If a developer considered sales as part of his job, it might alter the process quite a bit.. My current boss says he considers me "a change agent" which is a fancy term for a "pain in the butt", far as I can tell. "You're not going to propose that we use groovy or grails or maven again, are you?"

A new technology, on my current assignment, is defined as anything that came on the scene after 1999, far as I can tell. Ant is a new technology, for example. :(

Did close on Ant though, they are finally using it, here in 2008, for the first time.

I Took Tony Neal's NLP Based Sales Course This Weekend

Tony is a fixture at NLP Learning Systems where I have been taking some other courses. Never really figured out why I feel motivated to keep learning all that stuff but so far it's produced pretty nice outcomes, so maybe it's not important to figure out why. Tony's take on sales is that "If I can do it, anyone can, I am not even close to being a natural"

Tony has made a ton of money teaching corporate sales department guys how to get their job done over the past few decades, so it's pretty fun for me to sit in and pick up on the war stories and relate it to how I am trying to sell my interests at work.

If I applied the first lesson I learned this weekend it would be that I have to come up with my own approach, so I'll map out this blog using real world examples that I tried to sell my manager before taking this course.

The example outlined will be to get the shop I am currently working at to instead be using

  • java,
  • groovy,
  • grails,
  • ant
  • test-first
  • agile/scrum/etc
  • continuous integration.

This is somewhat laughable because they are pre-historic and proud of it. Change is bad, new stuff unproven, and they are right on both accounts. Of course, that's just one perspective, and the stakes are high. Every questionable decision makes a lot of developers work hard for no apparent gain, that's another perspective that I am trying to sell.

Preparation

We took a couple hours going over much of the standard NLP tool set detailing how to use preparation steps to get us ready before we even made the first pitch. In my case, this is critical.

I've discovered in the current environment that I get a very small window, and the techniques are easy and have approved effective, so far.

For example, one step is to outline my perceived limitations. One of mine is that I walk around with this idea that I can't do small talk with managers. So that is one that I can bring up into my head and turn around, in a concious way. Even if it means practicing a bit first... Hmm. How do I converse about football?

Setup

Next we went through a series of steps that run us through the first conversations with the prospective customer. So in this section I lined out exactly which managers I would target, questions I could ask ( and which ones not to ask ) and a game plan for each.

As you can imagine, this seems pretty whacko to me, I'm a developer, dang it.  No, just go with the flow, Pete. Tony is guiding us through the process, giving us stories and examples as we go, which helps me quite a bit.

pic

Patterns

Next step we learned was how to identify patterns and react to them. for example when to use a pattern interupt and when not to.

As you can imagine, my first reaction is that this is a bit contrived  until it is demonstrated with ME as the person being sold to. There were a lot of sales guys in the class, and it was fun hearing them practice their pitches on one hand, and describing how they resist other sales guys pitches. Very humorous, but instructive too.

Matt, below, practices his phone pitch on Ted, who helped Tony instruct the class. This was Matt's third time through this class, so he is getting pretty natural at the techniques.

pic

Elicitation

Now this is the part where I learned the most, because when I've been introducing new technologies at work previously, I approached it as if there were mostly logic involved.

But all the "logic" was from my perspective, not the perspective of the managers. In this set of exercise we learn what NOT to say until we get some basic types of questions answered by the potential customer (manager, in my case) and then we speak his language, not ours, when we sell the idea.

Dang it I really wish I had done this last month when I tried to sell Grails. I had even thought that I had done it, and then it fell apart after I thought I had a deal.

In the mockup phone conversation below, Tony worked with Matt to get him to listen for verbal hints and tailor his message accordingly. Takes more concentration than one might initially guess, so the practice and examples help.

pic

Education

So many potential customers, so little time. Managers where I work, for example - I think I have 6 bosses sometimes.

This section of the course is closely related to Elication above, because now we are tailoring our message to the exact minimum that we learn above. This is counter-intuitive to me because I like more information. But that's the whole point, not everyone thinks like me, and certainly not the managers I am selling to.

Closing

Would I have been able to keep Groovy Grails in the mix if I had learned closing techniques a few weeks ago when I was trying to sell it? Dunno because I didn't think in those terms then.

There are different types of techniques you use with different types of folks. Use the wrong one and you're pimping yourself.

All I know is the development team is going to spend a lot of time doing older more arcane stuff because I didn't think techniques like this were important. We are talking hundreds of man hours difference, it's a serious hit to the bottom line, so maybe all these goofy techniques are worthy of consideration ?

Learned a lot this weekend, it will be fun seeing if I can put it all to work. If not, I'll just retake the class later this year, it's free after the first one.

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