Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making Mistakes

I just finished Alinia Tugend's Making Mistakes as the review book for June.

It was tough reading. The basic premise is that mistakes are good - as long as they are non-fatal, are found and corrected rapidly and are learning experiences. This is all dependent upon the prevailing social or corporate culture that we live in. So far , so good - although like many business books nowadays it has one central theme and just beats you over the head with it for several hundred pages.

My viewpoint on mistakes, as far as the Sales Engineering community is concerned, is that they are healthy. Einstein was once quoted as saying that if you didn't make mistakes you weren't really learning and trying. Yet as SE's - we demand perfection - perfection of ourselves, perfection of our software/hardware and perfection from the rest of the team. Not too realistic. Throw in a demanding sales manager and that's not an environment that is going to be adaptable to change.

As a manager I always tried to differentiate between a MISTAKE - such as failing to prepare adequately before a demo or missing a key business issue, with a mistake - such as a slide that didn't get quite get the point across, or pressing the wrong button on a screen. Why is this of interest to me? I'm in the business of making people change - change the way they perform Discovery, change the way they present, change the way they design PPT, change the way they structure and design demos. None of that is going to happen without a few mistakes in front of the customer - yet in the long run my customers tell me about increased win-rates, fewer demo do-overs, better POC conversion rates etc - all because someone was wiling to take a (measured) chance.

The morale of the post is try something different. Practice it, think it through, and then add it to your customer-facing repertoire. (And when it works - share it with your peers). It's what will make you a better SE.