Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Internal Salesperson

One of the most important roles we take on as the ICT Manager is the job of 'Internal Salesperson'.

When you're presented with an idea, technology, option, and/or proposal that you can see would be of value to your school, you have to be able to 'sell' it to the appropriate person.  This skill is probably the most undervalued and untrained skill expected of you.  You often don't even know this is what is expected, you just have a feeling someone should be told.

How do you become that 'Internal Salesperson'?  We all have most of the skills needed to be able to sell ideas to your Leadership when they need to be involved in the decision.  There are several things to consider as part of your preparation present an idea.

Sanity Check

The first stage of working out the value of a proposition is a quick sanity check with a knowledgeable party.  At one stage I'd seen a fantastic presentation at a Conference I thought would be great for adding some extra data into assessments.  I went to our Dean of Studies with the idea and found out they had been doing something similar using our current database.  This quick 'sanity check' saved me wasting time on further investigation.

How should I present the idea?

The next question is critical to the internal sales effort.  How much effort you put in to the presentation will be at least partially driven by your 'passion' for the proposition. I always tried to figure out the most appropriate person to work out the proposition with.  For instance when I was trying to get approval for print management I had the CFO and Director of Staff and Services involved.  When we were looking at new hardware to work with scientific sensors the Head of Science had to be the co-sponsor of the proposal.  In this way an effective sales pitch will already have some traction before you try to sell it to the Principal.

I'd always start to write the proposal out.  This helps you consolidate the idea into your environment and work through potential issues.  I would do this even when it will only be presented verbally as I find the writing process focusses my mind and I will quite often identify potential issues or even unexpected benefits during my writing.

A very long time ago I had 12 months purely writing strategic papers.  This experience helps me produce reasonably succinct but very dry proposals which all seem to work in my favour when presenting technology proposals to Principals and Leadership teams.

A piece of advice in preparing presentations is highlight risk in the proposal, not only for the execution of the proposal but if there is risk in not adopting it.  It seems there is a limited understanding of risk within School Leadership particularly around technology.  You'll need to use your expertise to highlight not only financial and operational risk but issues such as privacy, copyright and child protection.

How can I sell technology ideas to the Curriculum areas?

Sometimes you can't, but if you can see the technical/operational benefits you should try.  It's a great starting point if you can get input from someone within the Curriculum delivery area to make sure the idea has merit and can fit within their classroom practice. 

I always tried to allow for consideration of other options when the technology was directly for the classroom.  An example; each time we were looking for upgraded display technology I would have determined there was a need and had a demonstration of something which interested me.  However, there was always several options open to us, so the consultative process was critical and my sales pitch included multiple options.       

You are the expert!

This is always the concerning part and the piece of the puzzle that needs you to maintain your self confidence.  You have been empowered by the school to be the expert, don't be afraid to be a advocate for what you see as the best solution.