Frank DENIS random thoughts.

Learn from marketing/sales people.

We just hosted the Bay Area D3 user group for some amazing talks.

Meetups of all kinds are always a good opportunity to meet people, and after the talks, my teammate and I had a chat with one of the attendees.

This cool guy had a lot of questions. But not about D3, code, security or algorithms. He wanted to know what Umbrella is. What the main point is.

We started to describe the aspect we know about, security. He didn’t feel super excited. “OK, anything besides security?” Talking about non-security content filtering got this dude way more excited. That was what he needed. But not something we could describe extensively.

“How much does it cost? Is it a monthly or yearly subscription?”

“Monthly, and it’s… cheap” “No, I think it’s yearly”

We didn’t know. Sure, we had an approximate idea and details are on the web site, but we just weren’t able to answer right off the bat.

“You guys are not marketing guys, right?”

“Ehm… correct, sorry, we’re only tech guys”

The guy was cool, and the product was apparently exactly what he was looking for. Maybe it was just for him. Or maybe he was looking for a content filtering solution for a huge multinational corporation. We don’t even know, we didn’t ask.

A couple days ago, I gave a talk at an alumni meetup about security, machine learning and kittens. It was a small, but highly technical audience. For these guys, setting up a DNS server is a trivial joke.

My talk was technical, with just a 2 minutes intro about the company and our product. But people got really excited about the product itself, and it turns out that most questions were about the company and the product, not the algorithms which the presentation was all about.

“How much does it cost?” (mmm… depends, there are different offers… can’t remember the details, we need to look at the web site, and when it says “contact us” instead of a price, I don’t know…)

“Who are your clients?” (mmm… wait… I remember there is a list somewhere on the site… Sure you don’t want to talk about Go vs Rust instead?)

“Can you show a demo of a block page and the mechanisms to bypass it?” (errr… wait… I’m not on a configured network, so I have to connect to some server, look at the database for a device id, recompile dnscrypt on my laptop with plugins support in order to tag outgoing packets with this id, then I need to find a good example of domain to block, remember how to do that in the dashboard, ah no, damn, I’m not logged under the correct account, ahhh no, not that one either, I don’t want everybody to look at my browsing history, mmm I can create another one but creating a new account is going to take time, and it will say that the email has already been registred… wait, I just need to log in to a remote OpenBSD server to set up a new email alias, and… Wait, where’s everybody?)

What would a sales guy do in the same situation? Give immediate and consistent answers (ask 2 different persons, get the same answer). Explain in 1 minute everything a potential customer needs to know. Maybe 2 minutes to cover a specific field. Show a quick but well-prepared demo so that anyone not familiar with the product immediately understands its value.

Thinking about it, I don’t remember a single company where tech people had a clue about how marketing/sales people were selling the product.

We knew the software and network architecture in every detail, and we could describe every single feature of the product, even the most obscure one nobody else was aware of.

We knew that we had customers and who they were, especially when a newly signed deal involved writing new code.

We knew what the marketing/sales guys were doing. But not how.

A feature we described in a way was probably described in a totally different way to customers. That tiny useless piece of code that everybody in the team wanted to ditch for good might have been something that marketing/sales people were demo’ing and that actually perfectly matched what customers were expecting.

No matter what department you work in, it’s important to know the product and how to describe it quickly and efficiently to someone you just met. What the correct answers to technical and non-technical questions are. Because even that guy you are having a geeky talk with at a Github drinkup may want to know more than what algorithms you are using.

Talk to the marketing/sales guys. Organize a training session. Let them teach you how to describe the product and all you need to know in order to answer common, non-technical questions. And get drunk together.