Just the other day I was giving an engineer a ride to a conference. I mentioned that I wrote about Sales. Her response: "Yuck, salespeople are slimy."
I shrugged it off as Asbergers (not uncommon among engineers), but it reminded me of back when I was in engineering. Just for yucks, we made a stop-motion animated "sales training" video where the "typical salesperson" and "average customer" were represented by Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.
The other engineers thought it was pretty funny but the director of the development center wasn't at all amused. And no wonder. While "A Day in the Life of a Computer Salesman" showed more imagination than "Yuck, salespeople are slimy," the basic attitude was identical and just as self-destructive.
When I got out of engineering and started working in the wider business world, I realized how stupid it is to demean salespeople, since without them most engineers would be unemployed.
Case in point: that development center where I made the video? It was closed down (and a lot of programmers laid off) due to a lack of sales of the product we were building. Which was partly my fault, because rather than supporting the salespeople I was making wiseacre videos.
I see this same, self-destructive dismissive attitude towards salespeople inside of startups, especially when the CEO has a background in engineering. Often that attitude plays itself out by an inability to hire good salespeople when they're needed the most.
What's really sad, though, is that engineers who want interesting projects must to learn how to sell their ideas to management, investors and customers.
Engineers who think salespeople are slimy, think that selling is slimy, too. And you can't get good at any skill if you don't respect it.
In other words, the inability to sell (which comes from disrespect) is the main reason that some engineers keep on getting stuck with the technical donkey-work.
With that in mind, here's a video that explains why engineers think salespeople are slimy and defines a better, more powerful way to think about selling. Enjoy!