Talk to the suits: How to sell IT outside of IT

Less is more when it comes to bang-up business presentations. Here are five tips for better tech talks.

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"His audience was all high-level stakeholders from business management," she says. "What he needed from that group was to get approval for funding and set expectations on a timeline that would satisfy the business goals." That produced a very different deck with points on ROI-related information, goals that related to the business's timelines, and examples of features to be delivered that accomplished their strategies."

In the end, the presentation didn't mention architecture or relational database structures -- and he got the funding he needed.

Say what the technology does, not what it is

"The majority of presentations I see are, 'We're going to go with Java and it will solve the problems,' whatever the problems are," Michaels says. "But the CFO just hears, 'I want $5 million to make my life easier.' "

That's why you need to leave out technical jargon and focus instead on explaining what that technology will bring to those in front of you, says Abbie Lundberg, president of Lundberg Media LLC in Gloucester, Mass., and former editor in chief of Computerworld sister publication CIO magazine.

"Where a lot of IT people fall down is they talk about what the technology does. They tend to talk about the functioning of the systems, which is a big mistake. Most others don't understand it, and they don't care about it," Lundberg explains. "IT people have to be more audience-focused. They have to ask, 'What does my audience care about?' "

Think about what you want the technology to do for each audience.

If it's going to help sales deliver goods to customers more quickly, that's what you present to sales. If it helps your call center people handle calls faster, that's your key talking point, Lundberg says.

AmerisourceBergen's Murphy, who needed two years to sell his $300 million ERP project, honed his ability to describe technology in business terms by meeting one-on-one with his counterparts in other departments. It wasn't until he framed the need for the ERP project in the terms that his business colleagues focused on -- describing it in terms of revenue vs. profit -- that he was able to really engage his audiences during presentations, he says.

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