previous 8 years as a supercomputer kernel developer. I knew a couple of things about benchmarking and also about what kind of performance customers were expecting and I turned out to be correct in everything (the company wound up withdrawing the product and upgrading all of the customers who had bought it to a more expensive, truly high performance system). It was very difficult to be put into a role where you can see problems and no one will listen to you or respect your knowledge. Third, salespeople are *BORING*. All they want to talk about around the office is money, leads and occasionally sports. No politics, no technology, no books, no movies, no Monty Python.

I look back on those six months as being very valuable as I learned a lot about sales from a worldclass sales team and I learned a lot about salespeople. But six months was really my limit (afterwards I returned to OS development for a few years). If you want to do it for the money and you think deals and money are exciting you'll enjoy it. Otherwise you'll be bored stiff.

One more thing (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275250)

I'm not quite an extrovert but I'm very comfortable doing meetings, explaining products and talking with people. The part of sales that I found to be extremely difficult is not doing the sales calls. It's all of the work that leads up to the call. The phone calls, and the rejection. Unless your product is one where all of your prospective call you (think Oracle databases) you will have to spend a lot of your time finding leads and getting rejected in order to make your quota.

I've done it (1)

dissolved (887190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275200)

I think they key is to work for an organisation that sells solutions, not commodities.

Like you I couldn't sell something that wouldn't do the job. Unless you plan to change your company name every time you sell something you just can't get away with selling things that aren't fit for purpose.

Treat it like a coding problem. You've got a set of criteria and you need to provide the building blocks to get around their problem (be it cost, process engineering or whatever).

But again, you need to pick who it is you sell for. I know most companies here (UK) are pitching the "convergence" side of things, which is about rationalising cost and helping the customer profit from technology. Very few IT Directors are like traditional geeks - i.e. no-one simply MUST have the best MPLS connection or the most modern telephone switch (note this may not apply to firewalls).

Hope this helps?

Didn't work for me (2, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275224)

You'll probably find it a bit of a disaster if you are the stereotypical developer. You'll be secretly hacking some personal project instead of making sales calls.

Read about the experiences of someone who has. (3, Funny)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275254)

Like Bill Gates. Or Darth Vader.

selling and being sold (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275334)

By simply asking the question here, you've indicated that you are more of a deliberate type of person--the kind of person that needs to be sold on things. That trait right there indicates that you won't particularly make a great salesman. That's not to say that you'll be a bad one, just that you'll more likely try to actually help the customer and give them what they need. Many of your customers will appreciate this. However, your boss won't. And at the end of the day, you answer to your boss. I'd avoid the sales position myself. Try to continue working with the marketing people if possible, but don't make a full transition.

You answered your own question. (3, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275440)

I am an introvert and a full day of face-time can really sap my energy, many sales people I've worked with are 'sharks' (which I simply cannot be), and I don't like the idea of putting part of my salary at-risk.
When the three greatest requirements of a job are the exact three things you specify not being into, for goodness' sake stay the hell away from that job.

the best sales people are (1)

guysmilee (720583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275496)

The best sales people are techies ... customers tend to be not half as stupid as the people out there with marketing degree's these days ... they don't want to talk to someone who is just gonna talk trash.

Market people seem to be caught up with lectures they received in econ 101 and tend to know nothing about the domain they are in.

If you want your organization to be successful hire a good CFO and a good contract negotiator. And leave all the up front work to developers. Good techies and good customer support will be worth way more to you than any salesman/woman.

But, but, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275852)

I thought the best salespeople had to have tits or good hair.
(good hair for those that will eventually get into upper management)

If not, where are you gonna get your booth babes?

The thing about sales... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275562)

You're not really in the real world [f8d.org] .

You'll have to sell what doesn't exist (1)

EWIPlayer (881908) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275810)

You've been a developer, right? Have you ever had to work tons of (free) overtime to fulfill some salesman's wild promises to a customer in order to get himself a big, fat commission? When you put out that software, which generally sucks because of the ridiculous time pressures, and had to support that software, have you ever had anyone tell you how lousy you are at your job for writing it like that? Have you ever felt like a total ass for doing something for free, sacrificing your free time and your home life, and a part of your reputation so that some sales guy who, essentially @#%@ed you, can get a big commission? A sales guy who obviously doesn't care one whit about you?

You have to realize that you just might be that sales guy... and if you're OK doing that to people who used to be on your team, working with you, then, well... then that's your choice, but don't blame them for hating your guts.

required operations (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275882)

I've heard that the operations (labotomy and tongue-forking) are no fun but once you recover everything's ok.

Become a Sales Engineer first... (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276060)

Most Sales folks have one or two Sales Engineers assigned to them as part of any meaningful software sale. The role is a fuzzy combination of Sales, Development, and Consulting. Part of it is to be the internal voice to Sales to keep them from taking a gig that would bring ruin. Another is taking the core product, and knowing it well enough to adapt it the goofy requirements the customer is asking for. It is also sales. You get to become part of the Sales process, often sharing some of the windfall but not being (mostly) commission base. Some folks eventually cross over to Sales entirely, some don't. It can be a transitional role.

As a side note, Sales Engineering can be very lucrative for those who can be customer facing and technically adept. The down side is you don't get to just hunker down in a dark cube. Politics are there, pressure is there, mickey mouse dressing (suite is not uncommon with customers), and expectations are quite high.

Get Training (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276172)

There may be some people who are natural born salesmen, but you and I probably aren't. There are even standardized tests to help you gauge where you are. When I went out on my own I did some sales classes and they were very helpful.

Be sure to check the field of what's available and what techniques each uses. The School of Hard Sales wasn't for me - I just don't think that way to be able to do it effectively. Sandler was a better fit for my personality. If you're near New Hampshire write me and I'll recommend a trainer.

I'm sure you can do it if you find the right combination of sales environment, management, techniques, and goals. But don't just jump into the first offer - I'm betting you'll have to do dozens of interviews to find one you really like.

Take the job. (1)

Ropati (111673) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276214)

I've done sales, technical sales support, post sales engineering, and hardware engineering for several companies. There are short term and long term pluses and minuses going into sales:

Short Term Pluses
More pay
Travel
Socializing

Short Term Minuses
Meetings
Repetition
Performance Pressure

Long Term Pluses
Money

Long Term Minuses
Travel
Socializing
Meetings
Repetition
Performance Pressure
Dated Engineering Skills and Network

In the short term it might be just the fit for you to try sales. You'll broaden your experience with the company and make yourself much more attractive for a management position. You'll learn first hand sales versus cost that make up a software company. If you believe in the product then doing the sales gig is really easy. Evangelize, Document and Network aggressively.

In the long term, this is a dead end unless you are a skill socializer who's only interest is making money.

Without any knowledge of how this will impact your family, I'd say take the job as a short term project with a promise to return to engineering or management.



 

From one that has gone before. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276224)

Frankly I'm somewhat surprised by the responses that have come across in this topic. Sales people just aren't evil. They are highly compensated because they are important, and yes they do tend to be coin operated. However, the very successful sales people tend to have all of the qualities that are found in truly successful people in any field, and those aren't things that are "evil" or "foul".

Sales is a craft, just like development, and just like most people do development badly, there are a ton of bad sales people and sales managers. Fortunately there are many good ones too, and further they are normally pretty open to the idea of showing others what they do. What I would suggest to you is, find a long term successful sales person and then go spend a couple days with them on the job taking notes. Take in the breadth of what they do, and then decide if it's the thing for you.

A good technical sales person can make very good money, perhaps even life changing money, which is compelling. The flip side is that there is a good amount of risk. It's comforting to know all the bills are going to be paid during the month, well for the average sales person that isn't the case. For the better sales people it will be, and they are going to build a little wealth. So get the information, decide if you can succeed, decide if you can make the commitment to succeed [consider family in this too], decide if I succeed will I like what I do, and then make your choice. Above all don't be average.

Check Your Soul At the Door (1)

stan_freedom (454935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276328)

I've got over 6 years as the solitary IT guy at a small sales company. We are the "used car sales" of electronic components (chips/caps/connectors/etc.). Prior to that I worked for Fortune 100/500 companies and had no exposure to sales. Here's my observations.

1. If you want to make real money (via commission) and don't want to own a company, then sales is your only realistic choice. Otherwise, you will constantly be bound by a salary range/cap. Even if you get performance bonuses, they will never come close to the commissions generated via sales. That's the bad news. The good news is that money doesn't really make you happy. At least that's what I've heard.

2. Your technical skills will be a distant second to your soft skills, aka human interaction. Our best sales guys can't even spell PC, but they can smell a sucker like a hyena smells carrion.

3. Our best sales guys have no scruples when it comes to their job. They may be honest and trustworthy outside of work, but once they are on the job, their values fall to the wayside. Rent Boiler Room, Wall Street, and especially Glengarry Glen Ross. All of the bad guys in these movies are the good guys in sales.

4. If you ever wondered what happened to the popular, good-looking guys in high school, they're probably in sales. The popular, good-looking girls figured out which of the popular, good-looking guys could really sell and then married them. Also, age is definitely a factor. Younger people have less to lose and more time to invest. Also, they look better, which is a definite plus in the world of sales.

5. If you have a family to support or a lot of fixed expenditures (mortgage/cars/etc.), be careful. It may take you years to build up a customer base that can support your current lifestyle. Customers, especially enterprise customers, aren't going to just pull down their pants and bend over when you walk in their company the first time. You will have to earn their business, typically by proving yourself on low-value deals.

6. If you ever want to work on your own or start a company, then you better have a partner who is good at #2/#3/#4, and you both better be ready to deal with #5.

You can make a great living in sales. We have kids who barely made it out of high school that are now making $80K+, which is pretty good jack in central Florida. On the other hand, I have watched many more people come in and flounder/sink because they were too honest, or too introverted, or too risk-adverse.

Re:Check Your Soul At the Door (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287824)

6. If you ever want to work on your own or start a company, then you better have a partner who is good at #2/#3/#4, and you both better be ready to deal with #5.

That depends on the type of product/service you want to sell. My wife and I spent a while trying to make a go at consulting and decided that we needed to spend too much of our time trying to sell ourselves to make it enjoyable. Now we run a small software company producing shrink-wrapped software for consumers. We sell through retail stores and through our web site. We skipped enterprise sales for exactly the reasons you listed (we both have had long careers in enterprise oriented companies). We spend very little time on the sales gladhanding stuff you had listed as 2,3,4 (though we are both good-looking :-) though no longer as young as we might like to be). It helps that my wife is a marketing whiz who's done a great job of promoting our products in the media and making the packaging attractive, etc.

Technical Sales vs. Sales (3, Interesting)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276336)

While I wasn't a developer, I made the move full time in 2001 to technical sales from a pure engineering/IT management roles.

The are several issues that arise from this, and they need to be broken out and analyzed separately.

1) If you are talking technical sales, rather than pure sales, those are generally two entirely different beasts. If you look at Cisco, the sales folks are true sales guys, while the technical sales engineers generally spend most of their time working with the technical groups in the company, demoing new products, working in the test labs, and doing presentations as required to higher management. So being a pre-sales engineer can be very technical and hands on, depends on the company.

2) Are you going to have to actually do "Sales"? When I made the switch, I realized that there are certain aspects of sales that I don't have the ability and/or will to do. For instance, I can't cold-call to save my life. In the pre-sales engineering roles I've had, I've made it very clear to employers that I am not the person who will find new customers. I tell them up front that given a qualified lead, I can convert a well-above average number to customers. My current position is the closest I've ever come to sales, as I am building a new practice within my company and therefore have taken over account management. However, I have several sources for leads, and I don't find new customers. I think the bottom line is to be very clear about what sort of sales role you want and make sure that you aren't signing up for something that you can't/won't be able to do.

3) Any salesperson who lies to the customer is a F@#*$-ing idiot. Period. The truth in the IT business is that your best business is repeat customers, and its a lot easier to get more business from a happy customer that it will ever be to find the 60 new prospects that will eventually convert into a few paying customers. At one job, I supported 5 sales guys, three of whom were ex-cell phone sales guys. One was a former field employee, and one was from a technical engineer/development background. For the three cell-phone guys, I had to force them to stop with the lying/exaggerating that they started out doing. It wasn't necessary. We had a great product, and we were competing in a market where our sole true competitor was a company everyone hates. Hell, I'd tell customers we could do some of what they needed and lay out where we wouldn't be a good fit and they'd still sign just because they were sick of our competition. The bottom line is that if you have a decent product, and you target someone with a need for it, lying will simply get you in trouble. I find that telling a customer the truth is a clear differentiator to everyone else, and more often than not, they come to me anyway. A corollary to this is that with many products, there is *NO* single product that does everything the customer needs/wants. Right now, one of my key products is a network management solution. Truth is, there are hundreds of products in that space, and every single one fails in some way for every customer. It might be too expensive, or lack support for a specific protocol, or require a programmer to maintain it, etc. This list goes on. By telling customers the truth you often win their respect and loyalty because most of them aren't stupid enough to actually believe the lies.

4) Being in sales can be fun. I get to take customers to ball-games, strip-clubs, casinos, expensive dinners, and happy hours. I get to travel a bit. There are definitely perks to having an expense account, and to be honest, its fun.

5) I'm an introvert too. I have a wife and kids, and when I travel, it bothers me to not be home with my kids. But generally speaking my interaction with customers is exactly the same as it was when I was an engineer and a technical manager. I spent all day on the road as an SE, going from company to company, interacting with customers. As a manager, I spent a lot of time on the phone with technical support, angry customers, and customers. As a sales guy, as long as I follow up and do my job, the number of bad calls I have to take are pretty low, and my interaction is now cut-and-dried numbers and social. I'll take that over being up at 2:00am with MCI and Cisco fixing a T3 any day, thank you.

Hope this helps,

Bill

Re:Technical Sales vs. Sales (1)

ShadyG (197269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279330)

I have a wife and kids, and when I travel, it bothers me to not be home with my kids.


Dude, I hope your wife doesn't read your /. posts.

The shittier your code was (1)

gov_coder (602374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276584)

The better a sale monkey you shall be.

It'll make you a better developer (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276844)

Well, I will say that if you go back into development, it'll make you a MUCH better developer. That's the problem with most developers... they have no idea who their customers are and what they need. That's why so many software products are ridiculously bad. Salespeople are selling one thing, and developers are developing something else. Experience dealing with customers is never a bad thing, and can only help you in whatever your next career is. Do it. If you have the opportunity to break out of the tiny box that developers live and work in, take it. I've seen lots of people who have done nothing but program for 40 years, and it's not a pretty sight... they tend to end up like that mumbling guy with the stapler in Office Space.

DogDouche, you SUCK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276942)

Is there a gibberish translator in the house? I can't make head nor nail of that uber-babble you flung onto the screen during your latest spasmodic seizure. You should offer your posting style to hospital operating theatres as a highly-effective alternative to unconsciousness-inducing medications.

I used to think that you were a gibbering idiot. Now, after reading your latest post, I have a much lower opinion of you. You wouldn't know Up from Down if you had three guesses. Well, you're certainly thoughtless; I just wish that you were keyboard-less, too. How true is Stanislaw J. Lec's famous remark: "Every now and then you meet someone whose ignorance is encyclopedic."

You are a bore, and a very dull one at that. There's nothing wrong with you that couldn't be cured with a little Prozac and a polo mallet, or, better yet, suicide. Maybe you wouldn't be such a Jerk-In-The-Box if you weren't intellectually slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through a vat of chunky peanut butter; if your weren't so fat that your clothes come in three sizes: Extra Large, Jumbo, and Oh-My-God-It's-Coming-Towards-Us!, or if you didn't have a face that could scare a hungry wolf off a meat truck. No, come to think of it, you would.

In conclusion, sit down and shut the fuck up before you trip over your own tongue and hurt yourself.

It could be worse (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277562)

It could be worse. Much worse. Imagine a sales guy becoming a developer!

Probably not sales, but other career options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18278072)

Without knowing a little more about what your company sells, it would be a little hard to give you specific advice, but here are some thigns to think about.

First, there are two types of people in the world: good salesmen, and the rest of us. If you take a look at any sales organization, there's a top layer of people who always make plan, always earn the chairman's bonus or special trip and always seem to be the best buddy of every single one of their prospects. These are the people who are meant to be in sales, and pretty much every organization needs them. Below them are the people who are just scraping by, that need deals that fall in their laps, and that no matter what they do and how hard they work, just seem to be one step away from successful. You and I would probably fall into that group. And just to complete the spectrum, there's another layer below that, of people who never decided what to do with their lives and ended up in sales. These people churn at a high rate.

When I read your question, I can simplify it down to "I've been doing tech for awhile now and have hit a plateau. What are my options for the next step in my career?" (Or maybe I'm projecting, because I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago). I've never felt that I was particularly good at selling things. I'm not exactly introverted, but I know how much I hate cold calls, and hate to subject people to that. I'm just not one of those top salesguys in nature. But I've always been good at interacting with people outside of IT, and a couple of years ago I went to work in the professional services arm of a software company. My role is consultive in nature, and customer facing. The bulk of my job is doing analyst and project management work, but I do a fair number of the things you list, like pre-sales calls, product demos, etc. But the kicker is, I've become fairly successful selling new work to our existing customers.

And here's where this all ties in. With your experience levels, you're probably assessing your career and thinking that you want more responsibility and recognition (and more money). You look at sales, where there is an opportunity to make a lot of money as a possible option, but there are others out there that might be a better fit. My boss once told me "my mamma always said, stay on the revenue generating side of the business." Depending on the organization, there are a variety of positions that aren't pure sales that can get you the kind of respect, money and responsibility that is a logical next career step.

In my organization there are professional service roles from the bottom analyst up to PS managers. These are all billable people and directly generate revenue. We also have "sales consultants" who support the sales guys with technology demos, talking to the prospect's tech guys, etc. They get commission based on the deals their sales guy closes, and make a lot of money (and travel a lot). There are also options that are less "front line" than that. One area you might consider is Product or Program management. These are the people who build the roadmaps for the next versions of the product, help define features, identify new products, etc. They frequently have a customer facing component, either to get feedback from existing customers or to talk up the product to help close a deal.

What all of these roles have in common is that your attention shifts from "techy" things to business. But I find it rewarding, and you very well might as well. I just think that you, like I, would be miserable in a pure sales position, stuck in that middle rung and still lacking the satisfaction of increased responsibility that is making you ponder your career options.

Best of luck!

Make sure you have the talents for sales (1)

valtro434 (1073306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278112)

Your ability to succeed will not have much to do with how introverted or extraverted you are. For MBTI fans, I have seen people who type as introverts do very well in sales.

There is a series of book based on research from the Gallup organization - they have interviewed literally millions of people and they believe they can prove that successful people are those who can apply their natural talents on a consistent basis.

In a nutshell, your talents are the neurological patterns your brain most easily uses to relate to others and gather and process thoughts.

The main book is called "Now Go Discover Your Strengths" and there is one called (I think - I have not read this one) "Now Go Discover Your Sales Strengths".

If you are not a person who either really enjoys competition (as in, an intense burning desire to win - all the time) or achievement (every day you start at "zero" and have to prove something) - if you do not have one or both of those talents, you may not be much more than a mediocre sales person.

Many technical people have natural talents for ideation, strategy, restoration, deliberation, focus, discipline and other strengths - since programming and network engineering are not competitive or numbers driven professions (in the way sales is) it is unlikely to attract the people who are good at sales. Conversly, those who enjoy the technical environment will be very suprised at what life is like under the gun to produce EVERY DAY, ALL THE TIME.

I switched from being a 10 year Network Engineer to a Technical Recruiter. My first job was spending hours per day cold calling prospects and being driven to maintain my numbers. I actually enjoyed the challengs, but it has taken me most of a year to really get used to thinking like a recruiter and not like an IT person.

I am fortunate that among my strengths, I have "self assurance" in my top 5 and "command(aka confrontation)" and "competition" are probably my #6 and #7 but not many technical people are wired this way.

Also - sales/recruiting is very production oriented and not creation oriented. Sometimes in Tech, you can have a slow day or an off day and follow it up with a brilliant day. I had bosses who expected that every day you go 100% full blast - if you were going at 75%, you were in the office explaining why.

So think long and hard - it can look greener on the other side of the fence, and it can be, if you are wired for it. If you arent, then you are headed down the road to disaster.

Re:Make sure you have the talents for sales (1)

console0 (896579) | more than 7 years ago | (#18281112)

Conversly, those who enjoy the technical environment will be very suprised at what life is like under the gun to produce EVERY DAY, ALL THE TIME.

If you have a group of salespersons who will sell functionality that doesn't exist, it probably won't be that big of a surprise.

It would be great if more developers ended up in sales roles, since they usually have a better idea of what impact the customer requests have on the coders who make it happen.

What's It Like For a Developer To Go Into Sales? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278758)

What's It Like For a Developer To Go Into Sales?

Probably a lot like selling your soul.

Sales or Sales Engineer? (1)

deathsquirrel (956752) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278956)

You may be able to excel as a sales engineer, which is essentially pre-sales technical support. It requires the ability to prioritize issues coming at you from several sales people, all of whom believe that only their customers and prospects matter. It requires excellent communication skills and the ability to adapt your solutions to strange customer requests or the ability to convince customers that what you offer is better than what they're asking. Most importantly it requires the ability to interact well with the sales team. If you find working with sales people annoying, draining, frustrating, or panful in any way, don't take a sales engineer position. They're frat boys by & large. If you have a problem with that, avoid the job. Now that's my take on being an SE after doing the job, and loving the job, for a decade. Actually being a sales person is more pain than I'd ever contemplate. If you're good at it you can make a ton of money but there are more factors out of your control than I'd be willing to put up with. Product quality, support quality, quotas that are made up by picking a fair number and then inflating it 50%...no, I don't want to be a sales person!

"Salesmen are baaaad," say the sheeple. (2, Insightful)

The Underwriter (1042080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18281930)

I am not a developer, but I am a salesman (of sorts).

My friend, don't listen to any of these guys. They obviously have an axe to grind. There are many types of "salesmen", and many types of products to sell. You wont be an SUV salesmen trying to push ripoff extended warranties, or some pimply faced chump selling cellphones from a booth in the mall.

It sounds like the products you'll be selling aren't commodities, but rather high value "business solutions" (or something) that require a lot of interaction with your customers.

You've worked for this firm for almost 20 years, and you're intimately acquainted with your products, indeed it appears you've been involved in every step of product development. What better person to help broker these deals, than you?

And why would you have to lie or "sell your soul"? As a techie you'll be leveling with your customers and helping them figure out how to interface with your product. Potential stumbling block? Be honest and tell them, then figure out a workaround together. No way to make it work and it's a deal breaker? Then "have a nice day and thank you for your time".

There is such a thing as karma. Take the high road, and it will pay you back in time. The mark of an amature is feeling you have to lie, cheat and steal to get ahead. That's the creed of jealous losers everywhere.

In my business (insurance) they say you should either add value to the transaction, or get out of the way. The poor or unethical salesman only removes value: they lie about product shortcomings, they don't listen to their customer's needs, they sell them the wrong thing, etc. But a person with your background has a lot of value to add for all parties involved.

Finally, this sounds like a tremendous opportunity for professional growth. Some sales skills are just the thing to really boost your career, and potentially push you in new directions. C'mon guys, whatever happened to expanding your comfort zones?

Nobody gets anywhere without eventually learning how to sell.

joke (1)

jayrtfm (148260) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283264)

What's the difference between a computer salesman and a used car salesman?
The used car salesman knows when he is lying.

Ethics in the way? (1)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284984)

First sell your soul. Once you've done that, selling things will come naturally without that nagging morality getting in the way.

I tried sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18286100)

Last year I took a second job in sales for about 6 months. For the first couple of months, things seemed great. I was learning a lot, and the extra checks were nice. I ended up quitting for the following reasons:

6) The fear of not hitting a quota will naturally compel people to do unethical things. The sales chain and authorized reseller structure are carefully designed to deny accountability from the highest levels when customers collectively figure out they've been had. Being at the low end of the totem pole, you will take the fall first.
5) Had no control over my environment. Many programmers will not like this because they prefer to have control over what they see, hear, and think. I had to listen mind numbing pop hits all day and could not browse the internet, not even to fix a problem.
4) In fact, fixing problems is discouraged in a sales environment. It's all about how quickly you can close the sale and move to the next customer
3) Too much stress / guilt after a sale vs feeling of accomplishment when completing a programming project. Think of it as having to give a song and dance for $5 vs typing a few lines of code.
2) Getting up early in the morning and on weekends and working late on weekdays increased my expenditures on eating out. It was canceling out the extra income I was earning
1) I would much rather create things and solve problems. When sales were slow, I ended up programming anyway.
1) I have certain goals I want to accomplish before I become too old, and sales was just taking away too much time from them.

I may pick up selling again in the future, but only under my terms.

I tried my luck.... (1)

smaaz (1074384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18308856)

...sales but it is a whole different world then coding. Not the right thing for me!
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