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The New Approach IT Companies Need
Business Journal

The New Approach IT Companies Need

by Kimberly Fitch and Jeff Durr

Story Highlights

  • To compete with new IT firms, legacy IT needs a new mindset
  • Hiring salespeople based on talent leads to better business results
  • An excellent knowledge base is the bare minimum

How's this for irony: The legacy IT companies that shook business to its core a couple of decades ago are facing a life-altering disruption of their own.

Servers and hardware are on the way out. They are being replaced by higher-value digitalization: artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain, cloud variations, the "internet of things."

High-value digitalization has allowed smaller, more nimble IT companies into the market. These agile young shops have more customized services and products, and they're signing new partnerships and building ecosystems that extend beyond the reach of traditional firms.

As a result, at least in part, legacy IT is getting serious about reskilling or upskilling its workforce to offer new value propositions to the market.

But the market is a bit confused. Many customers see established IT firms as the "outsource guys" who offer hardware and other traditional services, not new capabilities and value.

To dispel that mistaken notion, legacy IT firms need to:

  • reinvent their customer value proposition and marketing approach
  • build relationships beyond the IT departments of their customers and infiltrate their businesses
  • recognize that the advantages of youth aren't sufficient to win in today's marketplace

Age Is Just a Number

Speed and agility are the selling points of young IT shops hungry for business. And large, multifaceted customers need that speed and agility.

IT operates in a fiercely competitive environment. Customers expect perfect, fast. If one IT firm cannot provide what the customers-of-their-customers need quickly, there is another IT company waiting in the wings that can.

Legacy IT's sales force and managers are feeling the strain.

There's no question: Older salespeople don't have the same perspective on new technologies and concepts that younger generations do.

Millennials and Generation Z grew up believing that anything can be done by an algorithm, which gives them a different relationship and familiarity with IT than their elders have.

That doesn't mean technical knowledge belongs only to the young. That's a crucial -- though tempting -- misperception.

Hiring younger salespeople and consultants seems like a simple way to offer the market what it wants. But the life skills and experience of senior sales consultants and the relationships they have should not be underestimated.

Over time, salespeople develop relational expertise, an educated thought process and valuable work experience. Those attributes give them gravitas in senior-level conversations.

And while there may be a technical and sales gap between quick young companies and older established ones, skills and knowledge training can fill that gap.

Talent, however, is harder to come by. And it's a lot more lucrative.

You Can't Teach Talent

Gallup's talent-based approach to hiring identifies five key factors that lead to success in IT sales. These factors focus on more than acquired knowledge and skills. They reveal a candidate's natural capacity to learn, grow, adapt and thrive in the role over time.

5 Key Factors That Lead to Success in IT Sales

For example, an IT salesperson with high motivation will have an intense need to stand out and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that end.

Someone with high thought process will have an intense competency drive and will be determined to learn the technology they need to hold their own in a room of executives.

These attributes, however, are overlooked much too often in favor of skills and knowledge when hiring for IT salespeople.

Yes, an excellent knowledge base is a necessity, but it's not the only necessity. And overrating it is a mistake.

No matter how comprehensive it is, product knowledge is not enough to make a deal or keep a customer.

Why? Because an IT salesperson's understanding of products and services has to change every single day.

Anyone can learn facts and information. But Gallup research shows that some people are uniquely wired with natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that accelerate their ability to adapt and perform with excellence even as circumstances around them change.

These talents have nothing to do with age. They are the key to sales success. And they can be measured.

All companies depend on solid customer partnerships.

Companies with enough of the right talent to build lucrative customer partnerships in an evolving environment have a serious advantage. But companies that mistake knowledge for talent will have a much tougher time of it.

Solve your sales force challenges by working with a partner that understands the IT industry. Work with Gallup to:

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.


Kimberly Fitch, Ph.D., is a Director at Gallup.
Jeff Durr is a Partner at Gallup.

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