Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sales and Making Sales

My friend Andy had a blog posting last week about sales guys in the software field. Selling is always an interesting part of running a business and most likely the part that causes the most headaches, but without sales there is nothing else.

I'm typically distrustful of most commission-based sales where I'm the consumer. This is true for auto sales or buying suits. I bought a suit last week at a major mall-based retailer and I asked the guy (after purchasing, bad on my part) if it was quality. He went to say something and then stopped, smiling and saying "everything we sell is quality". It's blanket statements like that that make me second-guess my purchase.

I've stopped attending many industry events and meetings because they have turned into sales affairs. I attended one industry event where, of the approximately 60 attendees, at least 30 were sales guys hunting for leads and 20 were unemployed guys looking for work. The other 10 were people like me just trying to learn more about the product and maybe meeting a person or two in the process. I also wrote back in April about getting kicked out of an Oracle event that was a "briefing" but truly was a sales pitch. I've found a much different experience at true community events (like SQL Saturday), and while there is always the element of selling involved, it's not excessive. I have received a few unwanted emails from being on mailing lists coming out of these events, but that's more the exception than the norm. I hope that as SQL Saturday events grow they continue to stay true to their roots.

This brings me to a conversation I had with a client recently. Selling consulting services is kind of like dating, sometimes it's smooth and sometimes it's not, sometimes there is a return phone call and sometime there is not. One of my major disappointments when first getting into this business is the amount of sales leads that seem very hot and then turn cold. It does come with the territory and one has to learn not to take it personally. Anyways, the client I was talking to described to me his process of choosing a company to perform the work. He spoke about other firms which had presented and how things had went with them. What it came down to, in his mind, was trust. I'm pretty plain-spoken which has it's strengths and weaknesses, but it worked in this case that this client believed what we (my partners and I) said, and our straight talk gave them a great sense of comfort. I can relate to that, as I stated earlier, I'm pretty reluctant when listening to sales pitches and always trying to understand all the angles of the discussion. It was pleasing to hear that at the end of the day, the time-honored traditions of honesty and integrity were able to overcome bigger names and slicker salesmen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wes, I hope SQLSaturday will remain "different" and will do what I can to reinforce that. I think what helps is that because most events are fairly small (100-200 attendees) it doesn't merit the kind of strong push from sponsors that you see at bigger events. They want to participate and maybe have a table, but it's a slower paced environment. On the marketing emails, we let each event decide on the rules for that. I wish it was zero, but I think the key is to keep it moderate, balancing privacy and usefulness, idealism and paying the bills!