When selling to line of business types, start with a self-help book

Emotional intelligence, not tech skills, is the way to woo suits

Suit-and-tie-wearing man tries to meditate, take deep breaths in faux yoga pose. Photo by Shutterstock

Channel organisations trying to sell to line-of-business people beyond the IT department need to get their hands on 1995's self-help classic Emotional Intelligence, because traditional technology-led sales tactics won't work on marketers, HR people and the other managers.

Line of business people are the technology industry's new frontier, largely because software-as-a-service means business units can procure the apps they want without having to wait for IT to build and deploy software. Major enterprise vendors have formed dedicated sales and marketing teams to target line of business people and see them as a significant growth opportunity.

But the sales tactics and engagement styles that work for technology-led sales won't work with line of business people, Canalys analyst Jordan de Leon told the Canalys Channels Forum in Macau today. De Leon said resellers targeting line-of-business people need to rely on emotional intelligence (EQ), the skill of empathising with emotions, rather than the logical and IQ-driven sales approach that comes when explaining the technical merits of products to technologists.

Focusing on EQ means retraining existing sales staff, or even hiring people with experience in vertical markets who can empathise with practitioners, even if they have little knowledge of technology. Such specialists, de Leon said, understand the business outcomes that line of business people must achieve. That experience means they're better at understanding the needs of non-technical managers than IT specialists.

Another useful hire is a “customer success manager” whose job includes driving adoption of software-as-a-service by ensuring customers are aware of all the possibilities it offers, working with different department inside a customer to explain how to use technology and liaising with CIOs to explain how technology contributes to business outcomes. A customer success manager is also a fire-fighter who alerts colleagues about customer issues before they damage a relationship.

De Leon counselled against hiring specialists and customer success managers in multiple verticals, suggesting instead that resellers should specialise in a single niche market in order to serve line of business people better. He also said there is no magic formula for cracking line of business sales, but that if channel organisations remember to focus on helping clients to achieve business outcomes they'll be on the right track. ®

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