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Developers vs Sales


Hi, my name is Jeremy, and I used to be anti-sales.

I think this is mainly because I worked in advertising for a few years. As a web developer at an agency, it was easy to feel less important than your colleagues in sales and accounts. It always seemed to me that the relationship between sales and developers was disproportionate. The sales team continued to grow and the executives celebrated them internally, while the development team began to shrink and received the most attention only when we made mistakes.

To a young Jeremy, this seemed extremely unfair. After all, the sales team was only selling the valuable work that our team was producing. In my mind, you could easily remove the sales staff with little effect, but the teams that actually made things – developers, designers, copywriters, animators – we were irreplaceable.

Now that a few years have separated me from that job, I can see a few problems with my reasoning.

Each company approaches sales differently

First, I’ve realized that my workplace distorted my opinion of sales. Advertising is extremely sales-focused, so the executives (who likely have sales backgrounds themselves) make the sales team a top priority. But, just as I felt less important working as a developer at an ad agency, a salesperson working for a software development company might feel marginalized compared to the dev team.

My mistake was in applying my personal experience at one company to my overall opinion of all sales teams everywhere. Just because you’re not the primary focus of a company does not mean your work isn’t vital to its success.

Sales is just as important as coding

Second, I’ve learned that nothing just sells itself. I used to believe that if I built a perfect piece of software, customers would magically find it and give me money. In reality, no matter how good your product is, you still have to make people aware of it. This is the role of sales, and it’s a very important part of the software development process. If no one is aware your product exists and how it makes their lives better, dollars are hard to come by. The more people you want to reach, the more attention you need to give to your sales process.

What is sales?

Looking back, I now realize I had no idea what “sales” actually meant. And after working for a few more companies, I realized (to my horror) that, like it or not, I was actually working in sales every day.

Always Be Closing Coding

It’s easy to romanticize the sales process in your head: Three-hour lunches with clients. Drinking cocktails. Making jokes. Your job is simply to have a good time and make people like you. Eventually, if your client likes you enough, you close a huge deal worth millions, get a huge bonus, and collect a ton of stock options.

Figure 1: An average-looking sales associate

In reality, the sales process is about managing how people perceive your company or product, and it includes many different pieces:

  • Advertising (TV, web, print, etc)
  • Customer acquisition (sales pitches, one-on-one meetings, etc)
  • Product quality (reliability, ease of use, etc)
  • Product design (visual aesthetic, “cool factor”, etc)
  • Customer satisfaction (support, account management, etc)
  • Public relations (writing, events, etc)
  • And much more

I used to think of “sales” only as the first two items on the list – get your name out there, then convince clients to pay for your product or service. In reality, anytime you act, you impact how someone feels about your product. Anytime you act, you engage in sales.

For example, you might refactor some code that speeds up your software’s database queries. Your customers notice the speed improvement. They feel the software is faster and more reliable. They’ll be more inclined to continue using your product, and may increase their usage or promote it to their coworkers. Your decision as a software developer has just increased sales for your company.

Or, you might commit to providing a higher quality of customer support. Customers notice that the support team responds to their questions quickly, and that their concerns are received and considered. Happy customers are loyal customers, who will stick with your company and are likely to sing your blessings to colleagues and friends. Again, your seemingly non-sales actions have affected sales in a very real way.

We’re all in this together

Working for a company like DoneDone has made it clear that nearly every decision you make as a developer, designer, author, or support agent is actually a sales decision. It may not provide immediate results, but over time this continual process of expanding and improving your image can have a huge effect on your bottom line.

So if you’re a developer who’s been dismissive of the sales process in the past, remember that it’s not all about making ads and closing deals. In a way, we’re all part of the sales team.

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