It’s clear to me now that I’ve always had an engineer’s disdain for sales people. After all, how hard can it be? Our great product practically sells itself. As a CTO, the sales calls I went on were all easy and almost fun. My job was to talk up the features and functionality of the product, and wow the customer with how smart we were and how great the architecture was at solving the problem they had. No problem. How little I knew about the constant follow-up, the customer requests, the research and preparation and effort that went into understanding an account well enough to close a million-dollar sale. Now that I’m the head sales guy, I’m learning the hard way. My only hope is that I’ve started to understand how little I actually know, and I’m getting much better at asking for advice and coaching.
I had a classic sales situation the other day: a champion at a top prospect who loved our product, and the next step was to vet it with the technology folks. We set up a conference call for two weeks out. Then it was rescheduled for two more weeks out. Then they sent an Outlook appointment update – not even the courtesy of an email or a phone call – to reschedule again for over two months later. Then our champion left. Poof – no more top prospect. Of course, as an entrepreneur we never say die, and I’m back in there trying to make progress, but this is the startup roller-coaster.