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Marketing and Selling: There’s No App for That

June 14, 2010

The basics.....

For the average information technology professional, the concept of marketing & selling is an alien skill set; like under-water bagpipe playing.  In the eye of the IT pro, this skill is composed mostly of excessive hair-gel, pointless presentations and flim-flam.

However, several new research studies have identified a sea change, once again, heading for information technology professionals.  Recently, eWeek released an article that gave a broad outline of a much more in-depth study by the Corporate Executive Board.  At a high-level, it outlines a near-future (2015) where fewer than 25 percent of current IT employees will remain in the discipline.  This will be due to IT functions being integrated with standard business practices, rolled into central corporate functions (HR) or outsourced.  Added to the mix are a far more technologically literate workforce, virtualization and the move toward Technology as a Service (outsourcing again).

Another report by eWeek provides an overview of the volatile IT labor market.  Employers are now, at least for this month, primarily looking for contract labor with specific skill sets.  According to the study, the enterprise is pushing for new IT staffing models and quick turnaround on projects.

So what does this mean for the IT pro, besides the usual cycle of unemployment, less money and job dissatisfaction?  Basically, it’s far past time for you to develop your business skill set.  Selling and marketing is one of the best places to start.

At the core of any business is its marketing and selling operation.  This enables a company to generate the very profits that allows them to pay you to install that new intrusion detection software (IDS).  A company can have a fantastic product or service, but if no one knows about it or has the ability to convince potential buyers to purchase, then the business will not be long for this world.  This all may seem very elementary, but it is good to remind ourselves how the money is made, if not just for a reality check on our own situation. 

How to turn a profit

So why concentrate on selling and marketing?  These interrelated skills will form the foundation of your business acumen and can be used immediately within your discipline.  You may be scratching your head wondering how selling can apply to your implementation of the new corporate security policy, but I assure you it does.

Your project has a customer, the employees of the company.  They will be impacted in various ways by this new policy (password expiry, data security, employment ramifications).  The policy will be going in no matter what the employees think.  However, in order for this policy to be truly effective, you need the end-user to buy-in.  How do you gain this acceptance?  This is where the ability to market and sell the project will assist you immensely.

Policies should not be developed in a vacuum, so you’ll have user groups where various departments will provide input into the project.  If you have foundation in selling and marketing, you’ll be able to appropriately explain why the policy is necessary and achieve customer acceptance.  Benefits of the policy will be outlined, customer issues and fears addressed and the financial impact will communicated.

You could put together training that outlines the current security risks affecting the company, how it would impact the employees if a breach occurred, what common vulnerabilities are exploited in a corporate environment.  You may want to put in some historical perspective with cases studies of corporations that experienced security breaches and the ramifications that followed.  Working with Human Resources, you could then develop additional training for new employees.

All these tasks would be made far more effective and easier if you knew how to effectively communicate with people and achieve their acceptance of a proposed solution (marketing and selling).  Well, more effective than the current practice of information technology and business trench warfare.

If a business background will be the prerequisite for the information technology professional in the future, now is the time to begin the skill development.  If the Great Recession has taught IT pros anything is that their technology skills are increasingly becoming commoditized.  It is now time to learn another language, one that is more difficult to outsource and brings tangible value to the business.

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