“Sales cowboys” can make life hard for the IT department, but the IT Department can use CPQ (configure-price-quote) and other business solutions to ensure alignment with the corporate mission.
The IT department fulfills many vital functions within most enterprises. One of the less frequently acknowledged roles for IT is one associated with assuring that people and processes are aligned with the stated enterprise mission, goals and strategies. This unsung role is readily apparent with systems relating to configuration, quotation, pricing and the other IT business solutions they deliver in support of those activities.
Before the world was connected and technology was mobilized in support of activities beyond the physical office, sales was a profession somewhat like the fabled gunslinger of the Hollywood mythologized old American West. The lone cowboy—aloof, self-reliant, self-contained and self-governed. A chivalrous personal code of conduct guided their actions rather than codified law.
This type of resourcefulness was frequently required to overcome the many obstacles encountered when trying to close a deal out in the field, separated by time zones from corporate and requiring immediate answers to pressing questions.
But that same self-reliance could easily turn into an attitude of self-righteousness that too many times would end up justifying almost anything the rep could dream up.
The cowboy sales rep continues to appear within sales organizations, but their effectiveness and desirability are becoming less and less positive. For many years, organizations would tolerate aberrant behavior as along as numbers were made—that doesn’t work anymore. IT has a critical part to play in the successful replacement of the “sales cowboy” with the more desirable “sales team player” as a more effective role.
Cowboys flourished in an environment absent of authority, rule or consequence. Those conditions can continue to foster cowboy behavior within your sales force. In the absence of clear instruction, cowboys have no hesitation filling in the blanks with instructions that suit their personal ideas.
This somewhat cavalier attitude extrapolates into configurations that are not valid, pricing that is not derived from an approved source and quotations that may or may not serve the best interest of the company or the customer.
How Does the IT Department Affect Sales Cowboys?
Two things position the IT Department to effectively the emergence of combat sales cowboys:
- The IT Department is the ultimate cross-functional department.
- IT business solutions involving configure, price and quote functions require cross-functional participation and support.
The IT Department is wired into the corporate structure almost like no other department. IT systems connect, facilitate, protect, enable and translate the stated mission and strategies of the organization into processes, actions and actual systems.
A business that is built to run on dedicated systems that facilitate its processes is a business immune from “creative” unauthorized actions—actions on the part of those individuals who are attempting to act outside of the best interests of the enterprise.
IT must play a role in the selection of these prepacked systems as well as the development of internal apps and related processes. They have to be sure the informational linkages and feedback loops are adequate to fuel these vital systems with the correct data and that they contribute to the fulfillment of the overall mission of the enterprise.
Once the systems are in place, IT has the responsibility to monitor and maintain them to assure continued alignment with the corporate mission, compatibility with other systems and security from any vulnerabilities either accidental or malicious in nature—internal or external.
CPQ touches almost everything. Configure touches sales, marketing, product management, engineering, order processing and distribution. Pricing touches all of those as well as finance, performance metrics and commission accounting. Quote functions touch marketing, product management and sales.
IT must actively touch all. They must see the functional dependencies and requirements between them and assure that all needs continue to be met as the business, systems and requirements evolve.