Smart Selling

View IT as a Channel Strategy? Maybe It’s Time We Did.

Sales directors, here’s an interesting question to ask yourselves: “Have you ever thought of IT as a strategic sales tool and channel strategy?”

And one for you, CIOs: “Can you show me what IT’s doing to boost company revenues?”

Are you surprised at the questions? You probably shouldn’t be, because in many successful companies today, the answer to both is a resounding “yes!”

The Critical (but Often Missed) Connection between IT and Sales

With channel sales teams relying so much on evolving technology, CIOs are in a key position to have a tremendous impact on a sale’s success.

“CIOs can no longer just be concerned with back-office and maintaining infrastructure.” Gartner

These days, the ability to deliver integrated customer experiences can make the difference between customers buying from you or buying from your competitor. Forrester analyst, Sheryl Pattek, (in CIO’s Digital Magazine) says, “Customers expect a consistent experience, and they expect a company to know who they are from device to device and from touch point to touch point. You can only do that with technology.”

And there’s the rub. A company’s technology infrastructure has traditionally been the strict purview of IT and channel strategy. However, in today’s fast-moving digital landscape, channel sales teams can easily bypass IT by bringing their own devices or even engaging with external platform providers on their own when they feel it’s expedient to do so. However, what may seem beneficial in the short term could end up adding to the confusion for the customer—and for the rest of the company—when what’s brought in won’t integrate or provide a consistent experience with your company’s existing infrastructure.

However, once your channel sales teams understand that the technology they use must provide the seamless experience customers are demanding in order to win their business (instead of perhaps seeing it as an impediment to the sales process), they’ll begin seeing IT as a strategic weapon and channel strategy in their revenue-producing arsenal.

Fortunately, CIOs are beginning to recognize this technological link to revenues, as well. For instance, in Computerworld’s “Forecast 2016 Survey on IT Priorities,” respondents rated “improving the customer experience” as a primary objective—placing that goal at number 4, up from last place just a year earlier.

CIO as Chief Integration Officer

The example above is why it helps for your company’s CIO to serve as Chief Integration Officer. But, technology integration is really only part of what IT can bring to the table. They can actually help to “bring home the bacon,” as well.

“A new generation of CIOs with skills to make the business money is replacing traditional CIOs.” Gartner

The Revenue-Creating CIO

Research by McKinsey shows that when CIOs play a more meaningful role in shaping business strategy, they contribute positively to building the business. And according to Gartner, this type of CIO will identify and guide enterprises toward “exploiting IT technologies, products and services that will measurably increase enterprise revenue.”

The key for CIOs to keep in mind, according to Jack Bergstrand, author of Reinvent Your Enterprise, is not to look at the company through an IT lens; instead, look at IT through a business lens. “Start by internalizing your company’s strategy … and identifying areas where the business is under the most competitive pressure. Only after you’ve analyzed this valuable information should you think about the role of technology.”

When CIOs are faced with the balancing act between functional operations and business strategy, it’s in their (and their company’s) best interest to position themselves as a strategic leader.

There’s compelling evidence that CIOs today are doing just that. In CIO’s “2016 State of the CIO survey,” what CIOs at large, private-sector enterprises said about the business IT agenda agreed with answers to the same question from Line of Business (LoB) leaders from similar companies. For instance, the top business drivers for technology investments in 2016 were identified as:

  • Increasing operational efficiency (CIOs: 41% and LoB: 47%)
  • Improving the customer experience (CIOs: 48% and LoB: 45%)

Who Doesn’t Like Bacon?

Remember when we talked about revenue-boosting CIOs being able to help “bring home the bacon?” In companies where the CIO is seen as a business strategy partner, Sales is less likely to try an end run around technology mandates, and IT is more likely to be responsive and engaged with channel sales teams’ priorities. I guess that makes Sales and IT two halves of a revenue-producing bacon sandwich, or else it just means that I’m hungry. Either way, bring it on! IT can be key to your channel strategy today.

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