Thursday, 23 June 2016

Testing Skills #10 - Persuasion and Selling

Like it or not everyone is now a salesperson.

As Daniel Pink states in his book 'To Sell is Human':

"If you spend any of your time both personal or in work "persuading, influencing, and convincing others," you're in sales."

The world of work is changing as described by Peter Drucker:

"The world of work is changing from one of manual workers to a world  of knowledge workers"
 Landmarks of Tomorrow

With this world comes the need to be able to persuade and sell to others.

“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”
Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

We all now have to sell our ideas and convince others that our ideas are sound and the right ideas.  How often have you needed to sell the testing you are performing?  Or persuade someone that a defect really does need to be fixed?

Having these skills is crucial for testers to be able to carry our their daily testing activities.

What follows are some tips on how to persuade and sell to others with a focal on selling testing.

The first tip is to be able to ask the right questions rather than try to provide answer.  This to some may appear simple however as Daniel Pink states:

“In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers. Unfortunately, our schools often have the opposite emphasis. They teach us how to answer, but not how to ask.”
Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

When selling testing it is not that important to explain the technicalities of testing and how you go and do this.  This is vitally important when talking about testing to senior management.  Instead ask questions such as:

  • What do you see as the biggest risk for this product?
  • Where is our revenue going to come from with this product?
  • Is there anything about this product that gives you sleepless nights?
By asking these types of questions you can then use the information provided to reassure the person how testing may be of value in this situations. Sell less about testing and more about what it may do to support the business needs.

At the same time their is a need to be able to persuade people about doing the right testing.  This could be other peers and colleagues.  In these situations it is not about selling but about showing to people the value of testing by doing.  Working closely alongside people so they can see in real time the benefits of the testing that is being performed goes a long way to helping to persuade people. The art of persuading is more based on showing by doing rather than by trying to sell an idea.  If you are in a situation as a tester to be given an opportunity show the value of testing, lead by utilizing practical examples rather than explaining theory.  People are more easily persuaded by examples they can relate to rather than a theoretical example that has no relevance to them.

To conclude it is important for testers to have the ability to sell the benefits of testing and the skill to persuade others of these benefits.   Selling testing will normally mean not talk about testing but the value testing can bring in terms of bottom line and risk.  Persuading others of the benefit of testing is more about showing what testing is and how it can add value.  To get better at either of these skills you need to practice and practice and practice even more.  Try and get others you are comfortable with to help you to practice and give you feedback on your selling and persuasion skills.


  1. Supercharging your vocabulary with words that sell software testing ( may be of some benefit also.

    1. Thank you Simon - I will allow that bit of self publicity :o) Better than some of the spammy stuff I get in comments!

  2. Awesome article John! I like your example questions.

    I’m reminded of this video by Keith Klain, on expressing value:

    Perhaps there’s an opportunity to imagine testing as a product. Products tend to sell more by showcasing benefits instead of features.

    For example, which sounds more enticing for the 1st generation iPod?: “1,000 songs in your pocket” or “Storage for 1GB of MP3s”?

    Reframing testing as a product might trigger ways to help persuade others of the value of testing.