Home Again

One day next week, I’m changing jobs. I’ll be moving back to Developer Relations from my current technical sales job.

I was never meant to be in sales. In a way, I’m surprised I survived as long in technical sales as I did. I took the job because two people I trust recommended that I do so, but I really didn’t get what I expected.

I’m a geek. I admit it. I keep score at baseball games. My favorite part of a cruise is mapping the captured GPS coordinates when I get home. I love computers because they will do something repeatedly if you take the time to teach them to do it once. I love programming – I always have. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more pure programming jobs I could apply to do – without relocating, anyway.

I finally realized today why I would never fit well into a sales organization – this story happened a long time ago, back when I was a real programmer. I’m surprised I didn’t recall it until today, although my brain may have been trying to protect me from the knowledge. It’s a warning to anyone in a technical field that thinks sales looks like fun – not a warning to never do it, just a warning that the mindset is completely different, so be prepared.

I was working for a company that sold a Lotus Notes-based customer relationship management system – my job title was “consultant”, and my actual job was to customize the system for each specific customer. In this case, our customer was a heavy equipment manufacturer. We went to one of their largest dealers to ask the staff what features they required in a CRM system, besides what we already had.

Two of the interviews stand out – the parts manager who ran the depot and the senior sales manager. I talked to the parts manager, and his suggestion was to add an inventory of all the equipment that the customer owned, so when he looked at a customer’s record, he could easily find what they had, which told him what parts they might need. This sounded like a reasonable request to me – in fact, once I heard it, I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.

The sales manager said that would be nice, but what he really needed was a section for the customer’s secretary’s name, her birthday and what type of flowers she liked.

That’s the key difference between technical and sales. Technical is concerned with the problems that may need to be solved and how to solve them. Sales is concerned about accessing the right person and schmoozing them.

I can schmooze with the best of them when absolutely required, but I really don’t want it to be the centerpiece of my job.

I’d rather talk to machines than people. They talk back less.