"Sales" is a scary word. It's the plural of a much more exciting word, but it sure isn't that exciting for most people. I'm sure there are some folks out there who love numbers, and love upping their quotas for the week. That's great, but I personally loathe the numeral-piloted world. I'm not alone in this. To the alternative of boycotting general sales, there's always one question: What do you say to people who need your product?
Personally, it took a while for me to be ambitious enough to tell people about the company I work for. I've had some awesome jobs in the past, too, and there shouldn't be any sense of shame when explaining what I do to people. Then I got a job at 1Password. I believe in the product, which is quite refreshing, but I still found myself with the problem of not wanting to pitch it to anyone when I was explaining what I did. I felt bad.
That was the state of things a few months ago. I've now been here four months, and as I'm sure you can imagine, I'm confident in all the things. (And in that bit, as your humor perception is beginning to notice, I am being rather satirical.) I've been experimenting over the months with a good way of telling people what 1Password is, because it can sound daunting if you present it the wrong way — as can all new things. I finally have one I love:
Security seems hard, so we tend to stay on the side of convenience. But then we get reminders that security is something we need as well. Both are possible with the right tool. 1Password gives you the ability to use a single password to unlock all the rest, and each can be very secure without you needing to remember them. Then all you have to do is use a two-key shortcut on your computer to access those passwords anywhere. That's more convenient than typing the same password everywhere. Behold: Security + Convenience.
I'm pretty proud of that concept. It took lots of attempts for me to get it right, and I still think it will evolve.
With that in mind, I'd like to move back to the topic of sales. My observation is, if someone inquires about your product and you're on the support team, you're automatically part of sales (yes, the cynical word you hate). It's an obvious conclusion, since you're a problem-solver and people are getting in touch with you because they want to know why they need your product, or why it's better than the others. At this point, the interaction doesn't need to be a sales one, but rather a conversation about what they're looking for, as well as some stories of what you've done with the product and why you love it.
People should not think about sales in terms of money. The word could be used to refer to the overall number of items that have been sold and how things are performing, but it shouldn't be used to refer to the interaction between the potential buyer and the seller. If the member of the support team approaches things from a perspective of "What are they looking for, and would we fit them best?" rather than "How can I get them to buy our product?" or "We just need to make money", the income is merely a side effect of an excited soul.
Now this idea isn't necessarily applicable everywhere. I'm sure some people will write in and want to know if you have just one feature. By all means answer their question! Also think beyond the question. Don't ponder whether you should add the feature they want just because they asked for it, consider their thought process and what they really need, then address it in a way that relates to the way they presented it. Otherwise they'll think you're avoiding their question or being defensive. And don't be defensive. You're not a lawyer.
I could say much more about this, and I hope I can put all my thoughts into words concisely for a longer article (oxymoron), but I think the important concepts are here. I would love to hear what you think about them, so long as you're not a Googlebot. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'm delighted to get email from real people because all the subscriptions I have in there get lonely.