SCNA: Why Salespeople should attend!

The 2011 SCNA (Software Craftsmanship North America) conference concluded just a few days ago, and there was a large audience turnout as well as an impressive list of speakers and presenters.

As anticipated, the attendance was 99% software developers. I made up a portion of the remaining 1% of non-developers, representing as a salesperson for 8th Light.

I was excited to attend the conference, meet new people, absorb new technical concepts (this was a stretch for me!) and hopefully come away with a more in-depth understanding of the intricacies of developing processes and strategies.

I assumed becoming more technically adept would make me a better salesperson in the software development field, and was excited for the educational aspects of attending a conference like SCNA.

I certainly learned more about developing over the course of the next few days, but what I didn't fully anticipate was the overwhelming creativity of the developers. SCNA attendees are truly a unique and inspiring group of craftsmen. They use Agile methodologies and strive to be cutting edge, pioneering thinkers.

As I listened to the presentations, I came to realize the synergies between my sales techniques and the techniques of a software developer/craftsman. I spoke with many attendees at SCNA and came away with the knowledge that the strongest path to selling software is doing so through the “eyes” of the craftsman.

By attempting to inhabit the vision of the practitioners of the craft, I can more clearly engage in the kinds of detailed conversations, negotiations, and collaborations that benefit both my clients and myself.

It is an act of imagination that bridges the goals of 8th Light, with their clients, and allows me to fulfill the most important aspect of salesmanship: acting as a conduit for strong relationships.

My conversations with SCNA developers illuminated the fact that great salespeople and craftsmen share the same basic skill sets:

  1. We love thinking through challenges, and solving our customer's problems is our greatest focus.
  2. Craftsmen and salespeople are truly “out of the box” thinkers, and often times our creative energies manifest themselves in skills and interests beyond our primary careers.

    We aren't exclusively salespeople and developers—some of us are writers, teachers, artists, and musicians. We share a common bond in our desire to create and practice creative activities.

  3. Our greatest joy is to work for and with people who acknowledge and reward our creativity. We thrive in environments where we can embrace our self-starting tendencies, and where we are managed in the most minimalistic ways while still receiving support and encouragement for our efforts.

    Most sales people acknowledge their strength with people skills and see technology as a learning curve, while the craftsman acknowledge their technical skills as strengths and people skills as a learning curve.

  4. We embrace experimentation, which leads to innovation. We acknowledge that failure and risk-taking are a part of our journey to success and refuse to be encumbered by failures; instead, we accept them as educational opportunities that propel us toward further achievements.

In thinking about my experience as one of the only salespeople at SCNA, I had the amazing fortune to connect with developers and craftsmen from around the world, and, as expected, I came away with a greater technical understanding.

More importantly, though, I found myself transitioning from the role of a passive observer or outsider to a participant actively engaging in exciting conversations in which I made connections between my skills and the practices, priorities, and points of view of software developers.

The conference became less about a chosen career and more about a community of original thinkers inspiring new connections and approaches to a creative life. I look forward to SCNA 2012, as well as encouraging my sales colleagues to attend.

Margaret Pagel, Vice President of Sales Marketing

Margaret Pagel is an enthusiast, conversationalist and life-long Wisconsin Badger fan.