I’ve been in business development and sales for most of my career, including a lengthy stint at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how salespeople can be some of the privacy team’s best friends.
I know: It usually seems like the opposite! How many times have salespeople come to the privacy or compliance team all red in the face because a deal they want to push through is held up by questions about privacy compliance? Oh, no, a questionnaire! Too often privacy requirements are seen as a sales barrier, as vendor questionnaires and audits gum up the works and hamper the ever important sales cycle.
What people in the privacy trenches really know is that privacy and sales are natural allies. A salesperson who knows how to talk about privacy is not only going to rack up commissions for himself but also help the privacy leader get more resources for their program.
To understand why, one needs to just take a look at what’s happening in the lives of consumers and businesses. This might be old news for privacy leaders, but I want to quickly recap it in the context of this blog. Surveys and studies show that data privacy is a top concern for consumers, with most being wary of what kind of data is being collected about them and how it is being used. The legislators in the EU have already responded to those concerns and companies who’ve run afoul of privacy laws have had to pay heavy fines. Several states in the U.S. have followed with their own legislations around customer data privacy. For businesses, there is not just the issue of the hefty fines that they may have to pay, but also the very significant damage to their reputation that can often directly translate into loss of customers and revenue.
Privacy — A Competitive Edge
This is precisely where privacy program leaders can step in and work with sales. A company that cares about their clients’ corporate privacy stance right from the beginning of the sales process is at a huge advantage. So when the salesperson is on the phone or at a conference trying to sell to potential customers, the privacy requirements become a competitive edge and not a bureaucratic liability.
When I spoke with Sharon Russell, head of IT, security, compliance, and privacy at Cloud DX at a webinar recently, she talked about how her team works with sales to provide the right narrative that their company has privacy on lockdown and it’s not going to be a problem. To quote her: “It’s really important that the whole organization has that messaging. The customer-facing team needs to have all that information available to them and needs to be able to talk with customers and make them happy right off the bat, without having to bring in the experts.”
Even if a customer eventually gets the answer they’re looking for, your organization doesn’t seem too committed to privacy if the salesperson has to say, “That’s a really great question and I’m going to get back to you on that. I’m sure we’re great at the privacy stuff!”
Accelerating the Sales Cycle
Instead, they should be trained up and provided with the appropriate talking points so that they’re comfortable answering all but the most technical questions. And a good salesperson will be knocking down your door to make sure they have those answers and talking points available. Plus, you can get them to advocate for you to get more resources and funding as they talk to sales leadership about how they got past a bunch of barriers in an initial conversation when they had all the privacy talking points already at hand and that the client liked the answers.
Believe me, the VP of sales does not want sales barriers — they slow the sales cycle down and this challenge isn’t going away.
Are you looking to make an investment in your privacy program and having trouble getting the funds? Get that sales team on your side! Ask them what kinds of data-security and data-privacy questions they’re hearing in the field. See what vendors are asking repeatedly on questionnaires and make sure you gear your training toward the most common questions. Give the sales team the right information that they use to put their best foot forward when it’s clear that compliance and privacy are important to a potential client. A good privacy-compliance narrative really helps remove barriers. What sales team wouldn’t like to hear how to make their products and services easier to sell?
When those tools you’ve given them start leading to success (and more money in their pockets!), the sales team will suddenly be your biggest cheerleader, bolstering your arguments for more resources to enhance your privacy program.