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INNOVATION

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VIVEK WADHWA

Tech experts are better at selling than they like to believe

Your best salespeople are your developers Vivek Wadhwa is distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and author of Your Happiness Was Hacked

It was never part of the plan. When I went multimillion-dollar contracts with a team into tech as young geek, I regarded selling of just two experienced salespeople and a as something other people did, mostly bunch of techie guys who hadn’t previously grudgingly. I perceived the notion of sold a bean in their lives. I once believed sales as profoundly malign: hustling folks that coding was the antithesis of selling. I to buy things they didn’t need now and learnt that it could be its very foundation. never would; hurrying to close before the Developers make great salespeople. customer got wise to the con. Techies with sales training command As with so many youthful two key qualities that make them expert preconceptions, it turned out to be in winning business: credibility and wrong. Selling is part of life. Even where trustworthiness. A prospective customer no transfer of money is involved, selling is less likely to believe a salesperson happens. You are selling yourself when when he or she says a software product convincing someone of whom you are fond is stable and versatile. They are much to join you on a date. You are selling your more likely to trust the assessment of a ideas when you try to developer who knows persuade your boss to their product inside take a different strategy out, because they built Techies command for your company. You it. This is an incredibly credibility and are selling when you try powerful factor in the to have your children eat trustworthiness sales process, and one their vegetables. we were delighted to When, as a young exploit. man, I got promoted to project manager, Our conversion rate was sky high. I learned that sales is far from simple. My Although we were competing for deals first forays into the space came with the with the biggest software companies in the need to promote my ideas to colleagues world, we clinched the business almost and bosses. Persuading managers to give every time. One memorable handshake was me sufficient people and cash to get my with IBM Japan for a contract worth $8.6 projects off the ground seemed infinitely million. After a few years, we had become a more challenging than coding. $120 million a year business. After that, I became chief technology Our developers, once so wary of officer of a start-up that marketed software becoming salespeople, thrived. They were which my team had developed. With outward-looking and intuitive, going to limited funding from investors, we were great lengths to understand customers’ living on borrowed time – selling was needs and develop great products that the only way to get more. We had a great would sell. Often, new development product, but it didn’t sell itself. projects would be funded directly by My boss at the time was Gene Bedell. clients, de-risking our business. Bedell was a true visionary: his opening With some basic training, developers shot was to put everyone through a sales make the best salespeople in the tech boot camp. The tech team weren’t happy. sector. Yet even now precious few see They were coders – why should they learn themselves that way. If you can change that the craft of qualifying prospects and closing culture in your company and overcome business? that resistance, you will succeed. There is Yet Bedell’s gambit worked. Within nobody better placed to sell a product than a few months we were bringing in the person who built it. Q1 2020 Dialogue

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q1 2020  

The second wave: Preparing for digital transformation New technologies are starting to transform products, services and business models tha...

Dialogue Q1 2020  

The second wave: Preparing for digital transformation New technologies are starting to transform products, services and business models tha...