Selling in B2B / A New Role for IT Directors

If you’re an IT Director, you’ve probably had a lot of change recently. More so, in the B2B sector, these ripples seem to keep on coming – your role looks very different from a year or two ago.  

Repetitive tasks, a nice orderly schedule and emergency-free weeks have gone out the window. Now, digital transformation is more important than ever. Now, B2B sales need to brave the online waters, and they’re looking to the IT director for solutions. So, what is this new role and how can you adapt? 

IT Director – From Contractor to Business Partner

A global survey conducted by Deloitte in 2018 found that 64% of IT managers considered their team as one of the important elements in creating their organization’s business strategy. Likewise, our own survey (PL) showed that only 12% consider themselves digital transformation initiators within their company – and 61% felt they simply implemented the ideas of other managers and directors. Concerningly, both reports show a worrying trend over the last few years that IT managers went into the pandemic thinking their team – and personal role – was not involved in the business strategy. Needless to say, we’re sure there were many rude awakenings.

Previously in the B2B sector, resolving digital debt and maintaining a functional and stable solution, no matter how outdated, was the necessary requirement. When the world closed down, sales shifted to a greater online role and IT needed to rapidly provide answers.

Who Is Leading This Change?

A simple question for sure, but the answer is often surprisingly – nobody! Looking to our own research again (if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?), we’ve noticed a split in the perception between owners, boardmembers and executives when it comes to organizational readiness – especially when it comes time perspectives.

So, why is this happening? We asked Grzegorz Rudno-Rudzinski – our expert and managing partner with an ear to the ground on this matter, to give us a little wisdom nugget of explanation:

The lower down in the structure, the greater the scepticism towards change. This is due to the fact that owners evaluate their visions and ideas in a time frame of 12 to 24 months. Managers and many boards, on the other hand, operate on a bonus system, so their plans are for less than a year. For them, transformation is often just extra work for which they will not be rewarded in the time horizon in which they move. This means clear leadership from decision makers and often changes at the level of company objectives, structure and remuneration models“.

The area of technology is undergoing fundamental changes, and here lies the opportunity for IT directors to take charge (after all, it’s what the T in IT stands for). Rather than simply managing and developing staple systems (a common answer from 87% of respondents in our report) , you need to be at the forefront a rapid embracement and adoption of new solutions.

This involved a high degree of operational stability. Now is the time of great flexibility and quick adaptation to changes, occurring even several times in short intervals. IT directors can (and should!) be at the forefront of these changes.

In B2B, there are examples to draw from. Indeed, more competitive companies are reaching for DevOps models, which significantly accelerates the process. This is one direction worth pursuing.

And Here’s the Hurdle

Unfortunately, even now, as many as 54% of B2B companies do not have a digital transformation strategy in place. There is still much work to do – even from an educational perspective.

Here’s the rub: the passive role of IT directors leads to the creation of a very haphazard and selective digital transformation strategies, which results in the implementation of changes with neither a concrete plan nor target objectives. IT directors need to be, well, direct and embrace co-responsibility for creating and executing an effective strategy.

Defining the “Modern IT Director” in B2B 

Charisma and knowledge, unfortunately, only get you so far. Moving from ad-hoc approaches, there are a few key values that you need to embrace in order to likewise embrace – and realize – change.

  • A constant desire to develop. A good IT Director keeps abreast of changes and implements them within the organization.
  • Interpersonal skills. IT director’s straddle the gap between their team and management, so it’s important that they can clearly communicate and articulate the tasks – and requirements – needed.
  • A sense of shared purpose. As an impact of digital transformation, the IT director now overlaps in areas previously left untouched, namely sales (more on that in a moment).
  • Willingness to change and a flexible approach to work. Rapid change also often means – cliché incoming 😉 – expecting the unexpected. Emergencies or meetings may require dropping the rest of the week’s plans. Adapt, prioritize and learn to deal with such situations.

IT x Sales: An Introduction 

For many IT directors in B2B markets, sales is a new area – and now the lynchpin for carrying out essential digital transformation. What should you be focusing on?

  • Customer experience. This is increasingly the main determinant to take into account. Growing competition means customers can always go elsewhere if they are inconvenienced. Don’t let technology be the reason that happens.
  • Speed and negotiability. Buyers want to go through the whole purchasing process as quickly as possible. In B2B, this also means supporting negotiated prices that are often part of long-term-cooperation. Previously done by sales, you now need to choose technology, whether fully custom or taking advantage of pre-packaged platforms – to best enable this quickly.
  • Wide choice of payments and flexibility. In the B2B industry, everything should fit together, work seamlessly, and allow for custom changes. This means guaranteeing multi-variant payment methods, delayed payments or even split invoices.

This seems daunting, but it’s not a new area – the B2C sector has already faced and solved many of these challenges. E-commerce has been dominating for years now, so sales and technology have overlapped much more strongly.

There are many similarities, and a few key differences, in B2C vs B2B Sales, especially from a technology point of view. Draw on the former so you can better focus on the latter. We can borrow from e-commerce solutions that fit the same needs (such as PIM and even general platforms)…after all, good artists borrow, but great artists steal 😉

What Else Can You Do?

At this point, you might also be wondering what else you can do to adapt and improve performance within the company? We asked another for advice. Here’s what Adam Chudzik – Co-founder at Digitalx.pl – has suggested:

Based on conversations we’ve had with effective IT directors and managers, we can give some points that recur in conversations. They identify them as key in building highly effective teams. In addition to constant development and keeping abreast of technology trends, the following are indicated most frequently:

  1. Department vision – first of all, create it. Tell yourself where you are going. This is an important first step. Once you are ready communicate it to the team. As much as you can afford. You can’t “win” alone.
  2. Strategy – then answer how you want to get there. Identify the milestones. Be prepared that life writes its scenarios and may verify certain hypotheses. Be open and flexible.
  3. Communication – both with your team and with external clients. Periodically talk about the challenges. Talking allows you to better understand the needs of your employees or/and internal customers.
  4. Collaboration – motivate, delegate, reward, integrate. Take care of your team. Without a motivated team you will not achieve much. This is especially important in times of remote working. Find opportunities to praise employees if they deserve it. “‘Good job’ is a very simple tool that managers often forget“.

Conclusions: How to Get Started 

With the right experience and mindset, you can – and should! – be identifying the tools and ready-made solutions to significantly improve this key aspect of any company’s operations.

In order to make your work even more effective and adaptable to new needs, we wanted to leave you with an effective primer on how to kickstart this change. Yet true change starts from within – so adapt to your new role and follow these tips to make your daily work easier and be more in line with today’s requirements:

  • Be flexible. You will definitely need to adapt quickly to new realities and tasks in order to implement your company’s strategy.
  • Be creative. Your company will increasingly look to you as an inventor of solutions, supporting the digital transformation of the entire business. Take advantage of this and prove your worth.
  • Be consistent. If you know the actions you propose will help the company to continue to grow, don’t be discouraged in pushing them among decision makers. Consistency pays off!
  • Be a good boss. At a time when it is increasingly difficult to find employees to join an IT team, the internal atmosphere may be one of the most important factors that may decide whether a person from your team stays (or not). You don’t need to go it alone, so take care of your team!
  • Be eager to learn. More and more often, you will be required to take responsibility for various types of change. Without knowledge of current trends and tools, this task may be impossible. So plan your work in such a way that you also have the opportunity to expand your knowledge and keep updated on latest trends (again, you can look to B2C too).
  • Be open to new proposals. An open attitude is vital for adapting effective solutions that have an impact on the entire company. Take advantage of such opportunities whenever they arise.
  • Be honest. If you think the actions your company is taking are inappropriate – speak up. Prevention is better than correcting mistakes later – especially when you’re the one held responsible.
  • Be pro-development. Listen to the needs of individual employees in your team. This is the best way to achieve loyalty and good cooperation in the long term.

If there’s one key takeaway we’d like to give, it’s this: as IT director, you might not be the captain, but you are the navigator. Sales can’t move forward until you plot a course.

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