I think it's great. After all, sales isn't really a dirty word. Sales is simply making people aware of the benefits and costs of something with the end results of asking them to commit to that thing. I'm sure there are more official definitions out there, but this is the one I like.
A lot of the things we're trying to sell, though, amount to a large cultural and strategic change. We want to sell someone on moving to an agile development methodology. We want to sell someone on providing testers with early access to a system. The costs of this type of change are high; it can easily take months or years to change a culture and it's inefficient while it's in progress. Cultural and strategic changes also rarely go unnoticed. Maybe if you're HugeCo and you start with one tiny project, then you can slip it under the radar. But most of us don't work for HugeCo, and most of us don't have a project that is our own domain that we can try new things with.
So let's assume we have to sell this cultural change. We're borrowing the sales verbiage, so let's borrow the techniques, too. Approaching it like it's a sales challenge, then we need to identify:
- the benefit of the change ("who wins")
- the cost of the change ("who pays")
- the people who - directly or indirectly - have to change along with it ("who cares")
From there, it's generally a matter of identifying the decision maker and decision influencers. The decision maker it the go/no-go person in the end, and it's probably the guy who's going to end up both getting the most benefit and absorbing the most cost. In the case of changing development methodologies, it's probably the head of engineering. It might be the entire executive committee.
Decision influencers are a lot more numerous. It's the sales guys who are counting on a release next quarter, and the marketing types who need a new feature for a trade show in 4 months. It's the support group who will need to handle different ways of getting customer hotfixes through development. And it's your software architects who have to implement this thing. The decision influencers are everyone who wins, everyone who pays, and everyone who cares.
Convince the influencers, and they'll help you convince the decision maker. But you have to hit most of the decision influencers, and you have to start selling. Start showing them why they should care, why they win, and why the cost is something they want to absorb because of the benefit they'll end up getting. Then you're really selling. And who knows - maybe you'll get the eventual decision in your favor.