Over the last decade or two, I've been fortunate enough to be involved with a fairly wide array of roles, including (but probably not limited to):
- Senior Developer (b/e, f/e)
- Senior Consultant
- Product Specialist
- Technical Project Manager
- Technical Account Manager
- Bid Manager
- Technical Standards Committee Member
- Consulting Team Lead
- Technical Engineering Manager
- Senior Solution Specialist
- Principal Solution Specialist
- Director Professional Services
- Principal Sales Engineer
- Director Technical Pre-Sales
- Global Director Sales Engineering
- Co-founder of several SMBs
- CTO of a couple of SMBs
- Author, Writer, Magazine contributor
- (and Physics teacher)
Perhaps one of the biggest transformations in my own perspectives, is that of the value and importance of 'Sales', and the broader commercial and strategic aspects to a successful business. As a hands-on developer many moons ago, I'm afraid to say that I was guilty of badly underestimating the importance, breadth and complexity of the skills required to be an exceptional sales person, and I've heard numerous people from the technical/development side of things express similar perspectives. Over the last decade or or so, I've been fortunate enough to work with (and become good friends with) some incredible sales professionals, and the insights I've gained through working closely with them has given me a substantial amount of respect and appreciation for the plethora of rare skills required to excel in that role.
I'm aware of more companies reaching significant, or even terminal difficulties due to failure to execute Sales effectively, than of those failing to execute technically. I've observed older, less exciting tech generate solid revenues, and newer more exciting tech struggle to generate any revenues. Though of course neither exists in isolation - effective sales leads to greater financial flexibility, which potentially leads to growing stronger product and engineering teams, and hence (hopefully) stronger technical capabilities.
Of course this is all based on my own experiences, which is typically been in enterprise SaaS, in eCommerce, healthcare and knowledge management domains. I suspect, that my perspective will continue to change again over the learning experiences of the years and decades ahead.
There is a fantastic article which I came across several years ago, which I think does a splendid job of describing sales and development, in a way which perhaps people from both sides can appreciate: The salesman and the developer by Daniel Tenner.
I'd recommend reading that article from the source, but my attempt at a summary is:
A Sales person and Developer head into the woods on a hunting trip. While the Developer is starting to setup their cabin the Sales person goes to see if there is any interesting wildlife to capture. When the developer is about half setup, there is an almighty racket, and the sales person sprints into the cabin, with a grizzly bear in pursuit. The sales person deftly ducks back out of the door, locking the bear in with the developer, and as they jog back out into the wilderness can be heard shouting "Yeehaa - you look after that one, I'll go an find the next one".
While reading that scenario, if you can only really empathise with either the developer, OR the sales person, then I'd encourage you to find opportunities in your career path, to get a closer understanding of the other... because it is only when both side are working with a close appreciation of the challenges of the other, and mutual respect, that the effective realisation of potential is most likely to be properly achieved.
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