Last week I received a call from someone I knew from when I was in active service some years ago. He has been in his org for 20+ years and grown from very modest beginnings into a ERP consultant now. For years he was deputed to work on implementation and support for a group company along with many others. Now all of a sudden it was the end of road for him, his employer giving him a month’s notice to move out. The timing made it worse – he had recently run up huge medical bills looking after his father who did not survive.
I commiserated on his plight promising to connect him up with other ERP professionals I knew for possible openings. And then popped up the inevitable question: ‘Why did it happen?’ Was it due to user complaints, lighter load, loss of contract or general business downturn…? I was certain there must have been prescient rumblings that he did not hear or did not take seriously.
None of the above reasons. It was simply this: He did not bring in more business from where he worked, the boss had explained. Yes, the boss did repeat himself on a few occasions earlier.Strange, isn’t it? After all he was a software professional and not a trained salesman and the org expected him to grow the billing!
Sad, this man obviously had not seen the ground under his feet moving over the years until it had slipped away completely. I’m sure he isn’t alone. Many, especially techies, in the business of providing services, hold similar views. ‘Selling’ is not compatible with their self-image and self-worth.
In a broader perspective, more than ever, in today’s difficult business environment, it is incumbent on everyone in an org to sell or promote its products, services or in the least its image. All the time (at least while on duty) actively or passively. Be techie or non-techie, whether he’s on the firing line facing customers or embedded deep in the back office.
I’m reminded of the time when a class-room trainer impressed up on us at great length to seize and regard every interaction, incidental or routine, pleasant or otherwise, with a customer/prospect as a golden opportunity to ‘sell’. To understand its full import, just check with your colleagues in e-commerce. They’ll tell you how difficult it is to gain the attention of a fickle online prospect, far from making a sale.
Then there was this senior colleague once telling us he had this habit of reaching out to at least one stranger every time he traveled on busines instead of dozing off in his seat or exchanging office gossip with cohorts. .
Well. I hear my erstwhile bosses guffawing: ‘Look who is talking’. Yes, I woke up to it only after many years, the apathy probably due to the largely monopolistic pressure-free ecosystem prevailing in those times.
And here we’re speaking of this guy who was in continual engagement with his customer.
Let’s pick it up where we left him:
So his boss wanted him to somehow ‘sell’ whatever to increase the billing.
Selling involves the full cycle of: identifying a prospect, proposing a solution, elbowing out the competition, negotiating prices and the terms of purchase, order processing at both ends…all the way to the point of delivery and commissioning and keeping an eye thereafter. Not to mention the running around for collecting the receivables. That’s what a poor salesman does all the time, scratching his customer’s back on the outside and getting the moody back-office morons to work with him on the inside and waiting for months to collect his sales commission! And we think these guys are given to making merry aboard the gravy train.
Something truly beyond a software professional who usually has neither the time nor the traits/competence.
What the boss had meant was for him to sniff out in his area and around genuine opportunities additionally to reduce customer’s pain or boost his business capabilities (of course assuming he was contributing enough to retain his basic contract at renewal). And prepare the ground for experts to come in and convert. Where such opportunities did not readily present themselves, figure out ways he could be busy with his assignment and still be helping his organization’s business.
The reasons for it not happening so are many: a) The thought simply did not occur to him b) Too introverted to explore c) Lazy to extend himself and d) Not imaginative/competent to see possibilities.
Whatever the reasons be, guys playing it strictly from their side of the turf are very likely to lose out. Applies in general to those engaged in the business of providing services.
And in these times neither the managers nor the HR with their preoccupation would be quick to lend a hand. Bootstrapping oneself is the only option in most cases. Branded on is more likely than groomed.for performance.