It Turns Out That CIOs Really Work In Sales

by drjim on November 2, 2009

Image Credit The CIO Is Actually A Key Part Of The Sales Department...

The CIO Is Actually A Key Part Of The Sales Department...

It turns out that a company’s #1 salesperson is their CIO. They may not go on sales calls, have an assigned quota, or even be up-to-date on the company’s latest product pricing plans, but at the end of the day the CIO is the one who drives (or drives away) the most sales.

Why Software Can Kill A Sale

In our modern times, almost every company has a fancy Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application that they use to keep track of who their customers are and what they’ve either sold to them or promised to them. You might be thinking that when you become CIO your only obligation to the sales team will be to keep the CRM application up and running. Turns out you’d be wrong.

Life has changed a great deal over the last few years and the relationship between IT and a company’s sales teams has changed right along with it. This has been necessary because in today’s global economy a company’s customers want to be involved in the creation of your products. Your CRM software is going to be standing in the way of this.

What’s Wrong With The CRM Software That You Are Using

Customers are shrinking the number of vendors that they are willing to do business with in order to make their supply chains more efficient. This means that they are going to want to be able to work with your company in order to see their product suggestion ideas start to show up in your products. In a nutshell, they want you to change to better meet their needs.

Your CRM software is not only not going to be able to do this, but it’s actually going to be standing in your way once you are the CIO. At its core, your CRM software is an internal application that is designed to do one thing and do it well: it helps your salespeople to track their customers and it allows sales managers to track their salespeople. Note the absence of customers in all of this.

CRM software does a great job of managing your internal sales systems. However what you are going to need as CIO is a way to manage your customer relationships – the dialogue that is going on outside of your company’s walls.

All Of Those Other Customer Conversations That Need To Be Managed

The reason that this is now part of what a CIO has to do is because the way that the company’s sales teams interact with their customers is now very heavily dependent on the IT department. Let me count the ways:

  • Social Networking: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, you name it and Sales is probably using it to reach out and connect with their customers.
  • Wikis: Gone are the days of static product documentation, say hello to dynamic documents that can be updated by customers based on their own experience with your product.
  • Product / Customer Portals: who wants to search through a company web site to find the information about just the products that they have bought? The era of customized portals that eliminate the clutter and just provide the information that a customer really wants has arrived.
  • Teleconferencing: sure voice calls were nice, but now we’ve got web-cams and shared whiteboarding tools that turn a dry short meeting into a dynamic interactive session.
  • Co-Design Tools: the old way of designing a new product or service and then taking it to the customer is out the door. Now customers can participate in the design process and what is produced is right the first time.

What All Of This Means For You

All too often CIOs see the Sales department as not being part of the company’s IT infrastructure. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. A much better way to look at things is to think of the CIO as being a key part of the company’s sales team.

When you become CIO you are going to be (partially) responsible for the success of the sales team. One of your most critical tasks will be to find ways to use the company’s IT resources to help the sales teams develop deeper and better relationships with their customers.

The old way of just making sure that the company’s CRM system is up and running will no longer cut it. You are going to have to do some homework and find out the multiple different ways that your salespeople are connecting with their customers. Once you know this, you’ll be better positioned to leverage your IT department to help them become selling machines.

Do you think that it is even possible for a CIO to mange all the ways that Sales will want to interact with their customers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In all honesty, there are a lot of people who become CIO who really should never have been promoted to that position. There are too many IT folks who are only good at ensuring that company IT resources are properly and efficiently used. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, only that this kind of skill set is not what it takes to be a really good CIO. Do you know what it takes to be a good CIO?

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