Link your technology to your people

Yes, good IT can make it very easy to spot where things are going wrong.

And yes, it can make it quicker to reach the right conclusions. But does any of this actually make you money? Your business depends on people meeting people – and if the technology isn’t helping them to do that, then you might as well simply stand around the box and admire it.

Technology is there to help people do business. And yet IT is usually as far away from the front line of your client business as it can get. There are a number of reasons why this happens.

First, people don’t tend to trust new data outputs. Experienced client-facing people have developed their own way of doing things: of selecting prospects, of scanning client records, of choosing the cross-sell opportunity.

Are they expected to throw away their acquired working practices overnight, because of some fancy new report? Would you?

People don’t like the intrusion. Any sales environment that has depended on a fair degree of personal latitude and initiative will resent the supervisory element arriving with contact sheets. Even where there seems eminently good sense about the new identification of sales opportunities, the sub-text is new and somewhat threatening: this is work that now has to be done – it’s defined, explicit and monitored.

While the senior partners will rightly love the close targeting that a good IT system will bring, for the recipient this is a new and usually unwelcome scrutiny of their working practices.

The issue here is not that the reports themselves are bad – I’ve covered good data reports in previous articles. It’s much more basic: the client-facing person has the ability to terminate your IT investment simply through poor engagement with it. This is why the selection of IT, the populating of robust databases and the production of valuable reports, is only half of the journey, and the expensive half to boot. The other half – the mobilisation of your data – is the one where you make money.

Unless you bridge the eternal gap between technology (and techies) and salespeople, you are going to waste money and upset your rainmakers. A few quick rules: first, make sure your key salespeople want better targeting, have a say in the purchase of IT and get the reports they think they need.

Secondly, portray IT as a benefit for the business as a whole. And thirdly, allow them a transition period during which they are using their old methods alongside the new targeting system, with the opportunity to discuss their findings.

Sales is difficult enough already in the accounting profession without upsetting the good people you’ve got. If you want to raise your cross-sale game, don’t forget that it’s the people that will do it for you, not simply the new box in the corner.

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