As someone who got a degree in Computer Science (officially “Computer Information Technology”), the toughest thing to accept is when your roles are now focused on primarily Sales & Marketing.
I remember truly enjoying spending the earlier part of my career on the technical side. I still remember every project I never worked on. Things like network and IT infrastructure, managing SQL servers, writing tons of data queries and stored procedures, web development, and more. My goal after graduating was to become a lead architect and spend the rest of my life programming and working with large data sets, because that’s what I enjoyed.
Maybe being on the technical side was not my calling.
But, there was this moment where I realized “maybe this is not what I was meant to do?”, it was while at my desk at NBC Universal, while working on an error reporting application. (Btw, this is now one of my favorite stories to tell). I remember sitting there, frustrated, not wanting to work on this project. It caused my patience to grow thin with each line of code, with each mistake I made, and suddenly it’s 8pm on a Thursday night, I’m still at the office wondering “WTF am I doing?!” I didn’t enjoy sitting in front of a screen all day. I enjoyed the data, I enjoyed technology and innovation on the Internet, but, more so than that, I realized I was a people person. This made me question my existence on the technical side and maybe that was not my calling.
Don’t get me wrong, to this day I love finding bugs, cosmetic or larger that I can help solve problems for at Eventup. I actually love finding CSS bugs and sending our CTO the fix, it makes me feel like I still “have chops”. Let’s all be honest with ourselves, I really don’t. I can still tweak a WordPress template or write some markup/css here and there. But, my ability to build a project from the ground up has basically dissipated. This was an important discovery.
Since 2002 I’ve been working in some way on the marketing side, whether it was paid search/PPC, SEO, Email Marketing, or some form of Online Marketing. I’ve been helping companies or my own websites achieve growth since then to the tune of gaining millions of unique visitors or increasing revenues by the millions. Over the last few years I’ve really stepped into this and taken the proverbial “bull by the horns.” I love Online Marketing because I really get to marry that technical love of managing data and my understanding of technology to grow a company. This is huge to me and makes me feel like I provide value.
What I never realized until this year was the necessity of sales and growing a sales organization. And, I’ve learned that I not only enjoy, but LOVE, the sales side of the business. We tend to underplay the importance of sales orgs because we’re blinded by shiny new features and objects daily. But, if you look at many of todays most successful companies, they are based on great sales teams, primarily, salesforce.com.
In the public eye, there are tons of people touting lean startups, growth hacking, inbound marketing, etc. The one thing I’d love to see more of is sales leaders that talk about their experiences and give the tech industry a chance to celebrate those sales leaders for their achievements, knowledge, and experience. I realized this year I LOVE the sales side and I’m sickly in love with cold calling, that is, when I have time to do it.
There is more to sales than just a “hustle”
I think a lot of people truly undervalue the necessity for sales people because they think it’s a big hustle or sleezy. Truly great sales organizations are actually very sexy from a data and numbers standpoint if you breakdown efficiencies and really understand your model. Many cold calling teams are numbers games of how many calls to how many opportunities (or appointments) to how many closes. It’s like looking at a conversion optimization funnel and just breaking it down daily for your pipeline.
Understanding sales processes
Sales can also be fun when it comes to the creation of the processes to use as you scale up an organization. One of my favorite things to do is jump on a few cold calls to really understand many of the issues that your team will face.
- What problem are we really solving?
- What are the objections you’ll have to handle?
- What pain points are brought up frequently?
Pick up a phone and talk to someone
Take some time to really sit down with your sales teams, listen to the conversations they have, and understand your customer. You can help incorporate that feedback while building products that really answer a customer need. You will learn so much by hearing a voice and just listening.
There is a lot of “lean startup” and “customer development” type things we do to try to speed up the ideation, creation, and growth of startups. But, I think the one thing that more founders need to do is pick up a phone, make a few calls and really listen to your audience. Survey’s are great, building and creating landing pages are cool, but, I don’t think you really hear and understand the customer problem as deep as the human connection that can happen through some calls or meetings.