Discover First, Prescribe Later

Discover First, Prescribe Second (or Third, or Fourth, or ….)
Imagine walking in to the doctors office and, instead of opening your medical records, taking some vital signs, looking in your ears (what ARE they looking for, anyhow?), and hearing your story, he or she just hands you a prescription and says “Everyone has the flu right now, you must too.  You need this medicine.  Take it.”
Would you fill the prescription (assuming it wasn’t for “medical” marijuana)?
Would you go to that doctor again?   How would you feel?
Now, imagine meeting Jim.   He’s a sales leader for
Being with THE leading firm in Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (THE hot stuff these days!),  Jim’s seen all the pain points in a wide range of customers.  His solutions ARE the best.
They have JPMorgan and Walmart on their customer roster.  With those two names they MUST have a great product, right?
Why don’t YOU know of them already?  He’s sure that YOU have problems that HE can solve.  All you need to do is listen to him.  He talks constantly.  Every one of your intelligently probing questions, honed from years of experience so that you can understand his offering in terms that make sense to you, are deflected so he can tell you more about his successes.
What do you do?   Unfortunately, some people are in awe of Jim and bite on his approach.  Most people, however, don’t like Jim.   They tune him out.  Jim reflects on the call and how stupid you are for not calling him back.   You reflect on the call and shake your head, thrilled that it’s over and vowing to never take his call again.
Don’t be Jim.
How can people know my pain walking in the door?  Why do they feel a need to paint me into a corner where I must have their stuff?  After all, a good product sells itself.  The trick to selling it is to get out of the way by making people feel comfortable with you, educating them at their level and, in the process, building a relationship.
How do you do that?   My experience is that the successful salespeople DISCOVER FIRST and, only when they understand me, my company, and the situation, prescribe LATER.
Discovery is a way of building your own knowledge base about a prospect or customer while at the same time building a relationship of trust.   It is not a questionnaire, it’s a conversation at a measured pace.
Get to know them, just like you trust your doctors when they get to know you.   You have to educate them on your product or service, but do so in chunks.  I don’t know too many people who aren’t interested in learning something new.  They just don’t want it delivered via a Beer Bong.   They have to taste it, savor it, see if it’s what they want and not just get drunk on it.    If you do it right, they will be so educated and comfortable that they’ll write their own prescription!
The best sales interactions I’ve had are with people who look to really understand me and my situation while also allowing me to understand their offerings.   That happens through an engaging discussion where, if nothing else, you make a friend, expand your network, hone your conversational skills, and grow your knowledge base.   It’s a win/win regardless of the sales outcome.    At some point in that conversation we both realize that (1) it was nice meeting and we part ways wishing each other good luck with our pursuits or (2) there’s a potential match of need and solution and we should take it to the next level.    If you’re going to the next level, that’s where you can start testing prescription OPTIONS within the trusting foundation you’ve built on your way to a long-term mutually-beneficial relationship.
Try it.    You might like it.    And…. DON’T BE JIM, please!
by Mr. CIO On-Point
Mr. CIO OnPoint currently serves as a CIO in the technology industry.   OnPoint comes from a long IT background, starting in end-user support and advancing through infrastructure, application, and consulting roles to CIO and cross-functional executive leadership.  OnPoint has served in companies of all sizes in a range of industries.  OnPoint is active in IT industry organizations, contributing thought leadership in the IT profession, advising emerging companies, and offering his expertise to support emerging IT leaders and youth pursuing careers in IT.  After being frustrated for years with ineffective sales approaches, OnPoint contributes case studies here to help salespeople be more effective at approaching CIO’s in a way that allows them to make their value proposition clear and start  meaningful mutually-beneficial relationships.    He also provides examples of what not to do.   Unfortunately these examples happen way too often.
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Don’t Do This-Top 10 List

top10Don’t Do This-Top 10 List

Top Ten Things not to do to Successfully Sell to the CIO (or at least to survive the “instant delete” round)

Cold calling is a difficult job.  I certainly would not want to have to do it.  I generally try to choose vendors based on research and/or recommendation.  Accepting a vendor meeting from a random email is kind of like buying from Ebay.  You really never know how it will go, until it is too late.  But for those of you intrepid software / hardware vendors that are hell bent on using the cold call / email approach here are the 10 things that are guarantees to cause the delete button to be engaged.

  1. Spell my name right.  Did I really need to tell you that?  Apparently for many of you I really must.
  2. Know what my company does.  Please don’t try to sell restaurant point of sale software to me. I am not the CIO for an Iron Chef.
  3. Spend 5 minutes to review what you send.   Do not just import the address you got from the mailing list directly into mail / email merge program.  Letters that are addressed to   “Dear Mr.  Smith,  L J “ really lose that personal connection  you are trying so hard to make
  4. Don’t request a “read receipt” from me.   Instant delete!  It is bad enough that the NSA, Facebook and Google are already tracking me.
  5. Don’t send me offers for gift cards to meet you. First of all, it is just plain wrong to bribe people into meeting with you.  Secondly, it probably violates most company policies, and maybe even some laws, to accept gifts from vendors. Finally, it is really insulting to me that you think I am sorry or desperate enough to forgo my ethics for a Starbucks gift Card.
  6. Don’t send your assistant to ask me to a meeting.  Any email that starts out “my Director,  Mr. X, is in your area on Tuesday April 22 at 9:15 and would like to meet with you” gets deleted.  Wait; better yet I’ll have my assistant delete it.
  7. Resist the impulse to send an email the instant after you leave a voicemail.  If I had the time or inclination to answer the phone, I would have.
  8. Learn when to give up.  Persistence may be a valuable, but there is a limit.  When you receive no reply after say, 3 attempts, don’t continue to fill the inbox (voice and email) with additional messages.  It stands to reason that if I am not interested the first 5 times, I am not interested in the 6th.
  9. Don’t send me a list of the 10 dates and times that we can meet in the next 2 months.  If anything will convince me to meet you it is a reasoned outline of the product you sell and why it benefits my company, not the fact that you happen to be free.
  10. Don’t solicit me if my company is already a customer.  If we already buy your good or service, we probably won’t buy it twice.

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment.  I receive 30 or so emails / voicemails per day from well-meaning vendors.  If I actually invest only 5 minutes in each unsolicited email / call to understand and adequately respond, I will spend 150 minutes per day, or 12.5 hours each week doing work that has little likelihood of material benefit.  So please, save us all the time, the money and frustration and focus  on your audience.  Do your research on who we are, and what our companies do.  If you help us see “what’s in it for us” then I am certain the results will show.

Good Selling.

Mr. Guest CIO.


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This Trick Will Backfire. Watch Out!


Don’t Pull the ‘Email to the CIO’ Trick. It Will Backfire.

I wanted to share a story that I personally witnessed this week.  I was sitting in a buddy’s office (let’s call him MR. VP for this story) who also happens to be an IT leader at a big company in the Philadelphia area.  They have a substantial IT budget and a variety of technology partners.
I was sitting off to the side in his office when I noticed him reading an email that seemed to get him pretty disturbed.  He immediately picked up the phone and dialed (for this part let’s call him Paul from ABC software company).  Mr. VP immediately started to read him the riot act. “Who do you think you are… going around me to my CIO and telling him I didn’t do my job?  We have purchased millions of dollars of your software in the past.  Pick up the phone and call me directly if you have an issue with the decision.  You are done doing business here.  Goodbye!!”

Evidently, Paul had a proposal on the table and Mr. VP and team had chosen another partner.   Paul, in desperation, sent an email to the CIO letting him know that Mr. VP and his team chose another partner and his team made a mistake costing the company money in the long run.  He also claimed that the playing field wasn’t even because he didn’t get the access he needed along the way.
Listen, all sales veterans have probably been in this situation before.  I know I have.  You believe you have the better solution and the customer didn’t give you the access and time needed to qualify the proper way and propose the right solution.   I personally can’t stand to lose but sometimes there are newer and better technologies out there that will outshine yours.  It’s hard not to take it personally but you must understand that this sales gig is a marathon.  We are going to win some and lose some along the way.  It’s how you handle the situation that prevails in the end.

I have learned this throughout my career.  Rather than sending that email to the CIO who happens to highly respect Mr. VP, call Mr. VP and set up a time to be debriefed about the missed opportunity.  9 times out of 10, MR. CIO and his/her peers will respect your request to go over why they went another direction. Most of them have a heart and will be happy to discuss it with you.  You will get that desired facetime, build credibility and the access you need the next time around.

I must admit, I had a smile on my face when Mr. VP was laying into Paul. It was one less vendor I had to deal with and I knew it would make a great blog………

Good selling.


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Know the Customer and Get Intelligent

SellingtothecioKnow the customer and get Intelligent (it’s not that hard!)

I have come to the point that now I only answer internal calls.  Yes, these are calls from internal to the company and I can’t take another external call.  Why?  Because it usually is from somebody trying to sell me something I don’t want to buy.  So, I let the external call go to voicemail, praying and hoping it’s not a call from a critical customer or critical contact that I really should answer.  Yes, salesperson, I have customers too but how do I answer their calls when I’m afraid I have to talk with yet another salesperson about something I’m not likely to buy?  That’s crazy and I’m a bit resentful that I can’t talk to my customers or somebody that depends on me.  Leave me a voicemail and I usually just delete it in about 5 seconds. On rare occasions I do listen but only when somebody leaves an ‘intelligent voicemail’ and its starts with intelligence.  What’s intelligence?  Knowing your customer – the age old adage.  By the way, the same applies to an email.   Leave me voicemail that belongs on the “Do not call list” or spam me with something that just clogs up my email box is not the way to get to my heart.

If somebody does their homework and leaves me an intelligent voicemail or email, I’m more likely to return that call or email.  By the way, I don’t really care about your product or service.  What I care about is whether or not you know me and my company and how your product or service REALLY relates to me or my business?  But how can you do that if you don’t know me or my business?

So, when you send that voicemail or email you better start with – knowing your customer and start with intelligence.  Let me give you a few hints and it’s all pretty simple:

  1. Know the company – There is so much available information out there in the public domain (the web) on so many companies but it’s rare to see a salesperson willing to invest the time to do some simple research. I recently read a 3 page report from a securities analyst about our company.  I was shocked at how much the analyst new about our business, our goals, and our future direction.  In just 3 pages, he captured the essence of the company and, guess what, the analyst NEVER spoke to anybody from our company and came off extremely intelligent.  That information is also available to you on the web and you too can be a smarty pants!   By the way, security analysts are smart by nature and well compensated people that are paid for their ability to quickly express the essence of a company to potential investors.  They did the research for you – steal from them!
  2. Know what an IT organization looks like – If you are selling to IT, know what an IT organization looks like. Should you get the organization chart – sure. Always helpful and valuable but extremely hard to get.  But, trust me, the organization charts may differ by company and there may be more or less in each role but IT organization are very similar across industries.   It’s not that complex.  Let me boil it down to three things. People can work in multiple areas but they are either: PLANNING, BUILDING, OR RUNNING IT related stuff for the business.  Each area has a budget so know what the role of that person is when you leave your next voicemail or email. I use the pejorative term ‘people’ meaning IT people in the company organization you are trying to reach:
    1. Plan – people that are creating roadmaps and plans for the future of IT. Setting direction for IT with a focus on the business. These are enterprise architects, senior IT leaders, and senior business analysts often from the business.  Powerful people if you can get to them because they usually know what’s important to the business and what IT has to do to fulfill their plans.  These PLAN people often have limited budgets and are strategic thinkers but they are already planning for next year and probably not helpful for spending this year.  Catch them in Q3 or Q4 when they do have influence on budget. 5-10% of the IT budget for a company is typically in PLAN.
    2. Build – people that have projects that are providing value to the business. They get their direction from the PLAN people. The BUILD people usually have budget to spend and they need help getting their projects done for the business.  These are program managers, technical architects, and business analysts.  Sell to the technical architects and business analysts and then move up the program managers.  Once the build is done, the BUILD people give their project to the RUN people.  Remember, BUILD is only 10% of the life cycle of a project and 90% of the remaining life cycle cost goes to RUN.  If you are lucky, 20-30% of the IT budget is in BUILD.
    3. Run – people that are running operations day to day for both infrastructure and applications support. So much of RUN today is outsourced and it’s hard to get sales traction here because it is so commoditized.  IT organizations are moving aggressively to the cloud and abandoning their data centers. We are letting go our day to day internal RUN people and using managed services (outsourcers) from large or boutique providers for infrastructure and applications support.  This is a commodity based business that is cost sensitive so cost savings with quality is ultimately what matters. The RUN people are not doing the work but they are often leading and managing the cloud providers or the outsourcers.   If you are lucking 60-80% of your budget is in RUN but for many, particularly older companies with lots of legacy systems, this number can easily be 85-95% of the IT budget.  By the way, many are still not in the cloud so if you are selling on getting customers in the cloud you may be in luck.
  3. Know what’s important to the CIO – Again, IT groups sometimes think they are special and unique but usually they are not. The priorities for the CIO vary by business and by industry but some of the “Top 10 IT Priorities” continue to be the same year over year (e.g., Business Intelligence) but others on the list are newcomers (e.g., Digital Transformation.)  If you are speaking to a CIO you should know and understand the Top 10 for IT regardless of business or Industry.  If this is what matters to the CIO, sell based on the Top 10.  Here is a list I just grabbed that was published from Gartner Inc. and, yes, it was available on the web!

You can be a smarty pants too! So before you leave your next voicemail or email, go do some homework and please KNOW me and my business and start with INTELLIGENCE when you leave that voicemail or email if you want to do business with me.  Invest your time if you want mine.


Submitted by:  Mr. Guest CIO

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Watch Selling To The CIO

Mark your Calendar for June 27th at 11am! Click on to watch David Silverstein, Regional V.P. of ePlus and Author on “That Sales Show with Donna V.”  Donna is a Sales Performance and Leadership Coach at Enterprise Sales Institute.

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Please Don’t Give Us Free Money

Please Don’t Give Us Free Money

free moneyWe were facing a renewal of a major equipment services contract with a national vendor.  Let’s call them Koncorp.  Before bidding it out, we decided to start with Koncorp and give them the first shot at the renewal.  We had not called for service in a long time since the product was very stable; they were getting nearly free money.  We were clear up front that this was a chance to keep us from bidding it out, but they managed to drop the ball in every way.

Let’s walk through how not to retain a current customer at renewal time:

  • They did not approach us before renewal, we had to actually hunt for them.
  • They could not provide an accurate schedule of current contracted services. We had it, but I always ask for that first from the renewing vendor and they had no current records.
  • We told them we wanted to evaluate the platform and plan for the future. Instead, they did not ask for projected needs, only emailed us a pricing sheet (list price, no discount, which was higher than current pricing!) for what we already had.
  • They showed up unannounced at our offices and demanded a meeting. The rep actually left me a voicemail at 11:40am telling me to call him if I did NOT want his entire local office team to show up at my office at noon.  Yes, he wanted me to call if I didn’t want them to show up without an appointment in 20 minutes.  They then gave our receptionist a hard time for not hunting me down or letting them into my suite.  She did her job well in keeping them at bay.
  • When I expressed dismay at all of the above to their local management, the account moved from my local rep to a national call center. I was demoted by the vendor since I was not a quick and easy renewal win on their terms.

Needless to say, they were eliminated from consideration and we moved the business to one of their major competitors.  The irony is that the competitor is charging me more than Koncorp, but also upgraded the services because they identified my new, real need.  The competitor showed me greater value and met my needs.

The cost of new customer acquisition is massive.  Renewals are relatively inexpensive and a measure of your product and service.  However, renewals should never be treated as automatic or a low effort revenue.  Know what you are providing and show how you can add more value.  Start the renewal process well in advance of the contract dates by meeting and planning with your client.  “Blend and extend” your contract if you can into the renewal – don’t give them the chance to wander.  As importantly, respect the renewal process – woo me like a new customer during the renewal.

I simply want to know you still care about my business and still respect our relationship.

Happy Selling.


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2018 Daily Motivation

sellingtothecio prospect repeat

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Let’s Sell Them What They Need


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