If you’re in sales, there are people in your organization you want to talk to, and others you may go out of your way to avoid. You might be excited to talk to the CMO — or not so excited — based on the leads you recently worked. You might avoid the people from finance who bother you with questions, but you might enjoy conversing with your comp plan administrator — which would make sense, since many of us have a fondness for the people who hand us our checks.
However, there’s one group of people you may never even consider when you’re thinking about discussions inside your company: the CIO and IT team. Yeah, they’re important when your laptop won’t work, but do they really have anything to say that can impact your performance as a salesperson?
Well, yeah. In this day and age, they do.
If your business is on top of technological developments, you may be the beneficiary of an assortment of game-changing technologies. It behooves you to know what’s coming, when, and how well your team is preparing for it.
Imagine that you’re a Formula 1 race driver, and the CIO is the crew chief who’s preparing your car to be faster that any others on the track. Few drivers would fail to engage their crews to find out the latest changes, the timing of those changes, or other things they should know. Yet sales professionals often seem to strap on new technology and blindly hit the road — and sometimes, they crash and burn.
What do you have to talk about with your technology people? Plenty.
The Infrastructure for Your Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is coming — not to replace you, but to serve as an assistant to help you be the best salesperson you can be.
With AI, you don’t just flip the switch and start getting suggestions. AI must be trained — quite literally — using a very large data set. From there, AI will need a system of storage for the data it generates and the data generated by transactions — in other words, unstructured data about sales performance.
As a salesperson, you should be interested in how this data is stored and managed, since a failure in that regard makes your organization effectively blind — and it turns AI into a liability instead of an asset.
Ask your CIO whether your company is investing in object-based storage. Object storage has the advantage of being limitlessly scalable, and it can integrate new nodes automatically into a single storage namespace.
That means that IT can provision capacity in response to demand rather than trying to predict storage needs and provision capacity that sits unused. The worst-case scenario is that IT fails to provision enough capacity and fails to record a portion of your critical data, which would mean that AI would have to work with a partial picture of the data as it tries to refine its suggestions. That’s a guarantee that AI will never be as intelligent as you need it to be to help close deals.
Suggestion: Get familiar with how well IT is planning to cope with the data tsunami. That is a good indicator of how effective emerging technology will be at elevating your sales game — and it might suggest that it’s time to look for opportunities at organizations with more technology foresight.
The Depth of Your Internet of Things Offering
While the IoT promises big benefits to buyers and sellers, it also requires an enormous amount of trust. Allowing a vendor to install systems that deliver a constant data stream about your business operations is not something to be agreed to lightly — it requires the vendor to have all of its policies nailed down, and to hold all of its employees to an extremely high degree of integrity. If you’re in sales, you have to sell this relationship as part of the deal.
IT needs to think through data policies thoroughly, and it needs to make sure that activities triggered by data in an IoT relationship completely map to the business process. It’s not enough to send replacement parts automatically or schedule maintenance proactively. The behind-the-scenes activities around contracts, invoicing, commissions and quote generation need to be hooked into this system, too.
Suggestion: Talk to IT to see whether the background activities needed to deliver IoT are part of IT’s plans, and get a timeline for the complete integration of business processes into the IoT infrastructure.
You may be pleasantly surprised by a comprehensive plan that lays the groundwork for great customer experiences and lucrative, long-term customer lifecycles, and that is something you can sell with complete confidence. On the other hand, you may be chagrined to find an IoT infrastructure that’s only partially baked, which could result in sales that turn into contractual nightmares and angry buyers in the near future.
Can You Actually Analyze Your Data?
For all the excitement over the last five years about sales analytics, it’s still often a battle to put the right data sets together to find actionable insights. Data from disparate cloud applications may not be easy to use for a number of reasons. There might be API mismatches between cloud providers. Also, different sales support systems may not work together. Finally, the unmanaged deployment of cloud applications for sales and marketing can create silos where data can be hidden.
That means that complete analysis can require a lot of work in preparing the data before any numbers can be run. That will take IT time — time the team often doesn’t have, and waiting for IT could result in stale analysis that has less impact than it ought to have provided.
Suggestion: Find out from IT how connected your various data sources actually are. That will help you understand what you know and what you could know, and it will put you in a much better place to make suggestions about next steps for data integrations.
Also, learn from IT how new cloud-based applications deployed without any thought about integration impact analysis. That will help remind you that the IT team should be part of any cloud application decision if you want to maximize data’s impact on sales results.