The IT industry moves at an astonishing pace. Sometimes it’s even difficult for IT professionals to stay up to date with the latest developments. Just when you think you’re up to speed, a new technology, application, or tool is launched, and you can feel like you need to start all over again.
Not only is it important for IT professionals to keep abreast of the different technologies available, but we also need to stay on top of a vast amount of sometimes baffling marketing language. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to software-defined networks, digital transformation to big data, the number of buzzwords seem to grow every day. These buzzwords can often overshadow the product’s functionality itself, making it harder for IT professionals to understand how the latest solutions fit in, what can be delivered, and where real value can be added.
Ultimately, as IT professionals, we act as the “normalisation” bridge to senior leadership, but if we find it near impossible to understand the differentiation between features and functionality, what chance does a business manager have?
Making the right choice
No matter the issue, in the IT world, there is always a multitude of solutions available to solve a problem, and hundreds of vendors to choose from. Multiply that by the countless services that vendors are producing across on-premises, off-premises, and as-a-service, and it can be a decision-making minefield.
This isn’t helped by the fact that vendors are sometimes so desperate to make a sale that they don’t stop to consider the customer’s best interests and instead attempt to sell products that aren’t suited to solve the issue at hand. Unfortunately, as a result, organisations might invest in the wrong technologies and incur technology debt and/or vendor lock-in.
Marketing jargon adds another layer of difficulty. It’s very common for identical products to be described using different terms. For instance, Amazon EC2® instances are equivalent constructs to VMware® vSphere™ virtual machines (VMs), or Azure® VMs, just as AWS® S3™ storage is comparable to Azure Blob storage.
Language discrepancies can also result in confusion and uncertainty with respect to the differences between solutions, making us IT professionals spend valuable time translating information into laymen’s terms rather than quickly choosing the right product the first time. This language inconsistency can even lead to IT professionals purchasing two products out of confusion when they only needed one.
All of the above challenges combined rob IT professionals of valuable time that could be spent innovating, rather than trying to decipher the fundamental constructs of solutions and their subtle differences.
Become a master of sales
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the ever-expanding lexicon of technology jargon and the confusion spread by vendor sales teams. So how can we, as IT professionals, best equip ourselves to deal with the confusing world that vendor sales teams create? Simple: we learn some useful sales tactics ourselves.
Sales can sometimes seem like a magic trick designed to baffle potential customers into buying solutions. Yet, once you learn how a trick is performed, it's much harder to be fooled. By learning top sales techniques, we can arm ourselves with the skills to better communicate with vendor sales teams, and gain transparency on what is a potentially very confusing process.
Learning such techniques has other benefits, too. Sales techniques can help IT professionals influence and accelerate the decision-making process in our own organisation by encouraging us to look at problems very pragmatically. Asking questions like, “What is the problem that needs to be solved?” better enables IT professionals—and organisations—to get to the root of the requirement rather than being distracted with the latest and greatest must-have technology that may ultimately not solve the current IT issue.
At the end of the day, having a clear outline of the problem and what’s needed to solve it will often create a faster timeline to sign-off new solutions, as well.
The following top sales techniques can help to demystify the sales process and focus your IT department on core organisational requirements:
1. Tackle the challenge first: Stop focusing on features and start by solving the problem. This sets expectations for delivery as well as resource needs.
2. Study the solution: Understand the solution inside and out, and know when and where to apply the solution. Not only will this help instil confidence, but you’ll able to see which other problems the solution could solve.
3. Process is key: Put the solution into a process. This adds rigour, control, and consistency.
4. Persuade in the pitch: Learn to deliver a persuasive presentation that highlights one obvious outcome or conclusion to get people to see your way of thinking. By ruling out alternatives, you guide the hand of the decision maker to go ahead with your recommendation.
5. Move the pitch forward: Keep the pitch succinct and always keep your and your audiences’ eyes on the end game, and avoid dwelling on any points that won’t advance your cause.
6. What’s the ROI?: Show the value of the solution in the long term, as well as the investment cost. Explaining how this product will benefit the wider organisation can help get more stakeholders onboard. Don’t forget to include time and effort in the overall cost factor.
7. Mindset is everything: If people aren’t interested, then they won’t care. A true salesperson can read the room. Monitoring your audience’s attitude is key. If they don’t seem interested, ask a question to get them engaged again or move to the next point.
The IT department doesn’t often work with the sales department, but there’s much to be learned from the tried and true strategies of successful sales professionals. If we can take advantage of skills the sales team has perfected over the years, it can not only help filter the seemingly endless marketing jargon, but reclaim time spent researching and pitching new solutions.
Kong Yang, Head Geek™, SolarWinds
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa