In tech, the divide between software engineering and sales can sometimes seem as wide as the Grand Canyon. But this gap is becoming narrower as the industry evolves and companies recognize the value of cross-disciplinary knowledge. Here's why software engineers should understand sales and how this understanding can lead to a more successful career and an enriched experience in the tech world.
A Journey to Sales Engineering
A software engineer's journey to understanding sales often begins with a transition into a sales engineering role. This transformation can be driven by an innate ability to tell engaging stories about complex subjects or simply a curiosity about the customer's world that the traditional engineering role cannot satiate.
In a sales engineering role, a tech-savvy professional can leverage their expertise to bridge the gap between the technical and business worlds. They work closely with salespeople, customers, sales managers, and directors, getting a first-hand view of the sales process. Over time, they learn about the customers' infrastructure and processes, often understanding these aspects better than the customers themselves. As they familiarize themselves with the sales process and the customer's needs, they become crucial players in the sales arena, making them an invaluable resource.
Sales as a Soft Skill
A key lesson in this journey is the importance of soft skills, which can sometimes be overlooked in the engineering world. In sales, a lot of communication is about asking the right (tough) questions at the right time, a skill that engineers might not be accustomed to. Successful salespeople motivate their clients to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles of their own company and the salesperson's company, a task that relies heavily on soft social communication skills rather than the rational logic that is typically emphasized in engineering.
This switch from being the one with all the answers to being the one who knows the right questions to ask can be a transformative experience for software engineers. It can also significantly broaden their perspective on problem-solving and communication.
Embracing Repetition and Unpredictability
Engineers, who often aim to automate any repetitive tasks, need to adjust their mindset in a sales environment. In the world of sales, repetition is the name of the game. Whether it's cold calling, sending emails, or reaching out via LinkedIn, the process can be repetitive, and not every effort will yield results. However, even a hit rate of 25% can be considered good enough in sales. This unpredictability can be a challenging but essential lesson for software engineers to learn.
The Power of Understanding People and Their Problems
Beyond these adjustments, the most significant gain for a software engineer who understands sales is the ability to understand people better and to solve their problems effectively. This understanding is not just about the technical aspects of a problem but also about the person or team you're talking to, their overall business objectives, and the return on investment from your software. This ability to "speak their language" is a powerful tool that can elevate your conversations with clients and enhance your product's value proposition.
The Impact on Career Path
Understanding sales can significantly impact a software engineer's career path. It can lead to roles in business analysis, sales management, or even the founding of your own startup. Being technically strong and personable can be a winning combination in the tech world, enabling you to work effectively with clients and explain complex technical topics to less technical or non-technical people.
For those with entrepreneurial aspirations, knowledge of sales can be a critical requirement for success. It can provide the necessary skills to interact with thousands of prospective customers, build trust, and close deals.
Sales is About Solving Problems
A common misconception is that sales is merely about pushing features. But the reality is that sales is about solving your customer's problem. Whether a customer knows exactly what they want or is still figuring it out, the end goal is to address their challenges. The feeling of closing a deal, knowing that you've offered a solution to a customer's problem, can be incredibly satisfying. This realization can profoundly change a software engineer's approach to their work, making them more focused on problem-solving and more attuned to the customer's needs.
Understanding sales as a software engineer does not mean leaving behind your technical skills. Instead, it involves using those technical skills in a new context, one that requires a deeper understanding of people, their problems, and the value that your products or solutions can bring to them. It's about shifting from a purely technical mindset to one that incorporates soft skills, an understanding of business objectives, and a focus on problem-solving.
Understanding sales prove to be an asset for software engineers, empowering them to contribute more effectively to their organizations, enhance their career paths, and enrich their personal growth. So, if you're a software engineer looking to broaden your horizon, why not take a closer look at sales? You might find it to be a rewarding journey full of valuable lessons.