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Sales For Engineers, 1-50

In my capacity as a software engineer for the last 7 years or so, I've done all kinds of interesting things. Recently, I've dove into sales and sales engineering at my new gig. I found that acquiring customers and understanding their behavior is very challenging, and is also a lot of fun. The typical attitudes held by software engineers about sales are shitty at best, uninformed at worst. I'm here to tell a different side of the story and hopefully offer some advice that will get people excited. If you like this list, I'll make another one.

Note that this list comes from my experiences of selling a Business-to-Business Software as a Service product. It may not pertain to everyone, but it should be entertaining and informative nonetheless.

  1. Sales matters. Embrace it now, you'll be better off in the long run because you'll understand how shit works.

  2. If you won't put time and effort in to understand sales, how can you expect people to do so with technology?

  3. Don't take being a "cost center" personally. Actually just kidding, that shit is offensive.

  4. Learn some statistics for the love of Edsger.

  5. You already know everything about computers, programming, software engineering, etc, so why not something new?

  6. Measure everything. I'm going to say this a couple times.

  7. Understand your customer because that is who you build your software for.

  8. Everything you build is in service of the customer, no matter how invisible to you they are.

  9. A qualified lead is a customer who is already interested.

  10. Following from #9, a qualified lead isn't going to be annoyed when you reach out to try and help them.

  11. Following from #10, you should help them by figuring out if they're a good fit for your product.

  12. The value in your product is in the eye of the customer.

  13. If you can't confidently sell your product at the price you sell it for, either don't sell it, or sell it for a different price.

  14. Sales and the interaction between human beings is the ultimate distributed system.

  15. You have an advantage in sales because you understand the product in a specific way.

  16. You have an advantage in sales because you breathe numbers and functions.

  17. You have an advantage in sales because you can see through the data.

  18. You have a disadvantage in sales because you understand the product in a specific way.

  19. You have a disadvantage in sales because you breathe numbers and functions.

  20. You have a disadvantage in sales because you can see through the data.

  21. You can make the data come to life.

  22. Use tools to determine who to speak to.

  23. Speak to them a lot.

  24. Use the telephone.

  25. Seriously, use the telephone.

  26. Get excited about knowing your potential customers.

  27. Put yourself in the position of the customer.

  28. Measure everything about everything.

  29. Make graphs, not too many, mostly 95th percentiles.

  30. How many trial customers do you have right now? You should know.

  31. How many trial customers are on the last day of their trial right now? You should know.

  32. Get my point? You should know a lot about your trial customers. As much as possible.

  33. How long is your trial? Why is it that long?

  34. Pricing is really hard, you will fuck it up at least once.

  35. Listen to your customers about pricing, but be confident in the value you provide for them.

  36. Cheap products seem cheap.

  37. Cheaper plans churn more quickly.

  38. Net churn vs. Gross churn - learn about them.

  39. There's a lot of science in sales - check this out, for example

  40. Bruce Hardie is amazing. Learn about him.

  41. How do your competitors sell their product? Sell it better.

  42. Sign up for new trials all the time, see how other companies do it.

  43. Next time you get the opportunity to take a sales call, do it. See how it works from the other side.

  44. Assume that your customer is interested, and help them figure out if the product is right for them.

  45. Measure everything - had to say it again.

  46. Annual pricing is awesome, provide it when you can.

  47. How much does it cost you to acquire a new customer?

  48. How much does a new customer bring you in revenue?

  49. What is the typical amount of recurring revenue that a customer brings you?

  50. Sales is fun. Enjoy it.

Thanks to JD Maturen and Bryan Helmkamp for inspiration and James Golick for corrections.