Lately I’ve been considering making a bit of a career shift from an implementation-focused roll (ie: a guy who builds stuff) to a “higher” level: a guy who sells stuff. I started this train of thought after watching Obie Fernandez’s excellent talk on becoming a successful consultant.
So, I’ve started researching. I’m reading books and blogs on the topic of marketing. Thusfar it hasn’t been terribly encouraging; the words of sales wisdom that I’ve seen multiple times are often so foreign to me that I begin to wonder if I can do this at all.
Seth Godin has a good post entitled “The Marketer’s Attitude”. I’m going to use it as a tool to explain the sorts of conundrums I’m facing as I look forward on my career.
You’re relentlessly positive.
The very first point and I’m already down one. I’m not especially positive; in fact, if anything, I’m more typically negative. This view has its uses: I see the world as a set of problems and come up with ways to fix them. However, when trying to convince anyone of my views, being positive is the way to go. I think this is something that I could learn (or at the very least learn to fake) but it will take lots of effort.
You can visualize complex projects and imagine alternative possible outcomes.
I believe I’m pretty good at this. I very often seen potential problems that other people have missed. I don’t see every possible outcome though; other people still point out alternatives that I haven’t considered.
It’s one thing to talk about thinking outside the box, it’s quite another to have a long history of doing it successfully.
Agreed. But am I better at this than the average person? I don’t think I can answer this myself (former coworkers: can you?)
You can ride a unicycle, or can read ancient Greek.
Two negatives here, but I do know a something (often quite a bit) about a lot of different topics — some quite diverse.
Show me that you’ve taken on and completed audacious projects,
I’m not so great here. My (completed) projects are, in my opinion at least, quite mundane.
and run them as the lead, not as a hanger on.
I’m never quite a “hanger on”, but I’ve never really had a “lead role”, either officially or de facto. I do try to take on leadership responsibilities (especially when there’s a power vacuum) but I’ve never developed it into a solid position.
I’m interested in whether you’ve become the best in the world at something,
Well, I’m very good at software development and at reasoning. “Best in the world” is, of course, an exaggeration for nearly everybody (except one person), but I think Seth’s point is clear.
and completely unimpressed that you are good at following instructions (playing Little League baseball is worth far less than organizing a non-profit organization).
I can certainly follow instructions. I don’t always. My goal is to get things done; following instructions is only a possible means to that end.
You have charisma in that you easily engage with strangers
I’m not so good here. I can engage with strangers, but not “easily”; it takes constant effort. I do it because I have to (and it’s worth doing so), not because I like it.
and actually enjoy selling ideas to others.
Now here is where I shine. The major purpose of this blog is to sell ideas. In fact, that’s the big reason I’d engage with a stranger: to sell them my idea. I wish I was more effective at this (hence my study of marketing), but there’s no question I enjoy the end results.
You are comfortable with ambiguity, and rarely ask for detail or permission.
3 different points but I have to answer them together. I don’t care about permission per se, but I do care about the consequences when not asking for permission goes bad. The same goes for detail; I’m more than happy to fill-in-the-blanks when I’m not given enough detail, but I’m not happy to have to redo it and/or face (unjustified) criticism over the choices I’ve made. Since I work in an incredibly detail-dependent industry, I’ve learned to specifically avoid ambiguity and detail-seeking behavior. However, this is something I could unlearn easily — once I learn how to deal with the consequences.
Test, measure, repeat and go work just fine for you.
This is a must in my line of work. I think there’s not enough of this in other lines of work, and want to bring this philosophy to the rest of the world.
You like to tell stories
This depends on the story. Some come naturally, and I enjoy those. Being forced to tell a story usually doesn’t work as well.
and you’re good at it.
I’m probably weak here. Sometimes I can do really well though. What I do know is that my story-telling abilities are at least unreliable.
You’re good at listening to stories,
I’m definitely good here. I listen freely, and push myself to listen even above and beyond what’s necessary.
and using them to change your mind.
I think I’m pretty good here too. If someone has a good story (ex: accurate) then I’ll definitely apply it to my own beliefs.
I’d prefer to hire someone who is largely self-motivated,
Gold star here. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I’m exclusively self-motivated. I’ll rarely do something just because someone tells me to. However, it’s very easy for me to get on-board with a task when someone needs it done. I’ll take initiative if there’s a lack of direction.
who finds satisfaction in reaching self-imposed goals,
This is pretty much my entire reason for being. 😛
and is willing to regularly raise the bar on those goals.
Well, I’m here writing about how I can become better at marketing, aren’t I?
You’re intellectually restless.
I’m intellectually ADHD.
You care enough about new ideas to read plenty of blogs and books,
Check. I wish there were more waking hours in the day and/or didn’t have to work for a living so I could read more.
and you’re curious enough about your own ideas that you blog or publish your thoughts for others to react to.
Hrm, not sure on this one. *cough*.
You’re an engaging writer
On this point I have to let you be the judge. I know that I like reading my own blog posts. However, I don’t have a huge audience, and a lot of time my business writing falls on deaf ears. I don’t know whether this is a function of me or a function of external forces.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t speak as convincingly as I write. I think I could learn this though, with enough effort.
and you can demonstrate how the right visuals can change your story.
This is something I’m learning. I like pictures and diagrams. I often draw diagrams to illustrate ideas to technical audiences. My next stop is learning how to create good visuals to illustrate points to non-technical audiences. (This is part of my “effective speaking” foray; funny how I’m relying on non-verbal tactics to accomplish this).
And you understand that the system is intertwined,
I’d say “better than most people” in fact.
that your actions have side effects
I know this. Predicting side effects is tricky. I maybe know this too well.
and you not only care about them but work to make those side effects good ones.
Check. Achieving this is possibly a different story.
So, this is a mixed bag. I actually did better than I expected (especially towards the end). There’s lots of stuff that a) not only do I need to work on, but b) I’m not sure that I’ll ever be very good at, given what I know about my psyche. But I do know that I have to try.
That was fun. Comments are most appreciated.