Why I am a dreadful salesperson

Many years ago, I joined a software firm where I was, unbeknownst to myself, hired as a salesperson. During the interview, this was never hinted at — I was asked questions about client handling, project management and execution alone — and the appointment letter stated the title of “Project Manager”, but the very day I joined, my boss showed me a list. He said, “Here are the leads I’ve assigned to you.” I was stunned and I voiced my protest.


Despite that, a few days later, I was informed one morning that I would have to demo a product (a fully working version) that afternoon to one of the prospects. Now, this was a product I had never navigated, so a developer named Sunita [name changed], who had worked on it, walked me through it quickly. The product, a “Quality Management” system, had even been sold to a couple of clients. It was a workflow application to help people in ISO-compliant (or similar) organizations file their process/ procedure documents for approval, and track/maintain different versions. (Ironically, the organization for which I worked did not have any kind of certification.) Because I was still quite unfamiliar with the system, I took Sunita with me to the demo.

When I began the demo, I started with being “User1” submitting a document for approval by “User2”, who was next in the workflow chain. When I logged out as User1 and logged in as User2, the submitted document was nowhere to be found in the system! After much fumbling, I asked Sunita to help, and she could not locate it either. We restarted the laptop and repeated the entire process, but we got the same results. Finally, in sheer desperation, I just showed them an existing document that had been saved in the system, with Sunita looking on sheepishly. Needless to say, the prospects were less than impressed.

When we returned to the office, I narrated the entire incident to our boss, and I even repeated all the steps to prove my point. His answer? “Actually, the system is fine; it’s just that you don’t know how to give a demo. You should just show them all the screens, but never click on the Save button”!

I then suggested that Sunita (who was not specifically on any project at the time anyway) and I (whose contribution to sales was clearly sub-zero) would clean up the product in a month or two so it could be made presentable and marketable. Predictably, I was told that I should instead spend that time targeting more leads! I also brought up the issue of documentation — more on that another time.

Anyway, regardless of the product bombing that day (and later too), I still think I’m a bad salesperson — I cannot sell unless I’m first convinced it’s worth selling — and I’m sure my facial expressions and body language say it all.
So this makes me wonder: Why didn’t they ask me at the interview itself if was I adept at sales? (As in formal ‘sales’; informally, all of us are always selling — to our children, our spouses, our bosses, and many more.) When I was not the salesperson they were looking for, whom were they helping? And oh yes, I was given a poor review because I was seen as “not cooperative about selling”!

One thought on “Why I am a dreadful salesperson

  1. Pingback: Laughable software engineers I have met… | Organization: A Misnomer?

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