Learning to become a salesman

Desperate to reduce IT purchasing cycles, vendors are teaching IT professionals how to pitch projects to their internal committees and stakeholders.

While not a craft that springs to mind when considering a career in IT, Genesys Asia Pacific MD James Brooks said end users are keen to learn sales skills.

"Because decisions have become so complicated [IT] professionals are willing to take our advice on board because they want purchasing decisions to get the go-ahead as soon as possible," he said.

"We help them become sales people. In reality they really do need to become more like salespeople so they can sell an idea.

"They have to go through the process of pitching and then they get grilled."

IDC Australia end user program manager, Peter Hind, says there is a lot of merit for IT people in learning sales and marketing skills from suppliers.

"This will allow the IT department to do a better job of promoting its work to the rest of the business," he said.

Proteome Systems CIO Warren McDonald said he is aware of vendors teaching IT people to sell.

"People have precious little time to read anything. A concise summary is more effective than a glossy presentation. Yes, there is a need for sales, but its more about alternatives and cost effectiveness. Management aren’t interested in glitz and glory," he said.

"I used to be in sales before IT and you need to sell on benefits, not what’s portrayed in glitz. Convincing management to purchase IT is selling, but it is more of a business model. It’s more like consultancy. Take the time to figure out what needs to be achieved.

"Vendors also help with pilots sold as a mechanism to help sell a project, but this is more around software."

An organizational octopus:comment

IT professionals are being transformed into the corporate octopus, their tentacles far reaching.

Sure they have to have technical skills to do their jobs and for years now they have been told they need to "think more like the business". This is of course, on top of those "soft" skills to communicate more effectively. And now its sales skills to pitch projects to the board in a bid to overcome extended sign-off cycles.

What's next? A better sense of fashion to appease boardroom sensibilities?

It is tough enough keeping up with the market's insatiable demand for changing technology skills, knowing 10 programming languages and often having to acquire the skills of a project manager overnight. The landscape is everchanging. As we all know, one year in the real world is 10 in IT.

When it comes to makeovers, forget "Queer eye for the straight guy", the poor old IT pro has had to undergo the most rapid career transformation of anyone in the business. But if you are learning sales skills from IT vendors then you are certainly learning from the best. Let's face it, selling technology is like selling a futuristic vision and based on the amount of hype end users consume each year I reckon you will be selling tea to China in no time.

-Sandra Rossi

Are you an octopus? Drop me an e-mail: Sandra_Rossi@idg.com.au

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