Know More How Your IT and Sales Teams Can Learn to Love Each Other

bs3Salespeople tend to not be especially tech-savvy. Their primary skills are based on their natural charisma—they have an uncanny ability to network, surface a person’s expressed and latent problems and propose meaningful solutions. Unfortunately, sales reps often see technology as a burden instead of a tool, and tech changes can be met with great resistance.
In a given business, IT professionals are held accountable for the productivity gains (or lack thereof) of the team, including salespeople, even though these same sales reps often push back against implementations from the technology team. Despite the process improvements that IT staff regularly make, they typically receive none of the commission or glory when projects are successful. It is not an enviable position, but it is a necessary one. However, IT employees must constantly find and implement technological tools and processes that improve their organization’s performance, even if those additions are unpopular and cause internal uproar.

For sales-dominated companies, a proactive IT strategy can feel like an afterthought. But management should make it a priority to work with both their IT and sales teams to limit the organizational resistance to change and then develop strategies to overcome their reluctance.

Understanding a Sales Team’s Resistance to Technological Change
It shouldn’t be surprising that sales teams tend to resist technological change. Sales is an extremely process-oriented position, and even a minor alteration can drastically impact the way they do business. Considering that a salesperson’s paycheck often is directly correlated to his or her performance, change can be especially sensitive.
Resistance to change isn’t a new phenomenon, either. An article published in Harvard Business Review in 1969 talks about dealing with and overcoming resistance to change. In their case, the studies were focused on minor changes in the daily processes of factory operators. In some of the instances, the resistance to the minor process change was so bad that workers quit or filed grievances.
For a sales team that’s not technologically inclined to begin with, it’s easy to understand that resistance is inevitable. The key is not eliminating resistance—but learning how to work with it and alleviate the sales team’s concerns.

Strategies for Overcoming Hesitancy Among Salespeople
It’s not necessary to understand or overcome an organizational resistance to change, but it can be in your best interest to do so. The main takeaway from the studies published by Harvard Business Review was that the more a team bought into changes, the more successful those changes were. If you want your improved processes and tools to be effective, you need your sales team to embrace change.
Here are some important ways you can overcome these resistances to start working together with sales—instead of against them:
1. Avoid short implementation schedules.
Some experts believe that one of the biggest reasons people resist change is that they have a natural fear of the unknown. If you push technology upgrades or changes onto members of your sales team without much notice, they’re going to be caught off guard and may resist. Your best bet may be to implement over a longer period of time, giving them plenty of training and time to mentally adapt to the changes. Give them a heads-up that changes are coming long before the change ever takes place. This can go a long way to helping them accept and embrace the new state of things.
2. Find a champion.
If your IT folks are working separately from the sales team, it may be hard to get their buy-in. Instead, identify one of the salespeople who has a bit of tech savvy, and invite him or her to help IT management develop new processes and select new tools. It’s much easier to pitch a new sales-management system if it’s the one that a salesperson thought was the easiest to use. That sales insider will be able to explain the benefits to his or her colleagues in a way they understand, making your job much easier.
3. Start small.
When you’re working with a sales team that’s especially resistant to change, you should consider aiming for a small win first. Instead of completely revamping the sales management system, try changing a small part of the system. By getting the sales team to understand the benefits offered by a small change, you may have a good chance of explaining the benefits of a larger overhaul.
4. Provide plenty of support.
Immediately after your IT folks launch a new system or process, it is their job is to support the sales team as much as possible. The worst thing that could happen is letting the company miss out on a sale because sales reps are busy resisting a technological change or fumbling with an unfamiliar sales dashboard. Dedicate staff specifically to support the sales team with any questions, concerns or bugs they might run into.

Driving technological change in a resistant sales-dominated company is not often easy, but it’s a crucial ingredient to long-term success. By understanding why salespeople have reservations with change and working diligently to help them overcome their concerns, you may be able to give sales the tools they need to help win over new accounts and grow existing ones.