Over the last decade, value-added selling techniques in technology sales have changed significantly with the business landscape.
Until just a few years ago, MIS departments called all the shots around what was bought, when it was installed, and who used it. The newly-created position of CIO was invited to sit at the executive table as an equal.
All that is different now. The high-profile failures of IT projects like the $1 Billion U.K. Child Support Agency case system, thought-provoking books like Nicholas Carr's Does IT Matter? that dispute the strategic role of IT, and the difficulties software vendors face when predicting the ROI their systems will yield for customers have produced several changes in value-added selling in the technology sector.
It's Deja-Vu All Over Again
After the dot-com bust of the late 1990's, many CIOs report to the CFO or another executive; they are most likely not part of the executive team. CIO's are not called on for strategic consultation, but are instead required to commit to budget and schedule targets decided elsewhere.
Functional departments such as Engineering, Manufacturing, Procurement, and Finance now choose, fund, and manage the implementation of much of their enabling information technology.
MIS departments are merely cost centers that maintain applications and manage help desk assistance. They charge back costs to the functional departments they support. Personnel and budgets are stretched thin, leaving the door wide open for end-users to develop or install maverick applications, tools, and macros to get their jobs done.
Go Deeper Than You Think You Have To
What does this mean to your value-added selling campaigns? Understanding the client's IT landscape at a high-level is not enough.
You might succeed in reaching executive decision makers, but if you don't understand how your product will actually solve the business issues- because the client's IT landscape is much different than you were led to believe- then end-users could debate your benefit claims with the convenient rebuttal that they "don't reflect the reality of how we do business."
It is a fact of life that companies often demand considerable justification from the salesperson when investing in new technology... without ensuring compliance from their own employees to use the current technology. This means that value-added selling campaigns must be hyper-effective.
From Details to Big Picture
How can you deal with this? Ask your technical consultants to help you uncover the ground-level hurdles to success. When selling technology, have them interview the end-users to identify and detail the unique work products, applications, and processes that you propose to improve.
Once you understand the unique pains these people face, use this tactical intelligence (which your competitors will not have) to build a package of features, products, and solutions that explicitly meet the end-user challenges while also aligning your proposal to satisfy the strategic elements executives demand.
This will help you deal with the ever-changing role of technology when selling IT to business.
Do your customers know how your product solves their biggest business problems? Have you ever lost because they "didn't get it?" What benefits could you realize if you could help the customer's IT department make that case each time?