5 Keys To Sell IT Projects To The Business Effectively

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Before you can build an IT project, you have to get funding and support from the business side of your organization. Here are five tips that can help you get your plans green-lit by the executive committee.

Business IT is part of the business. That means that, in virtually every case, IT must justify significant expenses (and entire budgets) to the overall business. If you want to be effective in getting the budget you need, you're going to have to, at some point, do something that most technology-focused people hate to do: You're going to have to sell.

You're going to have to sell the IT story to the rest of the business. But the good news is that no one knows the IT story better than you do. The challenge is telling that story in a clear, convincing way.

Now, I'm not talking doing anything unsavory, underhanded, or unethical. Any association you have between this kind of internal sales and the old stereotype of a used-car operation should be severed now. No, this is the kind of selling that every professional has to do in order to work within an organization. If you must do something, you might as well do it right.

[See 9 Ways IT Can Ruin Its Relationship With the Business.]

The heart of persuasion is storytelling -- in this case, storytelling with a very specific purpose. You don't only want your audience to sit back at the end and congratulate you on telling a good story.

You want them to take a particular set of actions based on the story. That means that it has to be effective at more than entertaining people. It has to convey information, provide a basis for decision, and lead the listener to the conclusion that the decision you want is the very best (and possibly the only logical) choice.

I'll say, in all modesty, that I have some experience in the storytelling business. I also have some experience in getting people to purchase expensive services -- in the language of sales, I've "carried a bag."

Having worked in my share of startups, don't get me started on the whole "wringing money out of the executive committee" thing. Let's just say that I've told plenty of stories with purpose, and I'm willing to share the results of that experience here.

You'll notice that there are a lot of "sales" words and techniques that aren't here. You won't find me talking about closing or setting people up. When it comes to internal sales I think it's all about the story.

If you can build a story around your facts, then you stand a much better chance of having a decision go your way. You must have a basis in facts -- but that's not enough. You have to present the facts properly to get the result you want.

So here are my five keys for presenting your story in a way that will get the response you need. I'd love to hear about your keys for doing the same thing. How do you tell your IT story? Is there a key that works for you? Let me know -- the InformationWeek community needs your tips for success.

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