by Gary Beach

How to Sell IT to the Business

Sep 01, 20052 mins
Business IT Alignment

Several weeks ago I spoke to the sales force of a major software vendor. My topic: best practices for the technology sales staff. Many of my suggestions were distilled from advice I had culled from several leading CIOs.

Around the same time, several CIO magazine research reports came to the same conclusion: Marching orders to grow the business are landing on the CIO’s desk. This means that corner offices across America are becoming increasingly receptive to bold technology initiatives.

It struck me that the “how to sell me” advice I gave to that technology sales force just might be useful to CIOs as well, as they switch to growth agendas and put on their selling shoes to convince other C-level colleagues of the value of IT. So here’s some advice for CIOs embarking on the challenge of helping to drive the business with IT:

  • Speak the language of business value. Show how your FY2006 proposals will strengthen brand equity, increase shareholder value, and improve customer, partner and employee satisfaction.
  • Know your own company’s business but also demonstrate that you have a keen understanding of your competitors and the overall challenges—and opportunities—of your vertical industry.
  • When you meet with the executive committee for that final one-hour presentation, assume you will get, on average, five to seven minutes of real attention. Don’t bury your main value proposition late in a 50-slide PowerPoint deck.
  • Be prepared to show the change dynamics of your proposal. How will it help the business grow?
  • Be honest about the limitations of your proposal. Come prepared with examples of trusted references who have done what you plan to do.

Yes, the times they are a-changin’. Growing the top line is back in vogue. Have fun selling your growth agendas. And, as Rob Carter, executive vice president and CIO for FedEx, said to me: “Keep your selling shoes looking good!”

Gary J. Beach, Publisher