Quit whining : developers and sales people CAN work together

In response to articles such as this one, that makes fun of things developpers can’t bear to hear anymore from their non developper fellows. I know it’s meant as a joke but I’m fed up with developers depicting themselves as lonely rangers that nobody can understand, especially salespeople. And the other way around? How lonely is it to be a salesperson among developers? Can you imagine that maybe it is our mindset and surrounding that makes it difficult? Let me tell you a story of how it worked out at our startup because we were willing to put in the effort.

AUTUMN 2016

Today I’m super pumped up. I’m starting a new job as a salesperson by a software quality startup. I’m also petrified by stress and the number of things I’ll have to learn in this new environment I only have vague notions about. Professor Xavier, one of the cofounders (and yes he is also a professor and his name is Xavier just like in the X-men) is giving me a lecture about development and project management. He is passionate and a good teacher. I’m thrilled. But then things get harder. He is asking me to read the preface of a book about design patterns and the clean code book by Uncle Bob. The three of them, cofounders and developers, are talking nonsense. I understand one word out of two. I end up the day with a headache.

WINTER 2017

It is getting better. I read a lot during office hours and outside. Blogs, articles, books whatever comes to me. I’m desperate to fit in, to be legitimate to correctly advertise what we’re selling. I’m getting around it. I ask a shitload of questions. And most surprising of all: I absolutely love it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never learn how to code but it is great to understand. I’ve never been more proud than the day I cracked my first development related joke. I don’t even remember what it was, must have been something about sockets, which translates to socks in French and made me laugh a lot when they were talking about it. Or Docker. I often laugh when they speak. What seems ordinary to them sounds like a happy gibberish to me.

A different issue emerges. It is the other way around. I, me too, have my own business way of talking. And actually, we don’t understand each other that much. What are you talking about? Call to action? Value proposition? And their favorite of all times « so guys who does what and for which deadline ? ». I guess it is payback time.

SRING 2017

They’ve taken interest in what I do. They speak my language. They make fun of me the way I do of them. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t without struggle, but we got there somehow. We do demos together. They give my job a try. We understand each other better. I get it you’re not as talkative as I am. I get it you really need to focus when you code. I’m not allowed to interrupt. I can manage not talking for hours with our headphones on. I just didn’t understand WHY. I’m amazed by all the things you keep in mind when you code. I don’t understand how you do it not to confuse everything the way you. But you do, and it’s amazing.

SUMMER 2017

We’ve taken the habit to exchange medium articles on slack in the morning. I’m surprised by what they are all talking about. It is often about oh-so important developers and the problems they are having in their interactions with non-developers people. Gosh, am I behaving the way they are describing? I hope not but frankly, I do recognize myself in some of the traits they are whining about. And it hurts. I’ll be better, I promise. But on the other way, if I had read such articles written by developers before, would have I accepted the job? They are complaining a lot, thinking they are the only asset to the company. I give it to you: yes you do produce the value of the company, but what if nobody was promoting what you do? Yes, business comes with constraints and it is also our job to keep development business oriented. I gladly accept to have my hands dirty.

But I want to scream at them: I value what you do for godsakes! I’m rather jealous, to be frank. It looks like magic to me what you do. I have no right to tell you what to do or estimate the hours it takes. It is your call though I’ll still try to have it my way sometimes. Do you think we would be doing what we’re doing if we weren’t believing in you, in what you do?

TODAY

I could write the same type of article and none of us would benefit from it. I could just ask you to fit in my shoes sometimes. But instead, I want to show you what we achieved at our startup because I’m proud of it. A new developer has joined the team and he said he has never learned so much business stuff since he’s been working with us. It makes my heart fill with joy because I think we’ve finally reconciled sales and development. His remarks and those of the others have changed so much. We ask ourselves first of the relevance of what we’re doing for our clients, for the market before doing anything. Look how we’ve grown.

We’re stronger when we team up

So what can we learn from this little story? I’ll try to sum it up for you if you want to achieve world peace with developers.

Get interested in the other’s person job

Have a bit of empathy there, will you? For yourself, for the other, for the client. Why do you say it is not possible to fulfill this client request, again? Oh alright, I really would like to make this sale but I understand that we have good reasons not to accept everything blindly. I’ll talk some sense into him okay.

Yes, you think this feature would be a very good addition to our software, but I haven’t picked up any signal from the market that it will be decisive in recruiting new clients. Why don’t we focus on this one instead that has been highly requested?

Ask questions, be creative, exchange. I keep an ear during spring retrospective, backlog grooming and we daily meet altogether.

You’ll make mistakes along the way

We’re closer now but we’ve had our ways. We fought sometimes. We took certain things the wrong way. It is just a matter of understanding. We wanted to take it too far to blend everything together. No, I can’t fit my tasks into your project planning software, it goes into my CRM. Please don’t develop a whole application in your spare time to say whether or not I’m allowed to talk to you. Just let me understand why and I’ll regroup all my questions for a more appropriate moment.

Please don’t comment my every sales call, it makes me uncomfortable.

Why so serious? Laugh a little!

We’re so full of ourselves sometimes. Developers, salesperson, try to make fun of each other. You can’t erase all your differences, might as well laugh about it. A little self-mockery is a good therapy Makes you put things into perspective, say things you wouldn’t normally say and deflate the importance you sometimes give to things.

Change your mindset, be willing. Don’t jump to conclusion and pity yourself (talking to myself as well). Step back, why is the other person behaving the way he does? Think positive. Most of us are just trying to relate.

If you’ve liked this article or if you want to react to it, feel free to clap those hands at the bottom of the page 👏 and write a comment! I’d love to hear your feedback! 😊

Originally published at promyze.com on November 29, 2017.