I recently attended our company’s annual National Sales Meeting in Schaumburg, IL. The National Sales Meeting is always a fun event that brings most distributors and company marketing and sales people together to review the results from last year and be motivated to do even better in the coming year. It also provides excellent opportunities to meet a lot of people and build camaraderie among us.
This year’s event was even more interesting since a “Technical Summit” was added to the event such that engineers also participated in the overall activities. There were general events for all the participants and specific “Technical” and “Sales” tracks for “gearheads” and marketing/sales professionals respectively. I must say the general events such as the motivational speaker discussing Behavior Types and Team Building exercises were the two highlights of the event.
I also had the privilege to share a topic at the “Sales” side of the meeting. Being an engineer by training, it is always fun for me to share with sales and marketing folks. So I prepared myself pretty well and told the audience that I was going to throw out my engineering hat and wear my salesman’s hat for this presentation. About two minutes into my talk, I mentioned that I was going to share with the audience the advantages and disadvantages of the solutions and products that I was presenting. No sooner when those words left my mouth, I knew I made a pretty bad mistake! Sure enough, someone from the audience shouted out: “A GOOD salesman will never talk about any disadvantages of the products he is selling!!!” Well, I guessed my attempt to wear the salesperson’s hat didn’t go as well as I had planned.
The experience reminded me of a demo that I did many years ago for some high-level executives when I was a young engineer at my previous company. As usual the demo was put together in the last minutes, and sure enough it broke during the presentation. Glued together hardware and patched software (i.e. smokes and mirrors) usually do not work very well for technical demos! Instead of figuring out how to recover and gracefully move on to other things, I started to go into detailed technical discussions on why the system did not work and what should have been done to correct the problems. Well, the executives just smiled and moved on to the next demo when I was done. But after the whole thing, I was chastised “BIG” time by my boss for not knowing what NOT to say under the circumstances. I guess I didn’t learn about knowing what NOT to say very well, did I?
Is it in the engineers’ DNA that we just have to explain everything the way it is? We sure know that no product is perfect so what’s wrong with explaining the disadvantages or issues of a product? We know the issues and we know how to fix them, so why can’t we talk about them so people can REALLY understand??? Hmmmm… May be engineers should have listened to their parents better when we were told “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.”
Anyway, I am glad the company did not hire me as a sales person and I better stay with the tasks I know how to do. Of course, I am sure you want to know the problems with this plan of staying with the jobs I know how to do. Let me describe them to you ……… NOT!