On the Relative Importance of Sales People and Technical People to Business
Extroverted, gregarious, socially nimble sales people excel at persuading others and in burnishing their image and value to a business. Introverted, taciturn, socially maladroit technical people generally don't sell themselves as well as sales people.
All employees may be classified by where they fit in the spectrum of talent. At one extreme are the best salespeople; at the opposite extreme are the best technical people. Very rare individuals have both skills.
Sales people excel at social skills, establishing rapport with others, promoting themselves, and of course, networking. Because their skills enhance a company's ability to acquire, keep and avoid losing customers they fulfill a valuable and necessary role.
Technical people excel at whatever particular field of knowledge applies for any business, from accounting to zoology. Their competence and knowledge form the physical foundation of the business, without which it would not exist.
It is possible to construct a test that answers the question of which set of skills is ultimately more important for all of us. Here is the test: Imagine that every sales person in the world went to sleep for a year. What would the world look like after 3 months?
Now compare and contrast this with the opposite scenario. Imagine that every technical person in the world went to sleep for a year. This would include every doctor, engineer, chemist, radiologist, nuclear power plant technician, et al. What would the world look like after 3 months?
Would there be a world to look at?
I think every company requires a proper balance between people skills and technical skills that addresses the continuum of skills among its employees. The long term viability and success of every business depends on getting things right. The employees who secure an unfair advantage for themselves through the triumphant use of networking are merely transferring an unfair disadvantage to the companies they work for.
In our universe energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred, and some version of this law undoubtedly applies to organizations and people just as it applies to molecules and atoms.
The consequence of securing an unfair advantage is loss of respect by others. My own belief is that there is only one kind of authority that is innately worthy of respect: the earned authority that arises from a supreme command of logic and facts, that achieves solutions that are radically right despite blistering complexity and ambiguity. It was my privilege to work for an individual worthy of this respect. And it was useful to see many others who were as persuasive in claiming it as they were explicit in failing to deserve it.
There is also the spectrum of introversion and extroversion, which strongly correlates with preference for technical versus sales type work. Susan Cain's recent book "Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" discusses these themes in lucid detail. See:
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