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4 Steps IT Must Take With Their Sales Teams

IT isn't doing enough to help drive revenue. Here's how it can become more relevant to the sales and marketing teams.

Face it: IT and sales folks are very different. They're not natural allies. The deep recession should have been just the crisis to get the two groups working together. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.

IT organizations have been internally focused during the past three years, working on virtualization, data center security, and other projects that make IT more productive and cost-efficient. IT groups didn't embrace cloud computing and mobility until those two megatrends smacked them in the head. Let's be clear: IT didn't lead the cloud movement; lines of business did, often routing around the IT organizations to get jobs done faster. Same story with mobile--IT said "no, no, no" to Apple and Android smartphones and tablets until company employees finally said they'd been using the devices for many months and weren't going back.

But sales teams haven't exactly been using technology to reinvent themselves. Just 35% of the 203 IT executives who responded to our InformationWeek 2012 Global CIO Survey say they have a major CRM implementation in place, though 38% plan one for this year or next. Here and there, companies are doing projects like sentiment analytics (to analyze what customers are saying about their products and brands on Facebook, blogs, and other mass media), but these tend to be isolated efforts led by a few data-minded marketers and aren't scaled out for everyday sales pros. And don't forget about all those e-commerce teams--orphaned groups rarely integrated with the rest of the sales team despite the business they're driving.

The reality is that technology has become--or must become--critical to the sales process, and IT needs to grease the skids. Customers are researching and buying in entirely new ways, using in-person, Web, and social channels. The combination of mobile and cloud-based technology has created an opportunity to really change the information salespeople have in their hands and the kinds of decisions they can make. But before IT does any of that, it needs to change its mindset.

In short, IT needs a sales quota. We're not talking about database admins making cold calls or security teams sweeping LinkedIn groups for prospects. Instead, your organization should assign a target sales goal as part of its overall IT objectives, focusing your team on increasing revenue hand in hand with the sales organization.

How that quota works will depend on your relationship with the sales team. You might focus on increasing online sales. Or concentrate on expanding CRM reporting in ways that improve the rate at which sales prospects are converted to customers. Once you focus on these metrics, you'll start hearing from the sales folks about all the obstacles keeping them from selling even more, and then you can start clearing those barriers out of their way.

No question, a sales quota is a big leap for IT. So before you announce one, consider these four steps to prepare your team for the demands ahead.

Research: Global CIO 2012

All the data from our Global CIO Survey of 203 IT executives, including IT spending plans, is free with registration.

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