I have gained a great deal of respect for salesmen over the past 5 or so years. It runs counter to my built-in distaste for bullshit, but I am in a state of wonder when I behold the sales process at its best. Let’s face it, much of what a salesman is made to sell is not really worth all that much. They themselves must know the fundamental flaws in the product they’re hawking, its limitations and blemishes. Yet the best ones are able to put on a tremendous show notwithstanding the imperfections of the item or its overall lack of any real value.
I think this is the most stunning to behold when the item is a product of Corporate IT. I use the word ‘product’ lightly since most often it is not a product at all. In fact, it is usually an idea or concept that needs selling. Even when the item is a funded project that will, ideally, result in some thing at the end of the Gantt chart, it is still not a piece of steel that was made in Germany, shipped across the Atlantic and formed into a car body part in a US stamping plant. That is, Corporate IT ‘products’ aren’t products at all. They’re not real. They’re intangible ephemera. They may result in servers being purchased and set up. They may even result in paper being printed and sent to someone via the mail. But let’s be honest, most often they are applications or services that exist only in electronic format.
The Impossible Sell
How does one sell something that doesn’t really exist in the physical world? Well you attach some sort of value to the thing. You establish a scenario under which, when used properly, the IT service will produce a cost savings or avoidance, or open a new line of revenue for your business. The IT service has to have dollars associated with it in order for the sell to even be possible. Hopefully they’re not red numbers. That makes it even harder.
Assuming there is some net positive benefit to the IT service, there is still the problem of explaining what it is and selling that to some business entity that will fund it if it is a project or bring revenue to the IT unit if it is a service. How does one sell something that few people really have a good grasp on? You could talk about what it does. You might explain how it works. It may be a case where you go into detail about the data it uses. Perhaps you show the IT service if it has a presentable user interface. Some diagrams usually help with this part of the sales process. The simpler the better (don’t listen to bad architects who can’t draw a simple diagram of a complex system). There are a variety of ways in which you can present a complex idea, that doesn’t have a product that physically manifests itself and that may or may not bring you increased revenue. I think I’ve found the best way.
The Canonical WSDL Portal
The most effective way to sell an IT service is to give it an amazingly vague and ultimately meaningless name. Including an acronym is usually helpful but not always required. Descriptive terms should abound. If the service is directional, you must indicate horizontality or verticality. As I just indicated, making up words is always, always a must. Including vague terms that could mean different things to different audiences is necessary to avoid offending anyone while pleasing everyone, which frankly is your ultimate goal.
The name of an IT project or service should mean as much as possible to as many people as possible while not revealing what the project or service actually is or does. If, after telling a coworker the name of your IT project or service, the coworker says “Wow. Wait, what?” then you have taken the first successful step toward funding.
The Art of Names
Okay. With the sarcasm out of my system for the moment, things that IT does should have meaningful names. Jargon is usually meaningless to people responsible for marketing, selling and managing an IT project or service. Jargon and acronyms are especially meaningless to buyers who live in the non-techie world of the business. Understanding the audience is important always. But more important is a basic recognition that things we do ought to have easily identifiable, descriptive names that mean the same thing to whomever is looking at them.
As a footnote, there is an actual thing called a Canonical WSDL Portal at a very large company I know of. It has no relation to the nonsensical, meaningless gibberish I made up for this post. You know, they are totally unrelated.