Why sales skills are relevant to IT

Negotiation, communication and proactivity are among the reasons

IT professional or salesperson — what do you consider yourself? For most readers of Computerworld, the answer is obvious. But it shouldn’t be.

The line between these two seemingly unrelated professions is becoming increasingly blurred. Today, the most successful individuals have a sense of sales that helps them convey ideas and demonstrate to company decision-makers how a new software or hardware purchase can add value. Explaining how technology can enable the business to move forward is also part of the brief.

Here are some sales-related skills that can benefit any IT professional:

Negotiation Unlike sales, the IT profession may not be known for deal-making, but negotiation skills are put into play all the time in your line of work. One day you may need to convince the company president that outdated desktop systems should be replaced, and the next you may try to reach a better deal with a vendor on a software purchase.

Excelling at negotiation involves doing research and building support for your case. If you’re advocating the purchase of new hardware, for example, you need to demonstrate how updated models can save end users time, increase productivity or allow staff to perform new functions. You also must be able to play devil’s advocate. Seeing the issue from the other side — in this case, why desktop updates could be viewed as an unnecessary expense — will help you prepare a rebuttal should someone disagree with your proposal.

Communication Skilled salespeople know how to speak their customers’ language. IT professionals, it has been said, speak a language that those outside the field often misunderstand. But the ability to communicate effectively with end users and management can make all the difference in your potential for professional advancement. Companies value employees who can explain complex information clearly and improve understanding of business strategies or goals.

As a result, it’s key that you’re able to tailor your messages to different audiences. This involves using plain English whenever possible and avoiding buzzwords or acronyms unless they’re widely understood. Communicating with non-technical colleagues may even mean limiting the words you use. For instance, when explaining AJAX to employees from the marketing department, it may be more effective to pull up Google Maps than to try to explain all of the technical underpinnings.

Proactivity Above all, successful sales professionals are proactive. They don’t wait for opportunity to knock; instead, they create opportunities for themselves. When it comes to your career, don’t sit back and hope new projects or roles will materialise on their own. Volunteer for assignments that allow you to expand your skills or interact with new contacts. Consider enroling in professional development courses so you remain on the leading edge of your field.

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