CIOs play an increasingly important part in enabling sales to deliver long-term customer relationships. Those relationships now need to be more tech-enabled than ever, due to the global pandemic.
The good news is that IT and sales objectives are becoming more aligned. According to IDG’s 2020 State of the CIO report, 20% of CIOs say their role includes sales, up from 14% in 2019.
But what about the other 80%?
In a COVID-19 world, a customer relationship management (CRM) system is critical to staying on top of existing accounts, discovering new opportunities, and accelerating customer service. As the world changes, and customer expectations evolve, how can organizations foster a strong and mutually beneficial alliance between CIO and sales?
We wanted to ask a real CIO to find out. According to our conversation with Keith Onchuck, chief information officer for Ozinga, the CIO and sales relationship is changing in three emerging ways.
CRM solutions provide fundamental basics, like pipeline management and sales force automation. But most CIOs recognize that the strategic importance of an organization’s CRM system can grow over time as priorities shift, new competitors emerge, and customer demands fluctuate.
For example, as certain sectors of the economy rebound and businesses retool their paths to revenue, organizations may switch focus from retaining customers through new service offerings, such as curbside pickup, to generating new revenue streams.
To ensure a CRM system reflects new developments, a CIO must regularly communicate and collaborate with sales teams “to find out what works, what doesn’t work, make changes, move forward, and regroup,” says Onchuck. “It just becomes a cadence – meeting with the business every 30, 60 or 90 days to assess how the tools are working and continue to evolve.”
Adoption for the win
Another way IT leaders and sales teams can enable better business results together? Drive CRM adoption and best practices internally, among everyone who adds data to the system. That especially goes for sales reps, who are entering the most data.
A CRM solution is only as effective as the data salespeople input when creating new accounts or interacting with customers. Fortunately, by acting as an “evangelist,” Onchuck says CIOs can champion the use of CRM and emphasize the value of maintaining accurate and detailed records. Smarter and more effective usage of CRM also makes it easier for CIOs to justify future technology investments.
From technology deployment to trust
There’s also a human component when it comes to nurturing a CIO-sales alliance. Sales leaders must learn to trust CIOs and believe that IT has their best interests at heart. For CIOs, that means delivering on what you promise for new tools and technology, from driving efficiency to automating mundane tasks, and truly listening to what your sales team needs to do their jobs the best way that they can.
“The whole concept of trust has to be earned, and it takes a long time,” says Onchuck. “It’s about honoring your commitment to what you say you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.”
For Onchuck, when he first joined the company, earning the sales team’s trust involved integrating “12 different types of systems – none of which talked to each other.” A sprawl of standalone systems and disparate information sources can prevent sales teams from gaining visibility into customer needs and pain points. However, by “stabilizing Ozinga’s IT environment,” Onchuck says he was able to build trust between IT and sales.
The bottom line
These are challenging times for sales teams. A robust CRM system can automate manual tasks and record important information. But CIOs and sales teams that work together to further a customer-centric agenda can achieve even bigger things, like business growth and long-term customer loyalty.
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