nerds and sales
The U.S. advertising industry collects annual revenues of $150 billion and employs more than 600,000 people. At $450 billion annually, the U.S. sales industry is even bigger. When they hear that 3.2 million Americans work in sales, seasoned executives will suspect the number is low, but engineers may sigh in bewilderment. What could that many salespeople possibly be doing? In Silicon Valley, nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing, and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you. You may think that you’re an exception; that your preferences are authentic, and advertising only works on other people. It’s easy to resist the most obvious sales pitches, so we entertain a false confidence in our own independence of mind. But advertising doesn’t exist to make you buy a product right away; it exists to embed subtle impressions that will drive sales later. Anyone who can’t acknowledge its likely effect on himself is doubly deceived. Nerds are used to transparency. They add value by becoming expert at a technical skill like computer programming. In engineering disciplines, a solution either works or it fails. You can evaluate someone else’s work with relative ease, as surface appearances don’t matter much. Sales is the opposite: an orchestrated campaign to change surface appearances without changing the underlying reality. This strikes engineers as trivial if not fundamentally dishonest. They know their own jobs are hard, so when they look at salespeople laughing on the phone with a customer or going to two-hour lunches, they suspect that no real work is being done. If anything, people overestimate the relative difficulty of science and engineering, because the challenges of those fields are obvious. What nerds miss is that it takes hard work to make sales look easy
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