We are constantly looking for top sales talent to join our organization. This, of course, is not unusual or unique in any way as most organizations in most industries would say the same thing. Any good organization thrives through its sales organization along with strong operations and company leadership behind it. Nothing revolutionary about that. But as I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for this month's post, all I seemed to be thinking about was sales talent. What it is, how important it is, and the value that it brings to our firm, and most importantly, to our customers. That's what I want to talk about this month. Now, you ask, how does this have to do with IT and Professional Services? Within our industry, I believe it has everything to do with it. Read on and I'll explain.
I've often read that one of the main reasons that organizations fail is lack of sales. Of course, a lot of things can contribute to a lack of sales but I'm not going to get into the those today—that's for another post. Bottom line is that organizations generally do not fail if and where sales are thriving, and if they do fail, it's not because of growing sales. When sales are thriving where is it driven from? Great products? Sure. Great company? Absolutely. Great technical resources and services? Without a doubt. But Sales Professionals are what drives it all forward. So, does good sales talent still matter within IT today? Yes, and I would say even more so than ever before. And that is how it all ties together.
I feel that there is a big perception that Sales Professionals are not needed today within IT due to the depth and breadth of information easily available online. Because of it, people think that Sales Professionals and the guidance that they bring is no longer needed. We all know technology is complex. Be it infrastructure, cloud, applications, networking, operations, security, etc.—it can be anything that a firm uses to enhance business operations. I think that outsiders looking in (and sometimes even customers) think that IT solutions are simple to evaluate, setup and use. Not always the case. And I say this recognizing that there is a trend by manufacturers to make enterprise IT solutions more intuitive and easier to use. This is a good thing.
But because IT and technology continues to become more and more complex (and it's a bit of a paradox where we use complicated technology to simplify things), there is a lot involved in making sure it serves business needs and brings value. That's why I adamantly believe that it's important to work with a Sales Professional—and the resources they bring—to help guide you.
Now, let me address the big elephant in the room here: Customers have access to more information than ever before through the web. This allows them to research products and services in depth and gives them the ability to make decisions about what they need (or what they believe they need) before ever having a need to talk to a Sales Professional, if at all. I've read that anywhere from 40-60% of a customer's buying cycle is already decided before a sales person or outside organization is engaged. Does that make it harder for organizations such as ours, that are IT solutions and services providers, to provide value? You bet.
But it also gives us and our people an opportunity to provide more value and in different ways. While a buyer might already have decided (or think they've made a decision) on what they want to purchase, they might not have the overall context that they need--even when they think they do. This can be around their industry, how other customers are using technology and—what I think is most important—what trends (technology, industry, regulatory, etc.) are happening that may have an effect in their decision now and in the future.
We are constantly looking for great (not just good) Sales People. We need people that fit our culture, know technology and the IT world and can create, grow and foster relationships. These are the things that technology can never and will never fully replace. Granted, within sales there are sales people that can be way too pushy and do turn off customers, but, after being in IT sales for 25+ years, I feel that those types are the outliers and not the norm. But they are out there and I believe they give the rest of the sales profession (especially in IT) a bad perception at times. Unfounded, in my opinion, since Sales Professionals are the ones that drive business forward.
What does a Sales Professional bring to the table?
An Outside Unbiased View
Don't we all want someone that doesn't work for our organization, but can be brought in as needed to gain an outside perspective? I know that I do. A great Sales Professional can do that by bringing you an objective view of technology and the things happening within your industry and the IT industry. Can this be colored and biased based upon what they sell? Of course, but then they aren't looking for a long-term partnership or relationship with you, they are just trying to sell you something. They should be providing you an unbiased view of what they think is best for you—not just them.
One of the most important things I believe that we bring to our customers, and good Sales Professionals bring overall, is a perspective on what other organizations are doing. Our customers love to hear what other firms are doing: how they are using technology, what technologies are being used, how they service and support these technologies within their organization, and the value realized by them. This is something the firms we work with have a much harder time in getting without a Sales Professional providing it. Who wouldn't want to hear what other firms are doing? This is something that is invaluable to customers.
Industry Expertise and Trends
A good Sales Professional will let you know what is happening in the IT industry. What technologies are hot, what you should be evaluating, and just as importantly, what not to consider today and what to wait for in the future. I am constantly researching industry and customer trends so I can understand what is happening within my industry (the IT industry) where I've been for 24+ years. To have someone give that insight, without a having to go and hunt it down, is what a Sales Professional does for their customers. Can I and do I get this from the web? Yes, but what I need also is perspective and context from others that are doing it. That I can't completely get from the web and our customers can't as well. That's where Sales Professionals step in and fill what I feel is a needed gap.
Understanding what is a good fit to purchase and will provide value is one of the primary roles of a Sales Professional. This is also where they can either be a hero to their customers or totally turn them off in their approach. Customers need, expect and are looking for guidance on what they should be considering or purchasing when it comes to IT even if they have done their research on the web. And this guidance, as I mention above, might not be around only the technology, but may be about trends and how others are seeing value (or lack thereof) around these trends. This will absolutely augment any research an organization has conducted and help them either reinforce their decisions and thought process or help guide them towards the right decisions.
How a Sales Professional delivers their guidance can determine if the relationship with their customer is strategic partnership—where they are a trusted advisor—or just a transactional one. If the Sales Professional's goal is just to sell something and move on, customers know it. If the goal is to provide guidance, sell technology and services that help customers achieve business goals, and makes clear that they are there to build a relationship and help them going forward, that's partnership. There are both types of Sales Professionals out there and customers know and can easily tell the difference. Which type of guidance would you want?
Great (not just good) IT Sales Professionals provide all that is listed above and much more. They become partners and trusted advisors to their customers via value that their customers can't get without them. The web can't completely provide that. That is the advantage they bring and will continue to bring. I very much believe the sales function (especially within IT) is a noble profession and very much necessary in today's business and IT climate. Without it, I strongly believe customers and organizations do not realize the value that they deserve, need and are demanding.
This is why we spend so much time looking for great (not just good) IT Sales Professionals. They, along with our technical talent, are what helps to set us apart within the IT industry and with our customers. Our customers know it and benefit from it every day. So, what's the message here? Embrace the IT Sales Professionals from your partners and they value that they bring, as it's substantial. So, do Sales Professionals matter? Yes, even more than ever.