Monday, October 02, 2006

Can techies sell?

Bob Weinstein’s Tech Watch column (one place is The Washington Times, Recruitment Times, Oct. 2, 2006) discusses “companies need techies who can sell.” Indeed they do. It is easier to budget a position that is at least partially compensated by commissions, particularly as the economy just starts to uptick..

As a partially retired “baby boomer” from the largely mainframe IT market, I have been asked why I am not willing to “sell” what I worked on. Become a life insurance agent. Or a software salesman. That sounds like a very natural thing as you age out of the fast paced geeky coder market.

A short answer is that sales for sales sake is against my temperament. I am a Myers-Briggs blue, the artist. I like to create the content and get it published. I like to find the truth, disseminate it, and get people to deal with what the truth means.

Of course, in sales, you are paid to represent in public just one point of view about something. It is a Faustian deal, where you give up all pretense of objectivity that you learned in school. I see many want ads for salespeople, for people who have proved that they can sell anything. No technical experience in the hiring company’s products or services needed. Sales culture is its own mindset, as so well demonstrated in the little art film “100 Mile Rule.” (My review is here.) It does seem to be predicated on socializing for its own sake, and on manipulating people and their perceptions and on hiding the truth. From my perspective it sounds cheesy, but that’s relativistic. Always be closing!

A couple of points, here, though. Artists still need sales and people skills to sell their own work – just read all the success stories about Hollywood in the popular fashion magazines. And it is perfectly all right to help someone else’s work if that person’s work has a connection to your own, and you can work in synergy. That’s a good and necessary strategy.

Furthermore, technology sales people have to keep as current as the coders. They have to help non-technical business executives solve technology problems. There is a legitimate place for this, even if it doesn’t fit my own temperament. I think, though, that for a lot of ex-techies, selling someone else’s content and not your own represents a major psychological challenge.

No comments: