CIOs have one of the hardest selling jobs. When you’re trying to sell a car or a copier, you have features, functions and product styling to use in enhancing the persuasion. But selling an idea — a vision — requires the kind of persuasive abilities usually found on the bad side in con artists, demagogues and political hacks, as well as on the good side in pastors, therapists, sports coaches and, all too rarely, a subset of trustworthy salespeople. Gartner calls these abilities the selling “superpowers.”
The tactics of persuasion
Trusted advisors don’t play off a script. Scripts don’t allow for listening or the execution of any of the superpowers in a relevant way. Think about your own trusted advisors. They make a personal or professional difference in your life without working off some “pathway to the sale” program.
The hard part, of course, is figuring out what a person’s problem is. Exacerbating this challenge is that people are rarely upfront about their problems or desires, and that we tend to respond to messaging that feels like it’s specifically for us.
This is where the tactics of truly great salespeople come into play. Rather than applying a formula, they can use tools that amplify their ability to get to the root of the prospect’s problem.
The best efforts to sell and persuade may still be met with significant resistance. This can be exceptionally frustrating for “engineering brains” who believe they’ve found the ideal solution, only to be met with what they view as a perplexing and illogical reaction.
With a few well-honed tactics and some practice, resistance can actually be used to explore and develop ideas, and ultimately reach a common understanding along with shared goals. Overcoming resistance well, with style and dexterity, adds to a CIO’s cachet as a trusted advisor.
Leigh McMullen is a managing vice president at Gartner. He specialises in research for CIOs, especially to do with business engagement, internal selling and IT marketing, IT strategy and transformation, service management and major initiative planning. He will be presenting at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.
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