IT seems to have a good bit of laughs at the expense of sales and marketing. Just look at a typical week of Dilbert comic strips. Somehow marketing gets the blame for an inferior product being launched or a nonsensical sales campaign. It?s the classic clash between the introverted techies in IT and the extroverted talkers in sales.
What IT, particularly data professionals, needs to recognize is that they need to live in that parallel sales universe to be successful in their career. I strongly believe this and incorporate it now and then in this blog. We like to think that our work is respected by all and one of the most important assets that our enterprise possesses. Reality check time? many of our coworkers are unaware of our work, our deliverables and the impact we have on the corporate bottom line. Alas, we must resort to sales and marketing of our profession to further our causes and demonstrate our value to the enterprise.
I recently came across an email flash I filed away this past summer from The Harvard Business Review on the 3 Traits Essential to Being a Good Salesperson. The tips come from a blog post on the Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople by Steve W. Martin of the USC Marshall School of Business. The three highlighted traits are good characteristics that we as data professionals need to possess and nurture for success. I list them here with my personal commentary.
Modesty.Contrary to the stereotype that salespeople are pushy and arrogant, the best are actually quite modest and humble. They win sales by putting the customers first, as opposed to establishing themselves as the focal point of the sale.
I confess that I see arrogant IT professionals that speak down to the business and other IT professionals more than I would like. Before you make a snap judgment on what your client may or may not understand, I urge you to step back and assess the situation. Ask them if they need an overview or explanation. Even better, make sure all of your responses are free of techie jargon and acronyms. If you must use them, put them into words that the typical person can understand.
Curiosity.Top salespeople have a hunger for knowledge and information. This lets them stay focused during sales calls and drives them to ask inquisitive questions.
We all become obsessed with our work and delivering a quality solution. We often hear the words but do not listen to the message. Listening involves conversation and concern for your client?s needs. Putting yourself into their shoes will help you deliver more targeted solution that leaves you with a happy client. For many IT professionals, stepping outside of the techie analytical comfort zone involves some real boundary stretching. Move outside of your safe zone, become more of a conversationalist, and you will be rewarded.
Lack of self-consciousness. The best salespeople are comfortable fighting for their causes. They’re action-oriented and unafraid to go high up in their accounts or courageously cold call new prospects.
Fighting for what is right is a tricky thing in the IT world. If you go too far, you are seen as an arrogant know-it-all who is not a team player. If you bend too much, your solution is watered down and likely does not meet your standards or your client?s expectations. The bottom line is that you have to learn when to fight, how to fight, and when to walk away. To smooth that path, you first need a good stet of standards, and policies that is supported by your management and more importantly all management. It boils down to you understanding your clients and knowing how to resolve issues with them.
The remaining four traits outlined by Martin are also applicable to the data community. Without a doubt, IT can take some sound advice from the sales and marketing side of our enterprises. Being a data technology savvy data modeler may be the most obvious and most critical piece of our job description. It needs to be rounded out by other characteristics with good sales and marketing skills being one of them.
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