Saturday, October 6, 2012

Product Mgmt: What I learned from a good sales guy

One of the things that I've learned while working was that there are many things to learn from a good sales guy.  I've learned many lessons working with many sales guys, and I thought I might share one of them.

Before I begin let me state that I have engineering background.  Many engineers, myself included, do not know anything about sales when coming out of school.  Engineers think that if there is a great product, that product will sell itself from the day one, and mistakenly think that sales is the easiest thing in the world.

Not true.  Because all you have is your own ability to connect with customers and win their business, you have to be extremely reliable and trustworthy.  What separates bad sales guys with good ones are entirely about ability to communicate, be trustworthy, and be likable.

This happened when I was working on my first assignment with foreign customer in a different timezone as a sales engineer.  Sales guy, let's call him Bob, was deeply involved because we were still in proof-of-concept phase and contract was not inked yet.  Bob would call me or send me an email practically every day to catch up with how things are going.  Things seem to be going okay from my perspective.  I didn't understand why Bob was all paranoid about the project status.  Probably his quota depended on the deal, now that I'm thinking about it.

One Friday Bob sent me an email.  I don't recall exactly what email was asking, but it asked a question that I didn't have an immediate answer to.  I started to looking into it, and decided that I should get back to him once I was ready to give an answer.

Weekend went by, and on Monday Bob sent another email asking for the status.  I replied with short message saying that I am working on the answer.  Bob called me later that evening.

Bob: Hey Jae, you didn't reply to my email.  How are things going? 
Me: It's going ok.  I needed more time to get the answer.  I told you I was working on it. 
Bob: Jae, it's ok to ask for more time to work on the problem.  But we as a team must be transparent with customers.  To do that you cannot sit on the problem.  You have to let others know that you are working on it and when they can expect the next update.

Building a trust is all about getting a timely feedback.  I'm sure all of us had frustrating experience of our computer not responding to our mouse or keystrokes.  We all jiggle our mouse and press keys to see if system is responsive.  Likewise when a customer asks a question and does not get an answer in timely manner, the customer starts losing confidence on us and becomes frustrated.

Trust does not grow from marketing and label.
It grows from communications with customers and happy customers.
Providing timely feedback is all about building that confidence.  As a team member, we all have to pass the information along.  A team is only good as the weakest link.  Always pass the information and set expectation.

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