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Ask Slashdot: Compensating Technical People For Contributing to Sales?

iiioxx Been there, done that, didn't get the t-shirt... (331 comments)

Or the commission check.

Years ago I worked for a small consulting firm as a field engineer, and later as a consulting engineer, and eventually as CTO. We had an almost identical problem, and there isn't really an elegant solution, unfortunately.

You're customers tend to trust the engineers they work with, because the engineer fixes their problems. He offers solutions. He says, "if we do this, you will see this benefit" and the customer sees it first hand. Customers tend to distrust salespeople simply because they are salespeople. Most people just don't trust a salesperson. Any salesperson. You deal with salespeople because you need to, not because you want to.

However, engineers on the ground have a tremendous advantage on the sales front, and you want your engineers to "sell" for you. They can clearly see the customers' needs, and recommend solutions with good reasons behind them. The best thing you can have is engineers out there at the client site, looking for "pick up" business. That doesn't mean making shit up (or worse, breaking something) just to get a sale. But being sales-minded enough to recognize a customer need (even if the customer doesn't), and making a recommendation. "I see your X is getting outdated and has had Y failures in the past year. You might want to think about replacing that." In a service-oriented business it can also mean picking up some extra billable time at the client site while there for a scheduled service ("I've finished taking care of that problem for you. By the way, I noticed X when I was fixing the other thing. That might cause you some problems down the road, would you like me to take care of that while I'm here?").

The problem comes up when your engineers end up doing the vast majority of the "selling" to the client, and the salesperson just becomes a passive order-taker collecting a commission for data entry. This can create some real animosity amongst the engineering staff, who see someone else collecting commissions on their "sales," while they get nothing for the extra work. The "sales engineer" or "consulting engineer" can get it even worse.

When I became a consulting engineer, I was tasked with working with our sales team to make sales. In 99% of the cases though, the client meeting would go like this:

1. Me and the salesperson meet with the client(s).
2. The salesperson does the glad-handing and introductions.
3. The salesperson turns the meeting over to me.
4. I talk to the customer, determine their needs and constraints, design a solution, answer questions, create an implementation plan, and then turn over the hardware requirements list to the salesperson to quote.
5. The salesperson closes the meeting, handshakes all around, let's do lunch, etc.

Then the salesperson would go back to the office, plug the part numbers into a quote, send it to the client, and in most cases sit back and collect a commission on a sale. Me? Nothing. Obviously, this was a problem for me.

So, solutions? Well, we tried a number of things - none of which really fixed the problem. Salespeople don't like to share their commissions, or their clients. If you say they have to split their commission with an engineer because they took him to the client meeting, they'll stop taking engineers to the client meetings. Then you have botched implementations. If you offer to give the engineers commissions on sales they make to the client, the salespeople balk because that's "their client" and they want to manage the relationship (and this reason is not totally without merit, you generally do better with one salesperson dedicated to a client). At best, you can lose the salesperson over this issue. At worst, you can lose the client.

We started giving commissions on labor to the field engineers, once they met a weekly quota. The more hours they worked, the more they got in bonus. So, if they drummed up extra work (since almost everything we did was straight service or product+service), they benefited - even if the salesperson got commission on a sale, as well. This actually caused a problem for some salespeople, who argued that because it was their client they should get a commission on labor billed also, because they were maintaining the customer relationship that directly resulted in the labor. That didn't end well for anyone.

Also, the consulting engineers saw no benefit from the billed hours commission, since they often spent most of their time on the road with a salesperson.

In the end, the best solution was the simplest. Salespeople got commissions on sales. Engineers got paid really, really well in recognition of the fact that they were directly generating revenue for the company. It wasn't a commission, it was straight salary, plus bonus based on company revenue. The better the company as a whole did, the better they did.

more than 3 years ago
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Cub Scouts To Offer Merit Pin For Video Gaming

iiioxx Re:No first person shooters? (366 comments)

I forgot to add:

Or, to throw it into your comparison:

"There's a huge difference between going camping and going to see a movie about campers that get eaten by bears. Personally, I'd rather have the scouts go camping then go to see that movie, because what's that movie teaching them?"

I think the better example would be:

"There's a huge difference between going camping and going to see a movie about campers that makes camping look easy and uncomplicated. I'd rather have the scouts go camping and actually learn what it's like to camp then go see that movie, because what's that movie teaching them?"

more than 4 years ago
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Cub Scouts To Offer Merit Pin For Video Gaming

iiioxx Re:No first person shooters? (366 comments)

The argument being laid out on the table is that there is a huge difference between shooting at paper targets and simulating shooting at digital targets that look like people. The overall tone of their post was that shooting at paper targets is inherently better for you.

And you don't see any contextual difference between shooting at a series of concentric circles on a paper target under close adult guidance and supervision, in the real world, where the destructive nature of the firearm is both emphasized and readily apparent --

-- and shooting at human or humanoid representations in a game where your mission is to kill others? Repeatedly. For hours and hours.

If you don't denote some measure of difference there, then I have to deduce that you either A) have never fired a weapon at a target range, B) have never played a violent video game, or C) are in fact, psychotic.

more than 4 years ago
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Cub Scouts To Offer Merit Pin For Video Gaming

iiioxx Re:No first person shooters? (366 comments)

Yeah, I agree. It's far more dangerous to teach a kid how to virtually fire a weapon at aliens that speak English than it is to teach a kid how to operate a firearm.

Lots of everyday things are dangerous. Driving a car, using power tools, working with electricity. That doesn't mean we don't teach children to do these things. A weapon is a dangerous object, but it is far more dangerous in the hands of an untrained operator (to both the operator, and to everyone else). Unless you take the extreme view that "all guns are bad," then I can't see any reasonable reason why we shouldn't teach children to use a firearm safely and responsibly.

more than 4 years ago
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Cub Scouts To Offer Merit Pin For Video Gaming

iiioxx Re:No first person shooters? (366 comments)

First off:

wars are waged, generally, for moral reasons.

is a pretty naive sentiment. Regardless...

Plenty of violent games have moral context. You mentioned Halo, which has the moral context of repelling hostile invaders. That's pretty moral as far as I'm concerned. The same goes for other games like Call of Duty

Please. Perhaps you are an adult, and so you can see an implied moral context in the game scripts, but the games themselves do not convey such a context. There are no mission screens that say that war and killing are bad things, but unfortunately sometimes good men must engage in terrible acts for the good of communities and nations. The missions read, "kill this enemy, take this territory, obtain this objective." And you receive a reward for that. Is there any war video game out there today with rules that say, "if you intentionally target and kill civilians or bystanders, your character will go to jail and be unplayable for 20 years?" Oh, maybe you lose some points or something, that will teach a moral lesson, right?

I've watched my 13 year old nephew play these games. What's the objective, skip the boring flavor text, let's blow stuff up. Ask him, "why are you killing all those guys?" You don't hear, "Because they are invading my peaceful country and terrorizing the population." You hear, "because that's the mission."

Sorry, I just don't see an overt moral context being presented there.

more than 4 years ago
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Cub Scouts To Offer Merit Pin For Video Gaming

iiioxx Re:No first person shooters? (366 comments)

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. No one is bitching about REAL guns with REAL bullets shooting REAL targets, but the second it becomes virtual everyone throws a fucking hissy fit.

There's a pretty significant difference between an adult teaching a child marksmanship on paper targets, and violent video games where 99% of the time the *targets* are other human beings, and there is little to no moral context for the violence. There is nothing inherently evil about "REAL guns with REAL bullets." A firearm can be used to provide food and security, or it can be used to harm others maliciously, depending upon the intent of the operator. I learned to shoot as a child at a Boy Scout camp, and it taught me respect for firearms safety, the patience to achieve accurate marksmanship, and pride in my growth and achievement in a real-world skill. What exactly do these hypothetical Cub Scouts learn from playing Halo?

more than 4 years ago
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Best DNS Naming Scheme For Small/Medium Businesses?

iiioxx Just say "no" to cute names (unless you're tiny) (481 comments)

I've worked in a number of shops, ranging from very small (less than 10 servers) to medium size (over 300 servers). I've found that character names and theme names for servers generally don't work so well on a long time scale. Support staff comes and goes, and people have to keep re-learning that Bilbo is the fileserver in New York and Frodo is the database server in Seattle.

Most end users don't relate to a server by name anyway, they know it as their F: drive or whatever. So the server name is only relevant most of the time to the administrative staff. The bigger the organization, the more important it is to have some kind of consistent sensible naming scheme.

I worked in one shop that had a lot of locations (several per state), but on average, less than 10 servers at each location. So we had servers names like sc03fs02, to denote the second fileserver at one of our locations in South Carolina. The router at SC03 was sc03rt01, the switches were sc03sw01 and sc03sw02, and print server devices were sc03ps01, etc. This made it easy to triage alerts from our NMS when things went down. I didn't have to have intimate knowledge of the server to know that if an alert came in that sc03dc01 was down (dc meaning domain controller), that it was a fairly serious problem. Anything matching the pattern ????dc?? was a big deal.

And in case you haven't guessed, user computers were also named either dt (desktop) or lt (laptop), so sc03dt23 would be a user's desktop in the SC03 office. Also, when everything is in DNS, sorting your zone by name makes for a fairly quick, easy, and complete inventory of what you have site-by-site (poor man's SMS).

A system like the above has to be tailored for the size of your organization, and your structure. If you only have one major office, you obviously don't need location codes. But I worked for a hospital that had servers for different business units (the hospital, the clinics, and the college), and so we prefixed servers by a three letter code denoting organizational unit.

The only place I've seen theme names work well for users is with printers. When I worked for one of the Big 6 accounting firms years ago, the printers in my local office were named after musical instruments. It was easier for users to remember "I print to Cello" than it was to remember "I print to clthplj4500n02." In other offices, printers might have been named after Disney characters, whatever.

more than 6 years ago

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