Unfortunately, in most companies, IT is seen as a cost center rather than a revenue generator. From a financial and business perspective, cost centers need to be controlled. As such, IT budgets are usually fixed and firm. No matter how wonderful the newest technological revolution is, no matter how many features and benefits it offers, if its over the allotted budget, chances are slim that youll get to implement it.
In addition, no matter how excited you get about the new technology, often your enthusiasm is not contagious. Company leaders who do not have a technology background simply dont get excited about technology, no matter how revolutionary it is. In some cases, the non-IT people dont understand the technology, and in other cases they only see the expense associated with it.
This brings us to the real question: In an era of budget, time, and labor constraints, is it possible to sell your ideas, your innovations, and your new technology finds to the CEO, CFO, board of directors, or whoever is in charge of the final decision? The answer is: Yes! You can sell your ideas up. It simply depends on how you frame the opportunity.
First things first: When youre selling your technology ideas up, dont talk about technology. While that may sound strange, its the primary sales rule that most IT people break. Remember that IT and technology are what you love, not what everyone else loves. And when youre selling your ideas to non-technology people, you cant focus on your preferences. Rather, you have to focus on the other person. Heres how you do that:
Tune into the pain of the person youre talking to. Forget about yourself and how excited you are about this great new technology. At this point, you and your likes are not important. If youre going to sell your idea, technology, or concept, you have to understand where the other persons personal pain is. For example, maybe theyre dealing with an upset board or stockholders who dont like last quarters results. Or perhaps they have to reorganize. Or maybe sales are down or they just lost the head of marketing to a competitor. Do your research and uncover the main challenge theyre dealing with right now.
Once you know the other persons pain, you can position the idea, technology, or concept you want to sell as something that can solve that pain. In other words, you have to show the CEO, CFO, board, or whomever youre selling to that theres a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. So if you know that the CEOs greatest pain is the fact that the sales team isnt communicating with marketing or manufacturing, resulting in lower sales and poor customer experiences, then you have to look at the new technology youre proposing and figure out how it can ease that pain or even solve that problem.
As you do this, state it clearly. Dont make anyone guess or come to their own conclusions. For example, you could say, I know youre dealing with [lagging sales, poor internal communications, customer complaints, etc.]. Ive come across some things that I think can help you overcome those challenges. Obviously, I want to help the company succeed and grow, so let me tell you about what Ive found.
Then talk about the new idea, technology, or concept in terms of solving the current problem only. Dont go into all the functions, features, or costs. Thats an entirely different conversation you have later. Right now, youre simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea, technology, or concept and in agreement that it will solve his or her problem.
Solve the predictable problems in advance. As you have this discussion and talk about how the idea, technology, or concept can be the solution to their pain, youll also have to address the most common objections. So plan for them in advance. In other words, get into the other persons shoes and figure out what his or her objections are likely to be. Pre-solve those objections before you have the discussion.
For example, if youre talking to the CEO about your solution but you know budgets are tight, you can safely deduce that he or she will say, This sounds great, but the CFO wont approve this right now. However, because youve anticipated the likely objections, you would reply, Ive already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important. I already have an okay from him, which is why Im coming to you now.
Of course, before going to the CFO, you would have identified his greatest pain and presented the idea, technology, or concept in a way that solved that challenge. And likely, the CFOs pain is different from the CEOs pain. However, if what youre proposing is really a solution and not a fad, and you showed how it supports the organizations strategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.
Additionally, remember that the technological understanding and literacy of C-level executives varies considerably. Some are very tech-savvy, while others dont have any understand of anything technology-related. Thats a problem to address while you do your homework. How tech-savvy is the person youre selling your ideas to? Is he or she seeing technology as a solution or a problem? Does he or she see technology as a cost to be controlled or as a strategic investment?
The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise. Solve the predicable problems before they happen and youll eliminate objections before theyre presented. Don't skip this step, because the objections will come. You need to be prepared and have your homework done in advance.