Learning to Sell
29 January, 2021
I was a product development lead on a new product. I successfully performed that role, and my company gave me the opportunity to become a product manager for the product I helped develop. My first challenge in this new opportunity was learning how to sell the product. I have never done sales before. My background was entirely in engineering and technical support. However, we needed to sell the new product, and we did not have a full sales team in place to sell this new product. We did not have a sales team because this new product is entirely new for our company and for the market we were targeting. We did not know how much demand we would see or who would be interested in this new product. I had to perform an entirely new function without any prior experience or training and with limited support.
I avidly read books, blog posts, ebooks, guides, and anything I could get my hands on. I started following sales influencers on social media and engaging with their posts. I worked with and watched salespeople in the company and with the other people on my team who were also trying to sell this product. I talked with people I knew who had successfully gone from engineering to sales to learn what helped them.
One of the best resources for getting started with sales and marketing was the blog for HubSpot, a marketing and sales automation platform. I also found the book “The Sales Acceleration Formula” by Mark Roberge to be very helpful. Mark Roberge was an engineer who made the jump into sales and marketing, and he applied an analytical, data-driven approach to engineer a powerful sales and marketing pipeline for HubSpot.
Following his approach, one of the most significant changes I made to my sales work was using data and collecting data on what I was doing. I started tracking how many people responded to my messages on social media, and I changed the messages I sent to see if more people would respond to one type of message than another. Through this process, I was able to improve the success rate for my social media outreach significantly from where I started. I also started actively publishing on social media on the engineering topics and problems I experienced. Sharing my engineering experience was a great way to start up conversations with people I could help, whether or not they needed my particular product. Some of these conversations have grown into really valuable partnerships with other organizations.
- I realized that my sales “problem” was no different than an engineering problem. I did engineering because I wanted to help people by building things, and I used programming, scripts, and software to do that. Sales are still helping people. I just needed to learn the tools, the “programming languages”, and the scripts to do that. Like using a library or framework in a program, I could use our team’s collateral, guides, fact sheets, and reference material to develop my ability to speak about the product to interested prospective customers. That is not to say sales is exactly like a program, but there are certain standard ways to let people know you are there to help them if they need your particular kind of help. There are standards and foundational practices that help you be successful in any function, and you will eventually be successful if you have a genuine willingness to help others.
- My engineering background made me better able to help others than a typical sales-first person would have, and my engineering knowledge and experience made me a more authentic helper than someone who was looking to make a sale.
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