Be Kind, Rewind – It's for the Good of the Company

Jac Domney - 12/07/2018

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you grew up with a cupboard full of VHS tapes. If your household was anything like mine, you probably had to rewind the tape back to the beginning before every watch because you couldn’t be bothered rewinding it after last playing it.

Looking back at these tapes now, it is laughable how big they are, and how dull the colours were – but what is most surprising to me, is the VHS tape had a competitor, and it was arguably superior.

Betamax was a videotape format created by Sony available during the VHS tape reign, which was smaller and could reproduce colour better. Even with these advantages, it is unlikely a millennial could recognise a Betamax tape if it was placed in front of them.

Sony’s eventual failure in this video format war, taught me that nothing sells itself, without the right people in place articulating what you do, and why it is better than the alternatives, you are simply not going to succeed.

As a software developer, this can be, at times, hard to accept. By nature, developers meticulously look over every line of code to ensure the product shipped is of the highest quality. But even the most perfect code in the world is not going to garner interest without a sales team armed with the knowledge of why it’s great and who needs the software.

Salespeople in the software industry will often comment that the hardest part of their job is accurately understanding and articulating the technical details of the software they are selling to customers. In a consultancy like Kiandra IT, this becomes even harder as we offer solutions using a broad range of technologies, and are constantly updating our tech-stack to offer our clients the best.

No company has a hive mind, and this is why knowledge-sharing and a strong team dynamic between disciplines is paramount. Salespeople who are assisted to become more technically fluent will likely spend more time focussing on the most relevant leads, and give these select customers more accurate representations of your software, leading to a more satisfied and informed client.

Technical people can, and should, be proactive in assisting salespeople to raise this competency. At Kiandra, we involve developers in the pre-sales process, this benefits our customers as it enables us to offer the best possible technical advice available.

Another simple way to benefit your sales team is to let them know about all the great solutions you have provided. Being a master at articulating technical solutions is great, but you can’t always be in the room, and what often sticks with customers are anecdotes. By allowing your sales team to call upon a bevy of prior, relevant achievements, they are able to instil confidence in the client.

Old school thinking may suggest that tension between salespeople and developers stems from conflicting goals, with one camp attempting to close as many deals as possible and the other trying to deliver the most feature rich or highest quality software. Working at a client facing company has taught me that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Everyone is responsible for sales, we are one company, one team, with one unified goal.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room, sales are often under great pressure to deliver results, their performance in many ways can be seen as binary with hard-work boiled down to a number. But just because the traditional sales salary is often linked to the amount of deals closed, does not mean the sales team would ever set the development team up for failure to hit this. Doing so would be counterproductive. 

Best-selling author James Muir’s article best highlights this balance, without going too deep into jargon – the best way for salespeople to close a deal is by having strong referrals, this has been found to be the most effective channel of lead generation. Essentially, in the end, it’s the quality of work that will bring on those referrals, thus if quality suffers, so do the deals.

By technical people assisting sales to set the correct expectations and instil confidence in the client, you are increasing the chances of a project’s success. A project succeeding allows for better referrals, which allows for more sales, which allows for more successful projects. And so on.

Understanding this allows you to acknowledge that sales and developers aren’t actually on opposing sides of the fence – it is a symbiotic relationship which needs to be worked on and nurtured to truly excel. No software team operates in a vacuum, and only by educating each team on each other's methodologies, experience and goals, will you be able to provide a premium service to your client.

And this can be a simple process. Once a project is done, it’s important for developers to get together with sales (and the wider business) to walk through all the aspects, technical, non-technical so the team know its products and services – it’s kind of like rewinding, so when you hit play, the knowledge is there, all ready to go.  

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