A little about me: I went to MIT, majored in computer science, and after about 5 years in finance and engineering, I went into tech sales. Crazy right? I don’t think so.
Engineering graduates are often uncomfortable with sales. I’ve spoken to many tech founders who had misinformed notions of sales as a “used car” profession, and others who think they can’t sell because it’s not in their DNA. But sales is an invaluable skill set I saw in a lot of people I admire, from Steve Jobs to Richard Branson. So I jumped at the opportunity to sell and manage a sales team during my time at ZocDoc.
And now, having done sales myself for a few years, I can assure you it’s not only a highly intellectual profession, it’s also something engineering grads can, and should, learn. Here’s why:
1. You’ll develop better product intuition, making you a better engineer.
Selling to your target customers will help you understand their day-to-day lives, their decision-making processes, and what they truly care about. When you gain a better understanding of your customers’ wants and needs, you’ll be able to engineer better products for them.
2. You’ll learn what to look for in a great salesperson.
Through selling products first hand, I developed a much better understanding of the qualities of a great salesperson. So when I had to hire a team of salespeople, I felt a lot more confident and qualified to interview and making important hiring decisions.
3. You’ll become a pro at building relationships.
Like bad code creates bugs, bad salesmanship creates poor relationships. As a salesperson, you’ll learn how to avoid mistakes in communication and presentation. Being a better communicator will dramatically improve your relationships—not only with your clients, but also your team. You’ll become more than just a cog in the machine—you’ll develop skill sets required to become an effective organizational leader.
4. I loved it. You probably will too.
Sales is entrepreneurial, easy to measure, and incredibly challenging, even if you are working for “The Man.” Unlike a lot of other jobs, most sales roles require just you, your hustle, and your skills to create quantifiable outcomes. This is an amazing contrast to being an assembly line engineer stuck in corporate workflows and not-so-agile software development cycles.
5. You’ll get a ton of respect.
To the outside world, you’ll widen your credibility beyond just a software developer, but someone who can build a product customers will love and take it to market. Internally, you’ll feel invincible, as you’ll be just as comfortable jumping on a call and handling a nasty customer as you would crushing your engineering backlog. With your combination of tech expertise and people skills, who’s to stop you?
Are you an engineer who has done some sales—or wants to try it? Let’s trade tips. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.