Thursday, December 29, 2011

Selling Yourself Out of Projects

So, a friend tells me about a buddy who "has a software project you can help him with."

Prospects are very subjective creatures. I tend to think that a professional, whether a software craftsperson or an engineer, or something else, has a kind of fiduciary ethic even toward prospects. If a prospect asks about developing a software project, my immediate concerns are
  1. Does the client really need custom development?
  2. Is there an existing service that already meets their needs?
  3. Will the recurrent tangible and intangible costs  (of any desired path) present an impractical future burden ?
Unqualified prospects would result in No to the first question and/or Yes to the second question.  The third question is one that no salesperson in their right mind would venture to probe, but it represents a core value of the engineering ethos.  Is the prospect willing and able to accept the costs?

I'm in my right mind, but I'm not as much a salesperson as my friend.  So I informed the prospect of his options and alternatives early, and gave him some context of the cost. That approach pre-qualifies many prospects out of project, or at least, sends them looking for someone else who is more willing to lead clients down a primrose path. 

The thing is, my friend would have just jumped into the job, sweeping questions about the likely costs under the rug,  playing dumb about the prospect's needs and getting them to pay for scraps of functionality as soon as possible.  This sort of drive-by software development is all too common. 

I'd rather sell myself out of a project than put blinders on and lead prospects down a rabbit hole. That may not be the magical thinking that fuels so many Law of Attraction acolytes, but it is the path an ethical person will tend to follow. 

No comments: