I've always had an interest in all the disciplines that go into launching a new company or product. A year ago I decided to take a break from early stage startup life and I'm back at the post-IPO company where I used to work with some new perspectives. This is the first in a series of posts that I thought would be useful for my fellow engineers to get more involved across an organization or to simply become better intraprenuers.
I recently read a post about running a sales kickoff which isn't something that would normally catch my eye but it happened to coincide with my company's annual kickoff. One of the first rules mentioned is to be all inclusive and I started reflecting on why I (an engineer) have always made it a point to attend our own kickoff.
As a startup grows into a larger organization, role definition starts to become more distinct with departments beginning to develop into silos. It starts to become very easy as an engineer to stay safe within your silo, never venturing out of your binary comfort zone. Here are 5 reasons why I think its very important for engineers to attend their company's sales kickoff and while the following reasons are primarily directed at engineers in larger organizations, I think the spirit behind each one applies to companies of any size.
1. Reinforcement on why you're building what you're building
This is your chance to get the full marketing and sales rundown on how the product road map fits into the goals for the year. All companies have an all-hands meeting of some kind to go over the previous quarter and year, along with a look ahead but the sales kickoff has more details and depth. You'll also see how certain features you're working on fit into the sales strategy.
2. See how your work is being communicated to sales
It's always interesting to see how your day to day engineering work translates into what marketing and product management communicates to the sales team. Many times this has helped my communication with the sales and account management teams because I already have some insight into what they know. You can also observe what they're asking during presentations to get a sense of what's most important to them product wise.
3. Customer insight
All the sales kickoffs I've been to have had a pretty thorough overview from marketing which outlines the plan for the year. You'll see how your product or service is being positioned in the market, how it's being packaged and what marketing events are coming up. I've always walked away with ideas about how we could better engineer the product to help out marketing's communication with customers.
Maybe adding feature toggles would allow marketing to package together feature sets to meet different use cases. Maybe you can build an in-product messaging tool that marketing can use to promote new features or products to existing customers.
4. Recognition for your work
Sure you're building your product or service for customers but I can't tell you enough how much the sales team appreciates what engineering builds. New product features or enhancements give them new reasons to go back to potential customers or simply touch base again with existing customers.
It's extremely rewarding to hear the positive feedback and individuals will give you that feedback personally.
5. Positive energy to kickoff the quarter/year
This is somewhat related to the last point. The sales and account teams are typically a vocal bunch. Don't be surprised to hear some clapping, mixed in with a few woohoos. I know it's a little different than what us engineers are used to in our daily stand-ups and sprint planning meetings but it's a positive environment to be in and a great way to kick off the year or quarter.
If you're in charge of scheduling and organizing a sales kickoff, make it a point to extend the invite to engineering if they're normally not there. Don't just include them on the invite, explain why you'd appreciate their attendance and what they can expect.
If you're in engineering, don't wait for an invite. You'll hear when all of the sales team is going to be in town and these types of events usually coincide with company wide meetings. Track someone down, ask them when they're doing their sales kickoff and crash the event. I don't think I've been explicitly invited to any but that hasn't stopped me from stopping in and hanging out in the back of the room.
I'm currently working in engineering at Brightcove while continuing to learn about sales, marketing, product management and business development.