I was recently asked about the importance of selling skills for CIOs – does a CIO need to be a good salesperson? It seems to me the answer to this should be a resounding yes. After all, IT executives need to be able to sell themselves effectively in order to attain the heights of the C-Suite. Great CIOs must be great communicators, capable of delivering a compelling presentation or a memorable speech, and inspiring others to follow them.

But what of sales skills beyond being a good presenter? Since many sales skills are focused on understanding people and connecting with them, I’ve found sales training to be highly effective on two levels:

  • Developing better listening skills. One of the first things you learn as a salesperson is not how to make a pitch, but how to listen to a customer – only by listening can a good salesperson effectively satisfy the needs of a prospect/customer.
  • Understanding how products/services meet the customer needs. Salespeople spend a lot of time learning about a firm’s products and services; they learn how they meet the various customer needs and they learn how to present them in the best light.

So go ahead and sign up for the next sales training class being run in your organization – you may be pleasantly surprised!

Are CIOs the only people in IT needing sales skills?

I’d like to make the case for putting everyone in IT through sales training – here’s why:

Active listening is a critical skill for everyone in IT, and understanding your organization’s products or services is fundamental to a thorough understanding of your organization’s value proposition. In addition, sales training offers many other benefits, such as:

  • More awareness of the sales process – and why satisfying customer needs is the most important job in any organization.
  • Increased understanding of the role of marketing to communicate value.
  • Gaining practical skills that can be applied daily in interacting with IT’s internal customers.
  • Improved ability to engage with the sales force and interact with end-customers by accompanying salespeople.

Why not have your IT staff attend regular training sessions held for your organization’s new sales staff? This will also help build relationships between IT and sales.

Let’s face it, if IT were a stand-alone business we would absolutely have to train front-line staff in selling skills. They would need this to better understand customer needs and translate them into value-generating services.  And shouldn’t everyone in the organization understand the ins and outs of the role that keeps us all paid?

What do you think? I’d love to hear from CIOs who have already done this.

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