Selling to IT managers is challenging. In most organizations, they qualities that make IT managers good at their jobs also make it difficult to sell to IT departments.
As one of Chicago’s fastest growing integrated PR and digital marketing agencies, we routinely help B2B technology brands sell to IT managers. At Walker Sands, we’ve learned that success usually boils down to the right strategy, persistence and an understanding of the pressures today’s IT departments are up against.
Every sales scenario presents its own unique set of challenges and obstacles. But in general, there are a handful of common attributes that make IT managers tricky sales targets:
They Know It All. IT managers take pride in the knowledge they have accumulated over many years, and, because they work in a fast-evolving industry, their job requires that they stay current with IT trends. They spend substantial amounts of time reading articles and books about IT. They may also have numerous technology certifications.
Because they believe they are so well-informed, IT managers are not willing to be educated by somebody who is overtly selling something and has a bias towards a given solution set. In fact, they believe that knowledge can be obtained with a few clicks of the mouse, and there is no need to waste time in a long conversation with a sales rep.
They Don't Like Sales People. IT managers don't necessarily respect sales people and they are easily put off by sales reps who are only interested in closing the deal. However, IT managers have technical skill sets and tend to respect engineers, or at least people who act, think and behave like an engineer behaves.
A sales person who is smart and problem solves like an engineer will have IT managers’ respect. But an old-school, pushy sales rep who doesn't take a consultative approach to selling won’t get very far in their efforts to sell products or services to IT managers. Schmoozing prospects, taking them out for dinner or a round of golf, may work in many sales scenarios, but these activities are nowhere near the top of the list of recommendations about how to sell to IT managers.
They Love the Status Quo, Unless … Most IT managers don’t like change, they like the status quo. Why? Because change means additional work and exposes the IT manager to the risk of failure (and negative job consequences). As a result, it’s not easy to convince IT decision makers to try new things.
On the plus side, IT managers are often enamored with IT's latest "shiny, bright object" and want to play with new toys and enhance their skill sets. For example, if mobile apps are the hot IT trend, many IT managers will want in on the action. While this can create an opening for sales reps who sell hot-trend technology solutions, it presents serious obstacles to organizations that are selling more mundane IT solutions.
What's Best for the Business Isn't Their Highest Priority. Despite the rhetoric about aligning IT with business strategy, many IT managers aren’t motivated by organizational priorities. Career path and job security are important to senior IT personnel, and that can make new solutions or technologies a tough sell.
A CIO will think strategically about business objectives, but an IT manager? Not so much. Sales reps who sell to IT managers by exclusively talking about the benefits to the business, without catering to the self-interest of the IT manager, find that they don't get the warm reception they might have expected.
It takes more than a basic skill set to sell to IT departments. The people who are most effective at selling to IT managers appreciate the value of tailoring their approach to the needs and challenges that IT managers bring to the sales cycle.
If selling to IT managers is important to your business, here are five proven strategies to help you get started:
Pull, Don’t Push. If your prospect calls you for information (rather than you calling them), your close rate will increase tenfold. With that in mind, the burden for lead generation falls squarely on the shoulders of your marketing department.
The marketing team needs to create engaging marketing programs and make sure your solutions are highly visible to prospects. They need to excel in PR, events, digital strategy, SEO, content marketing and thought leadership. For companies that sell to IT managers, investing in sales force expansion is a waste of money if marketing fundamentals aren’t in place.
Be Smarter Than (or As Smart As) Your Prospects. IT managers value knowledge and expertise, so you can't go into a sales meeting armed only with information about your company's solutions. You need to have a vast and broad understanding of the larger IT landscape and be able to impress your IT counterpart with your wisdom. Study hard and get smart.
Once you have the ability to convey knowledge to IT managers, knowledge that helps them without necessarily moving your sale forward, you’ll gain their respect and earn more of their time.
Establish Third-Party Credibility. Because IT managers don't trust salespeople, you need third parties to vouch for your products and services. This is one of the reasons why tech PR firms like Walker Sands are so valuable to firms that sell to IT departments. We secure media placements in respected publications, and articles that convey legitimacy and credibility to your solutions and your brand.
In addition to hiring a PR firm, it's smart to work on IT analyst relations and cultivate customer case studies and testimonials. Again, the key is that reputable third-party sources endorse your offerings, because IT managers won't believe it if it comes only from you.
Sell Education First. Your first sale is knowledge. Your second sale is product. To get a toehold with a prospect, offer an affordable, educational offering that establishes a vendor relationship with your prospect while catering to IT managers' need for education. Create a certification program that relates to your tech offerings and bring that to market. You can also organize an industry conference or a seminar to get the attention of prospects.
There are a couple of caveats that go with this kind of initiative. First, don't give it away. It's important that IT managers pay for what you are giving them. Second, don't over-promote your offerings under the guise of providing objective education. It's critical that you provide useful, yet objective information to prospects.
Sell from Above. Nothing gets an IT manager’s attention like a directive from a more senior IT boss. In a perfect world, your solutions will be featured in a business publication that the CIO reads. She then rips out the article and writes a note to her trusted IT manager, e.g., "David, please look into this. It seems like it would be beneficial for the company. Let me know what you think." The reality? David would never have called you if he hadn't received the note from his CIO.
If you can influence people above the IT manager, you will grease the wheels for getting in and getting the sale. At Walker Sands, we’ve had great success in securing placements that are read by the CIO and then passed along to IT managers. But make sure you hire a good PR firm with deep tech PR expertise. As you work to influence the CIO, try using our tips for selling to CIOs.
By using the tactics outlined above, and by fully understanding the psychographic traits of IT managers, you can greatly improve your success rates in selling to IT managers. If you need help with the marketing and PR aspects of selling IT solutions to IT managers, contact us or give us a call (312) 267-0066 and let’s start a conversation about your needs.