Sales, Engineering, and Sales Engineering

A couple weeks ago while driving from Phoenix to Santa Fe, we stopped to visit the Very Large Array. I wrote a post on this topic on April 26th because it was fascinating to see how the scientists were directly involved in explaining this complex facility to the public. Their excitement got me excited to learn more and write that post. This is similar to the experience I have had hundreds of times talking to technology creators, their passion gets others excited about their work. So why does almost every company have product managers, account managers, sales managers, sales engineers, application engineers, sales people, and sometimes all these (or more)? There are a few contrarians, companies who eliminate the “necessary evil” of sales people and have engineers do it all. These people get titles like “forward deployed engineers,” but aren’t they now just highly trained sales people? In my experience as a sales manager, it comes down to what excites people. Those engineers explaining the VLA probably would not be excited after a couple weeks of traveling around “pitching” the VLA to others, that’s why the videos were genius, it transmitted their excitement and they only had to do it once. Then they could go back to what really excited them, making a better orthomode transducer or correlator.

Great sales people also get excited about technologies they sell and have the ability to transmit that excitement, but they love the sales process itself. They love finding the customer, developing the relationship through helping them solve their problem, and getting the “reward” of the successful sale. They don’t mind the repetition because the rewards (financial and psychological) are so compelling.

So can this gap be bridged with today’s technologies? Could the sales process be replaced with technology? I will leave you with a few links and the teaser that every step in this direction could have a major impact on your organization (obviously!). To be continued.

Are Sales People About to Become Extinct – http://www.salesarchitects.net/articledet.php?aid=62

Want Your Company to Grow, Fire Your Managers – http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130320152447-5799319-want-your-company-to-grow-fire-your-managers

No Sales People, Just Forward Deployed Engineers – http://jackmalcolm.com/blog/2011/11/no-salespeople-just-forward-deployed-engineers/

Thoughts on Life Without the Internet: Paul Miller

Paul Miller, a career technology since the age of 14, spent a year without the Internet. He had technology, but no “connectivity” so he could watch TV, movies on DVDs, play video games, use a computer, etc. He just could not use email, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, a smart phone in general, or anything else that required a network connection. He couldn’t play video games with others (which he loved), he couldn’t see comments on his articles on The Verge (who paid him during this time), he couldn’t socialize online. You get the idea. Here is the link to his offline series of articles: Paul Miller Offline

So what did he learn? My summary is:

  • He missed the connectedness. In fact, he was probably addicted to the connectedness.
  • He enjoys creating more than consuming.
  • Not having the “distraction” of the Internet affected his creativity in ways he did not foresee, maybe due to his lack of connectedness, but also by helping him see the deeper issues in his psyche.
  • His “bad habits” were his fault, not the fault of the Internet.

Here is a link to his final post: Paul Miller Almost Online

Toward the beginning, he explored the creativity his new environment provided, and made comments like:

But if there’s one thing that’s missing in this landscape, it’s opportunities for creativity and inspiration. I love convenience, and I love to be entertained, but I’m most fulfilled when I feed and exercise my imagination.

But in the end, what was important to him was the connectedness:

When I return to the internet, I might not use it well. I might waste time, or get distracted, or click on all the wrong links. I won’t have as much time to read or introspect or write the great American sci-fi novel.

But at least I’ll be connected.

To me, this was a fascinating look at priorities / life balance decisions versus unstructured time, consumption verses creation, connectedness verses solitude, and the role of work versus play in both individual and group settings. Paul might be a little too close to his situation to see it yet, but in learning what he values through firsthand experience, it seems that he has seen himself clearly for the first time, and he got paid to do it!

Doing What You Love Part 1

I got curious one day about Halo 4, one of the most popular first person shooter games of 2012. After enjoying video games for certain periods in my life, it seemed like a fun idea to try a modern one. It was fun at first, but long, really long. Did I really want to sit for a couple months of weekends in front of a game, blowing up one thing after another, hour after hour? Not really, I have much more interesting projects at this stage in life, but the scifi art in Halo was incredible and the story was intriguing. So after a quick search on YouTube, I found “TheRadBrad.” Here was the solution: have an expert play the game for me so I could enjoy the parts I loved without the time commitment and all that messy killing. TheRadBrad is Bradley Colburn of Kennesaw, GA and he has turned what he loves into a career. His YouTube channel has anywhere from 50K to 1.5M views per video, 862K subscribers, and 355M total video views, so Brad is certainly popular. He plays through major game titles in a couple of weeks and narrates the gameplay in a stream of consciousness style that is interesting and amusing. You can find his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/theRadBrad

So how much does the 25 year old make? He is probably generating about $70K per year in advertising revenue which is not bad for playing video games all day. If you are still interested in more information about Brad, there is a good interview of him here http://www.fmvmagazine.com/?p=5156 and take a moment to read the comments, his fans just LOVE him. How’s that for brand loyalty?

The Diploma’s Vanishing Value

The Diploma’s Vanishing Value – WSJ.com. This headline hooked me immediately, especially the fact that it is from the Wall Street Journal. However, getting past the shock value (BSEE / MBA talking here), it is very advanced journalism.

First, the headline “The Diploma’s Vanishing Value” made me think “really? with all the attention on the poor science and math scores, really?” (CNN Science and Math article).

Then, the subheadline “Bachelor’s degrees may not be worth it, but community college can bring a strong return.” Ok, maybe getting better, not everybody is suited to being a rocket scientist, why spend $80K – $200K if your passion involves creating custom flowers with 3D printers.

Then, for the webheads reading this, the page title (see graphic below) reads, “Are Bachelor’s Degrees Worth it? – WSJ.com.” As a result, google returns this article as the first result for the searches like “bachelor degree worth,” “bachelor degree value,” and so on. Obviously, the WSJ knows how to stay on top of Google, literally.

WSJ Bachelors Degree

Finally, the article itself gives a interesting, balanced approach to a very controversial question. As for the science and math crowd, you probably wouldn’t be reading this to begin with: that piece of paper is the price of admission to your field. For many others, the creatives, undecideds, entrepreneurs, and trades, the issue is worth exploring. Many companies, for better or worse, hire for specific skills and experience, a degree might be required, but any degree would check the box. For smaller companies, people without degrees might be the best fit, especially if they enter the workforce without the burden of student loans and can start their careers at lower salary levels. So the next time you are searching for that perfect “technical” sales or marketing person, it might be interesting to include the “alternatively educated” with a degree from the school of life.

Sales Excellence Studies

I come across many, many articles about “sales excellence,” have read dozens of books, attended many trainings, and coached salespeople as their manager for over 15 years, but this article caught my interest because Chip Doyle, an expert in sales excellence, commented on it. Worth a quick read, including his comment at the bottom.

http://www.omghub.com/salesdevelopmentblog/tabid/5809/bid/95695/Sales-Excellence-Studies-Propagate-Mediocrity.aspx