Thursday, June 29, 2006

9 Things -- A Corollary

Seth Godin offers up Nine Things Marketers Ought to Know About Salespeople (and two bonuses), and as a corollary I'd like to offer up 9 Things Salespeople and Marketing People Ought to Know About Operations people. I'm writing this from a nerd's perspective having to develop or produce a product, but perhaps it will ring true for folks in different disciplines in slightly different situations.

Consider me addressing this to Salespeople or Marketing people. Or SOMPs.
  1. Selling is hard, but delivering on your promises can also be hard. If I am stressed meeting your deadlines or requirements, cut me some slack. And keep the coffee and snacks coming.
  2. Speaking of promises, when you make a promise you aren't the only one keeping it! Most likely it's the people putting your project together having to keep it, so please don't hand promises out like candy. At least, not without talking to me first. I certainly promise, however, not to change processes, features, or rollout schedules if you promise to deliver solid specs and requirements up front... and then hold to them or keep your customer accountable to them.
  3. Every once in awhile we can help you change a customer's mind. Chances are I've done a project like yours a hundred times, and there's probably a handful of people like me on your project. If you give me insight into what your customer is thinking, there's a good chance I can help.
  4. I won't ask you to sell lousy stuff so long as you help me make great stuff. Again, give me insight into what the customers are thinking.
  5. I would like to be rewarded, too, especially when I'm helping you keep your our promises by being at the office well into the wee hours of the morning while you leave at 4:59pm so you can make your Curves appointment or pick up your kids from soccer practice.
  6. When you have no earthly idea on what works be up front and honest about it. I have a crap detector that goes off with the slightest provocation.
  7. I don't like it when you have to make cold calls, either. It reeks of desperation and tells me my job is in jeopardy. May I suggest that if we succeed together by involving me more in your customers and processes, you'll probably make less of those calls?
  8. Share what you learn in the field. If something we bid on goes to a competitor, I'm dying to know why. Did we price out of the ballpark? If so, maybe my estimates stunk (or your description of the project which my estimates were based on). Did the quality of the last project stink? Etc, etc.
  9. Trust me, I'd rather you be out of the office interacting with real people and making the sale rather than the customer taking order over the web. I like to work on new stuff and solve customer's problems. It's like working on puzzles for me. This leads me to my first bonus...
  10. Speaking of being out of the office -- market / sell the product / project, but please don't think you can also act as the project manager. In fact, I insist that after you sell a project and do the knowledge transfer to the PM, GO AWAY. Because you are close to the customer you will become an adversary to me and the other operations folks working on your project. You'll micromanage where the project goes and how it gets there -- which is fine for a PM, except you won't have PM skills and will change direction depending on what the customer ate the night before. And I'll hate you and put really nasty easter eggs in your product.

    That's not to say you don't have a right to know how the project is going and to change it's course, but do that with a PM (and operations managers if need be) on a periodic basis (preferable not every half-hour) and base it on the customer's needs. I'm trying to deliver your great product, so leave me be.

    The other reason I insist that you concentrate on sales is because I need something to work on when I'm done with the current project. Having you work in a cyclical manner where you sell something, then PM the project, then try to sell again probably isn't going to work. In fact, you may alienate your customer if you all of a sudden you stop schmoozing them and figuring out what their next move is right after getting a big sale out of them. They have short and long term goals and you should be doing your best to weasel that information out of them. You need to be their buddy.
  11. My second bonus -- I think I've harped on or alluded to this twice already but it's worth repeating. Get me involved during the selling process. You know the old children's game of sitting in a circle and whispering something in one kid's ear, then have them whisper the same thing to the kid on the other side, and repeat all the way around the circle until it comes back to you? Remember how the word repeated to you when it gets to the end doesn't even begin to resemble what you said to the first person? That's how your project is going to turn out when you put layers between me and what the customer has said.

    There are a variety of reasons for that -- they may have read about some trend in a magazine or heard some buzzword and wants their project to have that in it. You may not have heard of the trend or buzzword and therefore neglect to mention it to me when describing the project, but chances are I've heard of it!


Aaron Savage said...

Hi Michael

I saw the original piece over on Seths Blog and that brought me over here to you. I agree with much of what you say but thought you might be interested in my perspective on things over on
my blogged reply I split things up into noble sales and ignoble sales, and the piece is something I hope would strike a chord with you. Its not that sales is bad, its that all too often sales is done badly, and part of the reason is that many traditional sales roles have no concept of repeat business. Anyway have a look if you are interested.

KO said...

How come you never told MEnie this?

Michael said...

I told everybody this that would listen. Besides, it's hard to get a message through to somebody who is a taco short of a fiesta.