Every entrepreneur & his/ her sales team understands how difficult it is to pitch to an unknown CIO & get his/ her attention. Selling to CIOs is not easy. Many times entrepreneurs and/ or the sales team thinks that knowing the product demo with an understanding of the technical literature is good enough to engage & they just ramble on in front of CIOs. The intention of a right pitch to a CIO should be such that after the pitch the CIO should want more information from his side & engage. Every CIO wants to be the in the top respected list of CXOs through recognition they get from their management. They understand that they can do that only if they select the right ICT vendor and bring business value of IT. It’s a mutually rewarding relationship that helps all parties involved to win. So what’s the learning? ICT Vendors ability to make a CIO earn the top respect is critical to establish a long term partner relationship and procure the product technology and solutions.
When you are pitching to CIOs knowing their business pain points, you are positioned to present your product or services to ‘WOW’ them with the technology and insights that drive your approach to meeting their business user’s real and immediate needs. The description of the technology value proposition and solution offered should lead to describing your vision for how the deployment will evolve and how you plan to execute it. CIOs are constantly balancing IT constraints and ground realities against their company’s vision, schedules, and tight budgets alongside juggling with multiple priorities. These pressures make enterprise technology selling to CIOs tough for ICT vendors, especially in current economic scenario. As a vendor, your brand reputation matters a lot. Marketing & positioning to CIOs is very different, traditional branding methods won’t stand a chance when used to engage with CIOs. Be aware that CIOs receive thousands of requests for meeting and calls every day where some or other vendor is trying to pitch technology products to them.
Given their tight schedules, CIOs respond only with a very small section of vendors marketing messages, let alone to actually read the unsolicited sales emails by hundreds of vendors. Not only that, vendors that sell to CIOs will find that their engagement cycle in selling to CIOs is greatly accelerated due to better branding. Vendors often claim to CIOs they have no competition because the technology is so unique. While that may indeed be true, it’s unlikely that technology products won’t have competition for at least the price points that the CIO has to spend on either existing solutions. Address CIOs top concerns while pitching to get their attention. The pitch should not be too one-sided talking but an engagement leading to a POC (Proof of Concept) or pilot as next step. At the POC stage it should convince the CIO that you are the long term partner and you have looked at the complete end to end scenario and have thought everything through to make the procurement successful. Remember to talk about the people who will be part of the effort engagement. Once you’ve made a compelling sales pitch to support your product with the CIO, talk about the team which is going to lead the deployment of making the sales a successful deployment.
CIO personalities can be put in two buckets – one with decision making power & one with decision influencing powers. ICT vendors need to identify the CIO with decision making power v/s decision influencing powers and apply the sales pitch accordingly. Successful entrepreneurs have the complete understanding of CIO personality with vision to see how the winning deals decision will unfold and business growth with the right engagement. It is not that the best technology product will win the deal in enterprise but deals are won by trained sales experts who understand how to engage with CIOs and build a trustworthy relationship. Most early stage companies’ entrepreneurs will go full out with investment to build the product but little is left to market the product & hire right talent who can sell & engage with the CIOs. No matter what your product technology claims are, customer case studies with benchmarks will prove that you can deliver. They are more credible than anything else that one can pitch. As CIOs, peer CIOs success evidence means far more than random technical superlatives. CIOs do not like to hear about solutions which will downsize their own IT team but will be happy to hear if the IT teams bandwidth released for other better task (motivator), even if both statements underlying mean the same, so while pitching using the right context is key. In technology selling, the vast majority of sales to CIOs are driven by word of mouth referencing. The CIO relationship built over successful deployment helps build more sales pipeline automatically. Good CIOs are always in demand & they frequently change jobs so keeping connect with them on a regular basis will always help generating more opportunities to sell.
CIOs need ICT vendors help to sell the solution internally. Though a CIO is convinced about the product, then the CIO will still need to sell the product or solution to the end users on the idea. Unfortunately, many CIOs are also more technology people & less business hence are not very good at selling, which means that as an ICT vendor you need to help the CIO prepare the internal pitch, make the business case, and make the solution seem as if it has a low risk of failure and a quick ROI. Finally CIOs are risk averse and you need to be part of their trusted circle of partners whom they can depend on while buying technology.