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2002-02-21 16:36:09+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

In Southwest Airlines Spirit, their in-flight magazine, there was an article on sales that pushed sales techniques over knowledge of the product or the market. This matches my own cynicism of late: It seems like the people running businesses are very often not critical thinkers, and who value manipulative relationships over results. Obviously the next question is: what skills do they have that I don't? Or is this just a function of the tail end of the .com boom?

[ related topics: Mathematics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 17:41:09+00 by: Andy Lyke

It depends on whom you're selling to. As an engineering manager, I was terminally put off by sales people of the "let's do lunch" stripe, and greatly appreciated savvy sales folks.

As you rise higher in the corporation, you find people who are in it for themselves, and not for the organization. These people are ambitious and self centered for the most part, and apppreciate people who blow sunshine up their skirts, rather than people who have their own substance, thus could be challenging.

I'd say it isn't the dot com heritage, since I saw it a decade or two ago, in organizations large enough to support driftwood in the upper echelons.

Andy in Atlanta

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 17:47:30+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Heh. When I went house-shopping in El Paso, this one agent for a local builder annoyed the hell out of me using the "assumed close" method. That's where you pretend the buyer has already decided to accept, so give him a contract and tell him to sign.

Someone should've told this girl that if it doesn't work the first time, it won't work the second... Or third... Or forty-fifth... Especially not when those attempts are consecutive. 8vP~

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 19:23:10+00 by: petronius

There is an ideoology of Salesmanship that more or less states that if you understand how to sell, you can sell anything, from stocks to blast furnaces to election candidates to refrigerators for Eskimos. To an extent this is probably true, since people do tend to exhibit stereotypical behavior in the marketplace. The trick is how to do it when they don't behave according to type. Technique is very handy, but those techniques are based on some very canny observaton of human nature.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 19:40:43+00 by: Dan Lyke

What bothers me isn't the techniques, or even that they work. I'd like to know why susceptibility to these techniques seems to be correlated with the other skills that let these people end up higher up in management than me. I'd like to develop the latter set of skills, I'd like to further train myself away from falling for the former.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 19:53:48+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, it may be an attitude. Perhaps you see business as supplying a product or a service where business is really about how to get the dollar that is in the customers pocket into yours.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 20:42:58+00 by: Larry Burton

Or maybe you need to read what Joel has to say.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 23:29:59+00 by: ebradway

It is generally accepted that communism leads to shoddy workmanship and lack of supply to meet demand. It is also generally accepted that capitalism fixes this by providing direct monetary reward for better performance. Unfortunately, what seems to be happening right now is similar to the 'King Caucus' concerns over democracy: the market for marginally acceptable, mass-produced goods is so much larger than the market for craft goods that it is almost impossible for someone to make a living creating quality merchandise.

Marketting techniques like selling without delivering product knowledge only makes this division greater.

#Comment made: 2002-02-22 16:36:22+00 by: Shawn

Dan, the problem is that management positions are given as a reward. For example; in retail, store management positions always go to top salespeople. Regardless of the fact that they have not demonstrated any aptitude for management skills. And the fact that the company fails to give them any training makes it even worse.

This is one of the things that, IMO, is horribly wrong with our implementation of capitalism. I used to think capitalism itself was flawed, but I've recently come to the conclusion that it is our implementation of it that is flawed.

There is an expectation that, as one moves through life, one must progress through the rank heirarchy. Eventually, all that's left to promote people into are management positions - and they get promoted because it's the expected next step, not because they're the best person for the job.

I had a job at a local game developer three years back that I think had a wonderful counter to this. They realized that not every developer wanted to be in a management position. So they created Senior Developer positions - which paid the same and came with most all the same benefits, but without the management expectations that came with the Lead Programmer positions.

#Comment made: 2002-02-22 17:30:05+00 by: Dan Lyke

Shawn, in the companies as small as I like, I'm not sure that management is given as a reward in the sense you mean. Quite often management is the team that put together a package to go talk to the vulture capitalists. My problem, as I look at those packages, is that I often have trouble figuring out why anyone with money would go for things that seem so poorly thought out.

It's not the technical people getting rewarded by getting shunted upwards into management, it's the "deal makers", and the "deal makers" seem to be the people who are gullible to marketing speak, who read brochures and say "but it has [buzzword] [buzzword] [buzzword]!" when asked what it actually does. (For particularly egregious examples of this, ask yourself how high end content management systems get sold.)

These people have a skill set. I'm sure of it, otherwise they'd be the ones wearing Razorfish hats with "will code HTML for food" signs on the San Francisco street corners. I want to learn what those skills are, and then learn those skills, but as I try to understand what their skill set is, what they actually do, I'm finding it inextricably intertwined with this wide-eyed gullibility.

#Comment made: 2002-02-22 20:48:41+00 by: ebradway

Dan, I believe you can get an introduction to those skillsets in the Castro District.

#Comment made: 2002-02-24 21:07:43+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Dan, I've not been exposed to many of the scenarios you describe. But that's probably because I avoid that kind of thing whenever possible. I too like small companies, but I generally try to stay focused on the technical aspect and stay as far away from the business end as possible. I tried my hand at starting my own company, and selling my ideas to others, a few years back. What I learned was that I don't have the necessary skills required to interact at that level - and that I have no interest in having anything to do with those skills.

What little observation I've had leads me to believe that the skillset is the same as [what I consider] the standard marketing skillset - buzzwords, reality-cluelessness and blowing up skirts. In short, playing office politics to the hilt - something else that I refuse to do.

#Comment made: 2002-02-27 18:53:24+00 by: TC

Dan & Shawn what you guys are talking about is somewhat skills learned and honed but I think it's more about ability and personal character and I think both your tounges would burst into flame should you actually recite (even with veiled disgust) the buzzwords needed to be accepted into the social coven.

Don't you just hate people that come late to the party and resurect dead threads?

#Comment made: 2002-02-27 18:53:38+00 by: TC [edit history]

Dan & Shawn what you guys are talking about is somewhat skills learned and honed but I think it's more about ability and personal character and I think both your tounges would burst into flame should you actually recite (even with veiled disgust) the buzzwords needed to be accepted into the social coven.

Don't you just hate people that come late to the party and resurect dead threads?