The Art of Selling IT
The following conversation took place with a client not too long ago:
"We are committed to the new CRM system--we can hardly wait for the implementation."
Q: "When do you expect the implementation to take place?"
A: "Well, it will still take quite some time. We're the last ones to get it, so we're just waiting."
Q: "When do you expect it to be your turn for implementation?"
A: "In two to three years."
The interesting thing was that the same conversation also took place with different groups within the very same organization. Each group pledged total commitment, and each claimed that it would be the last one to implement.
This is a common event. We find that when it comes to large IT projects that involve changes in the way users work, they tend to resist the change and delay it as long as possible. In fact, our experience has been that even after the technology is implemented, many users stick to their ancient ways of doing business, out of a combination of convenience and reluctance to adapt.
When presented with a new technology solution, I often ask vendors, "How does it threaten the user?" Their reply is always one of shock: How dare I even suggest that their new technology is in any way threatening to people. This is what people have waited so long for. They have all convinced themselves that the benefits of the technology they themselves so desire are evident to every user. Reality, however, is quite different.
Users do not like change--they often see it as a threat to their job security. CRM is a great example of sales people viewing the tool as a threat to their magical way of selling. Many salespeople believe that creating a transparent selling process will make them expendable. (There is some truth to this fear, as weak salespeople will be exposed through the sales cycle management of CRM tools.) So users, either consciously or unconsciously, reduce the technology's chance of success.
IT professionals need to add a new skill--selling--to their CV to ensure the complete success of CRM implementations. One of the steps necessary to ensure complete, resistance-free implementation of technology is for IT professionals to articulate to users why the new tool is good for them and not just why it is good for the company. Persuasion and the art of selling need to complement the skills already well developed by IT people. They need to assess not only issues like business continuity, security, missing deadlines, and budget risks, but also how users will react to the new project and what might be their exposed and unstated resistance when faced with a CRM implementation.
Technology is one of the very few industries in which a product is purchased for users without their consent and excitement. This is not a recipe for cooperation, and without users' cooperation, no project can succeed. Without user excitement, no project will capture the complete value and business benefits. Excitement requires selling and persuasion. Users need to see what's in it for them. Bringing the art of selling to the science of IT can only make it better. Any way that IT professionals can interact with a user can only enhance their own understanding of their target audience. Doing so will help them to capture the most from their current IT projects, and will help them to create more user-centric IT projects.
Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group and the author of several books, including his latest,
Passionate & Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and 10 Steps to Do Them Right! (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).