How to sell to a CIO today (or a CEO or anybody else in the C-suite)

Posted: April 12, 2010 in CIOs, customers/buyers, marketing, sales, surveys, value propositions, vendors
Tags: , , , , , ,

Just like timing, tailoring is EVERYTHING when it comes to approaching your prospect, especially when it’s the first time.  And we don’t mean what you’re wearing.

As the economy struggles to climb out of its sick bed, vendors making unsolicited sales calls grow more aggressive to get meetings, arrange conference calls, make contacts and steer clear of the voicemail blackholes and spam filters.  Problem is, as we’ve learned after months of research on CIOs and the I.T. buying community, aggressive-to-the-point-of-desperation vendors do great harm to themselves by tone-deaf outreach to prospective customers.   Here’s the loud-and-clear message we get from the people to whom those vendors (and by extension the marketing people behind them) want to talk:

Make it all about them, not about you. Show current familiarity with their company, their problems and their specific I.T. issues today.  NEVER assume that overworked, overbooked CIOs are going to jump at the chance to be de-briefed just so you can be brought up to speed.  Even if you’re buying the meal.  Put yourself in their shoes.  How you can you make a significant contribution to their day without interrupting it?  No, it’s not by telling them about your revolutionary solution.  There’s nothing revolutionary about it.  Own up to this. See the world through their eyes. What might you show them that would earn their favorable attention today and clearly separate you from the pack chasing them?  I don’t mean gimmicks in FedEx packages. What can you communicate that would portray you as a go-to resource for making their lives less complicated?  What might you share or convey that would position you as someone worth their time?  If your objective is a call back or a return email, give them a reason to make the effort.  One way to do this is to leave them with a question in the back of their mind to which they’d want a prompt answer.

All of the above implies depth of knowledge about the customer’s immediate situation. Not only your knowledge, but your creativity in showing how this knowledge can only be applied by you.  Just like a lot of employers today, buyers are looking to fill extremely specific needs.  Needs they believe are unique to them.   Never before has a general, one-size-fits-all solution seemed so irrelevant and less compelling.  When you’re selling to XYZ, Ltd., be certain that your pitch and your product are made-to-order for XYZ, Ltd.  Off-the-shelf isn’t just off the mark today.  Its off the radar.

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