How Do You Sell To CIOs In A Changing Market?

selling to CIOsThat was the topic of a packed breakfast I attended last week in Boston. (In an unusual bit of timing, we also co-sponsored one about selling to CISOs at RSA last week.)

Four seasoned CIOs of remarkably different companies – industry, size and culture – talked to a packed house at a recent NETSEA event of seasoned enterprise sales pros. Some of their insights were tried-and-true (and almost too good to be true), but a few had big implications for marketing.

  1. Sales are 75% closed before anyone’s brought in – which puts a lot more burden on vendors to provide far more content, much earlier in the selling process. This mandates a shift in how marketing budgets for programs. Selling simplification is more vital than ever, and needs to be a core part of the messaging.
  2. The business user controls the business app purchase. IT lives with this – even endorses it – for two reasons. One, they’re tired of being criticized for holding the company back, and just expect to be brought into the process. And two, they expect the business unit to measure and report on the business outcomes. Part of this may be best practice, but it’s also politically protective; because when the application goes awry, the CIO expects to be held accountable.
  3. Companies have under-invested in marketing technologies, but that’s changing, quickly. Tracking of visitors’ digital footprint, and web content management are two top areas for data analytics, and increased spending.
  4. And some things still hold true:
    • Infrastructure issues are still the province of IT.
    • Cost-cutting pressures mean more savings are expected with each renewal.
    • Gartner still counts.
    • Word-of-mouth is CIOs’ #1 way to build a short-list of trusted vendors.
    • They don’t answer cold calls.
    • They’ll answer your email, but only if it happens to intersect with an existing priority.
    • They want a full solution.

As for the lilly-white version? They all promise that RFPs are fair, and they almost always intercede with purchasing to make it a good deal all around.