Technical Evangelism: Crusade or Crushed?

There’s a new kind of ‘Evangelism’ around the block and it has nothing to do with the word of God.

So what is Technical Evangelism?

According to Guy Kawasaki, (Expert on VC & Startup Advisories), Technical Evangelism entails falling in love with the product. Technical Evangelism involves preaching the word of the company to all and sundry in a way that they would appreciate. In his article, “The Art of Evangelism,” Guy notes:

Learn to give a demo. An “evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. A person simply cannot be an evangelist if she cannot demo the product. If a person cannot give a demo that quickens the pulse of everyone in the audience, he should stay in sales or in marketing.

Remind me again, isn’t that what people in Sales and Marketing do? To sell a product you HAVE to give a Demo, without which the client will NOT accept your call. So where does a Technical Evangelist score over a normal Sales person? Passion? Pride? Love? Cause? Or simply his ‘title’?

Over here, Robert Scoble of Microsoft has this to say about Technical Evangelists:

I’m not a Guy kind of Evangelist.

Scoble plays a defensive hand saying his Title (Technical Evangelist) bothers him. He says it has religious connotations. The one thing he does agree with Guy on, is about the demos. He also agrees that TEs have to be great at (Customer) relationships.

OK. Agreed.

Call me foolish, or old-fashioned even. I have always believed that this was the job of the Pre-sales Team, i.e. buttering up the client and setting him up for your S&M Team (pardon the double entendre, but it somehow fits…)

And Michael Swanson (again, MS) is -surprise, surprise- hiring Tech Evangelists. He wants his future (junior) colleague to have:

Persistence – no, I’m not talking about serialization or permanent storage (but extra points if those came to mind), I’m talking about your innate ability to push forward despite setbacks and frustration. Your friends probably use terms like driven and unstoppable to describe you, and in rare cases, maybe even annoying. Hopefully not too much of the last one.

And what does he expect the guy in his Sales Department to have? Impatience? Frustration with handling irritated cutomer calls? Since that is now redirected elsewhere, it doesn’t even remotely apply to them anymore.

May be I am being naive, but all these factors indicate one of two things:

The Sales Job will soon be taken over by the Technical Evangelist Forces and companies will soon no longer have a Sales Department.

Techincal Evangelism is a grossly over-rated title for someone who does exactly what a dedicated and sincere sales-person would do.
There may be more factors, but I see these two prominently.

Previously, if a person spoke at length about his company’s product, he was supposed to be ‘pitching’ and an an ‘aggresive marketeer’. Some even went to the extent of calling him a ‘perpetual salesman’.

Now, with the web 2.0 meme, it turns out that it is a fashion to speak ‘lovingly’ about your product. Congratulations! You are not an aggressive marketeer any more, you are now a “Technical Evangelist”!!

Oh, and one more thing: you can be a Tech Evangelist, if (and ONLY if) your company has a four letter NYSE acronym . If not, then you are a T-R-O-L-L.

The policy of Sales is a simple circle:

  1. You gotta have a great sales pitch to bring in the revenue.
  2. You gotta have a great Product to have a great sales pitch.
  3. You gotta have good product sales to keep your development team happy.
  4. And finally, you gotta keep your development team happy to have a Great product.

So where does it all begin and where does it all end?

You cannot make a job any more glamorous than it is by simply giving it a new name.

Whether you are hiring a Techincal Evangelist or a Sales Executive, the first and probably the only thing you look at is the passion which he displays while talking abount his likes and dislikes. All the rest follows as a corollary. If a person cannot be passionate about something, he cannot be passionate about anything. It doesn’t matter what he is passionate about. It could be anything for cars to cricket and from Samba to sex. The passion is what drives men to their goals.

Tell me truthfully guys ( Yes I am referring to you, you and you.) Are you driven by your job or your passion?

Or better still, is your job your passion?