Finding Some Common Ground

David_Silverstein

We have all been there… Stuck on sales call that is going downhill fast.. Your services are not a fit and you are squirming in your seat to find some common ground.. It happens.

Usually I do my research and find out something about the person, I pride myself on being able to carry out a conversation with anyone. This time I was in trouble.. No info, No research, No personality across the table. NO PROBLEM! Out of the corner of my eye I see a college stuffed animal that represented a college near where I grew up.. Finally a connection and the sales call is salvaged.

In this day in age we should never be unprepared in these situations. There are so many avenues to find out information ie. Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn etc. Let’s use these tools and even if our products and services are not a fit at least we can talk about how our 14 year old daughters drive us insane..

Good Selling.
David on Finding Some Common Ground

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Talking about Telling The Truth

Selling to The CIO

Selling to The CIOMy inbox was recently graced with a well written cold pitch for a technology product that actually looked interesting to me so I gave it a full read.  This following line and its subtle peer pressure will sound all too familiar.

“Our current clients include Company A, Company B, Company C, Company D, and Company E in your industry.”

Despite my sometimes socially limiting career in IT and what the writer apparently hoped, I know my CIO counterparts at 3 of the companies.  I forwarded the email to each of them to ask the simple question: “Is this product and vendor worth my time to follow up?”  A positive answer would have likely led to a phone call or email to the company.  The unfortunate response:  not one of my peers had ever heard of the product or vendor.  They never got the call from me and my email just poisoned the water for them with my three peers.

A while back, I was in a meeting with a vendor who presented the required slide with a dazzling eye chart of client logos.  One small one nestled in the corner caught my eye.  It was a small company I had cofounded and where I remain an active board member.   I would have known (and been surprised) if they were a client of this vendor.  They were not and now they never will be.

Would you sign a contract with somebody who started lying at the first meeting?  No trust, no sale.   Don’t assume that I don’t have a network and won’t check your client list myself.  Your networking can work either for or against you and you will reap what you sow. It is OK to be small or a startup or to conservatively state your client list.  Every company was once a startup and once had a small book of business.  Own your reality, state ‘facts’ like client lists that are real, and show me your value.  It’s not that hard to make sure the network works for you and not against you.

Mr. CMIO is Talking about Telling the Truth

Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.

 

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The Purchasing Folks

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group of business peopleLesson Learned

We as sales people need to understand that we are not only selling to the CIO or IT today, but in many companies and organizations we are selling to purchasing.  The world has changed and purchasing good or bad pulls the purse strings.  Has this happened to you?

Long sales cycle, lots of meeting and demo’s and finally your champion or even the CIO says, you are the vendor of choice, you have won the technical battle.  All good and very important win, but now comes the cost negotiation.  So you enter into discussions on cost in good faith with your IT contacts.  No reason to think these negotiations will not get you to a final contract and agreed upon price, right?  Well may not.  “OK now you have to go meet with Bob in purchasing”.  No problem this where the contract get signed.  Except Bob needs his pound of flesh because that’s what purchasing does and oh by the way he needs to know why IT needs the flux capacitor and the fetzer valve.  You think; did we just start the sales cycle all over again?

So what happens; your sale gets slowed down, you probably end up giving additional discounts that may require additional approvals within your organization and you end up having to explain your solution or service and value to their company all over again.  And in most cases this process will have a time suck on your champion in IT as well.

So how do you avoid this situation?
Lesson Learned…… Ask what role purchasing will play in the sales cycle up front.  If you need to have them attend meetings during the sales cycle and have them fully involved in the price negotiations with your contacts from IT.  This also ensures that IT and purchasing are on the page.

We are in changing world, funds seem to be tight everywhere and purchasing plays a greater role in the selling process today, at least that is my experience lately.

My 2 cents……

by Another Sales Guy

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Respect the CIO….

respect

Are you kidding me?

How would you seek to do business with the CEO? Would you have a different approach for the CEO of one million dollar per year firm, how about for a start-up, versus a 100 million dollar one, versus 500 million plus? How about one billion and up?

In any of these cases, would you consider calling the CEO’s office and leaving a message on voicemail that you will be “in the area” and want to stop by to introduce yourself?

Perhaps instead you would have an inside sales rep or call on behalf of “person X, our vice president” or “director” and state that they “are going to be in your area next Tuesday and would like to stop by for a few minutes to discuss our offering.”

Of course not. It is a ridiculous approach. So why on earth do you do this with CIOs?

This is a technique that is reminiscent of the copier salesperson in the 1980s. I suspect this was probably once taught as an official approach by one copier pioneer and migrated to other organizations.

Do you really see this as a model that will work for the CIO? What if you stratified organizations in the same way that I noted above, would you use the same tactic for every one? This approach demonstrates a real ignorance, a lack of any sophistication into understanding the operations of your prospect organization.

There are so many things that are fundamentally wrong with this approach and for know, I’ll express that it shows that you do not understand how others use their time. This is a very immature approach and it does not even factor in the concept of decision structures and entry points, which I’ll tackle in future blogs.

Every single day, in the pursuit of sales, there is an assault on me by 25-30 organizations. These messages, if thought to be polite, targeted approaches to the top of the IT food chain are instead futile.

This particular message was left at my office this week. (with names and numbers changed to protect the guilty).

Not only is this the wrong approach, in hearing the message it was obvious that is was scripted and the person reading the script had poor delivery, simply by the fact that his word flow did not match any natural speaking pace, with pauses and starts lining up more with the carriage return than they did with the intended message and sentence structure.

Here is the message translated to text:

“Hello, this is Chip S. form ABC Consulting. We are an IT staffing and consulting company and I was going to be in your area next Tuesday and Thursday and wanted to know if I can stop by and introduce myself and see what possible needs you may have in the coming month. Please give me a call when you have the opportunity. 555-1212 extension 270, 555-1212 extension 270. Thanks in advance for your time.”

Chip did not receive a call back.

-Mr. CIO Talks
Mr. CIO Talks has spent the last 20+ years working with information technology. He has been a start-up entrepreneur; worked in a consulting and sales capacity, led IT organizations, along with other responsibilities in addition to CIO. He has held IT leadership responsibility across several industries and in global geographies. He has served in an executive officer role in both times of market growth and contraction. He has served on the boards of several organizations, from board chair to committee chair, to board member; from the publicly traded firm to the not-for-profit, to government appointed. He currently spends his time as a CIO,  board member,  volunteer, and an advisor.

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Become a Customer Advocate Inside Your Organization

listen

Advocate, Listen and Ask

Asking and Listening, that’s not in my job description, Selling is.

David, you have hit on a great point, however most of your industry peers, certainly not your equals do not know how to listen; nor do they know it is something they should do. I remember one of my first frustrating experiences with a sales professional. I still remember his name, his company and his failure.

In his eyes and in the eyes of his firm, the only failure was that there was no deal closed. However, Kevin did not have any ability to listen to the customer expressing that the configuration of his offering did not match my my needs. Kevin worked for “big-tech.” His sales pitch was scripted and his demeanor was both professional and unbreakable. When I expressed that I did not want to buy his product the way it was configured and packaged, his response was to repeat the same failed statement as if the more times he said it, would eventually become true or I would become enlightened.

Kevin’s employer had created this environment and the specific condition, no flexibility to work with the customer and a powerless sales resource engaging with the customer. Kevin did not get it, and probably has not to this day, 18 years later. Kevin was soon removed from the account and another knight in shining armor soon arrived, replacing Kevin and promising me the world. In the last 12 months I’ve had 3 reps from that company alone (Colleen, Anne and now Joyce). You may all be thinking of which firm and swearing you know exactly which one it is, however, I know who you are thinking of, and in this case, you are wrong. That particular big tech firm does hold the record in my book and I’ve had a new rep at least every 12 months for nearly 20 years.

Every new sales person has the same story and they are all “gone” come January. Your role is, most importantly to be the customer advocate inside your organization, to build long standing relationships with many people, and to get to know the customer firm in detail. Then to be there to service the account, without any agenda other than to exceed the customer’s expectations on the dimensions that matter. This will result in building trust. Back to listening, if something is not right, that means going to bat for the customer, and that means being willing to take risk and change. For the rest of you, November will be the month that your sales managers will make their decisions about which patch or accounts to reassign you to in January, and you only get a few of those shots!

-Mr. CIOTalks

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The Dual Role CIO; Be Careful What You Say.

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Selling to the CIO

I lead both marketing and IT for my company, which is a long story not fit for these pages.  Most sales people in both arenas don’t realize that strange combo can exist.  Depending on which “hat” people think they are calling, I get very different approaches.  Sometimes two reps from the same vendor call separately for each “persona.”

When sales people think they are calling the head of marketing, I usually hear:

* Babble designed to treat me as though I am technophobic and technically  impaired

* How I can cut the IT department mercilessly out of my life

* How bad our web site and mobile strategy is because of those tech guys

* How I want to jump on the cloud, mobile, social media, and analytics trains before I am out of business

When sales people think they are calling the head of IT, I usually hear:

* Marketing jargon designed to treat me as though I am creatively and business impaired

* How I can make the marketing department like me and not cut me out of the company

* How bad our web site and mobile strategy is because of those marketing guys

* How I want to jump on the cloud, mobile, social media, and analytics trains before I am out of business

The common talking points seem to boil down to:

* Prospects are impaired and should be treated as such

* Playing business functions against each other is a winning strategy

* Insulting the prospect’s product/work will inspire an embarrassed rush to sign a contract

* Prospects (being impaired) are too backward to have considered (or even rejected!) all of the current trends

* IT & marketing can’t possibly talk to each other, much less have a common executive managing them

When people find out I hold both jobs, there is an audible squeal of tongues and minds screeching to a halt.   The modern CIO and CMO are increasingly connected and more frequently the same person.  It is time for your sales approach to jump on that train.

When selling to either the CIO or CMO (or really anyone else):

* Treat us like we are smart and capable but that we have a need you might be able to fill.  Speak to us like adults.

* Treat us like we work in a common team that wants to succeed.

* Deliver proof how you are great at providing that mobile/web/other service, not how bad we are.

* Understand that our job is not to adopt fads and trends, but to run a business.  Ask what we know, then educate us if needed.

* Traditional roles are breaking down.  Assume that we share information and may even share roles that will surprise you.

Don’t babble or insult or divide.  You will enjoy smart conversations and more business when working with adults instead of the infighting kids you sometimes make us out to be.  

Happy Selling.

Mr. CMIO

Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.

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Getting My Attention, The Right Way!

right way

Selling To The CIOAt the risk of giving away the secret of someone who knows how to do it right, I offer the following e-mail as an example of a salespitch gone well! How refreshing! I wish more people go about it like this person did.

Hi Mr. CIO OnPoint, 

Congratulations on your recent <insert successes or publicly visible things about the company>.  It’s great to see a local company doing so well and moving their industry forward.

I was researching <insert company name> because I am impressed by your <insert what impresses you>.   I see that you have an open position for <insert title> with some very exciting projects envisioned for this role.

At My Company, I help people like you who are rolling out these types of projects and can support your in-house efforts through <name your value added services>.  We work with you in whatever way is most effective for you, from providing light consulting through full implementation support. 

Would you be interested in speaking with me about this or any other areas where you are looking for support and I might be able to help you?

Sincerely, 
<insert your name>
 

What this shows me is:
(1) you did your homework
(2) you identify with my company as a company and not just the next prospect on your list
(3) you indicate your desire to ADD value
(4) you didn’t obnoxiously suggest you WERE the one I needed, but you asked to talk more
(5)  and said you “might” be able to add value, and did not arrogantly assume that you are “sure you can”.

In short, you invited a discussion starting at the highest of levels, the company, products, market results, culture, what have you, and are willing to work from there. You DID NOT ask me what projects I have that you can help me with. You showed that you ALREADY DID YOUR RESEARCH so you had a place to start.

Unlike a cheap pick-up line, this approach can’t be pulled out on a moment’s notice and applied in any situation.  You need to time it around something positive happening at the company. You’ll know when you can use it because you’ve been watching the company over time, watching the news, and making connections.  Kind of like building familiarity with someone versus using a cheap pick-up line.   You can’t do this on a once-and-done.  It requires attention over time. The same attention over time that I EXPECT once I’m a customer.  Show me that as a prospect, and you have a much better chance of me becoming a customer.

The result:
This person got an immediate email back, got a lunch meeting within the same month, and got recommended to members of my team as well as others outside my company as someone to check out and engage with.
Wouldn’t you love to be this person?

PLEASE be this person and save me from the deluge of inappropriate approaches.

Mr. CIO OnPoint
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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Do You Copy and Paste?

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The rep from a very large software company copied and pasted a piece of my bio from our web site into her email.  It clearly states that I am CIO and head of IT (among other things) is one of my responsibilities.  Her only actual question in the email…Could I introduce her to the head of IT since I would clearly work with that person?

But, she continued beyond that question to tell me how my bio inspired her and how she felt connected to me.  It was now important for her to meet me and tell me how her company can make me an even more inspirational leader by using their software.

People, please read and proof your own “form emails” so they don’t sound silly.  Please think before you use words like inspire and software in the same thought.   I have a vision of the sender being a B movie stalker villain who is both clueless and a bit creepy.  Strange, silly, and awkward (and bad use of copy and paste) don’t cut it.  My delete key is the only and best response.

Good Selling.

Mr.CMIO

Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.

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What Part of “No” Don’t You Understand

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The same telecom audit vendor has been calling almost hourly and emailing nearly as frequently for weeks with promises to save me 250% of my monthly phone and data bills.  Calls persist despite email requests to cease and desist, attempted un-subscriptions from the mailing list, and my admin getting flat-out rude about it.  It’s a different rep almost every time but the pitch is nearly the same.

I decided to finally answer the phone myself in a last-ditch effort to eliminate this stonewalling cockroach of a company.  The rep kicked into his pitch and I stopped him cold with a demand to cease this unprofessional and unethical assault on our phone and email systems.  I also threatened to block their phone number and email domain if it continues (ah, the perks of being CIO!).  He proceeded to tell me that the only way I can get off their contact list is by having an in person meeting with their CEO and my CFO.

I nearly broke the phone hanging up.  And yes, I blocked their phone number and email domain.  It turns out that my CIO peers knew exactly who I was talking about when I told them my story and I never had to mention the company name.

So, what part of “no” don’t they understand?  Rotating reps, multiple calls and emails a day, and refusal to respect my request only anger me and will never result in business.  This is every bad sales stereotype coming to life and makes legitimate sales people look bad.  If we all despise your tactics, no wonder you have to work so hard to gain business.  Even my kids know when to stop asking.

Let’s try the basics again in 2016:  relationship, respect, trust.  “No” means “no”.  And eat your vegetables.

Happy Selling!

Mr. CMIO

Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.

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Watch Out for this Presentation Pet Peeve

engage

It is about 20 minutes into a “pitch deck” meeting and the salesman has yet to ask a question or engage with us.  Has he even taken a breath?  We are still hearing about His company history, His clients, His product, and His success.  I stopped caring and started answering emails on my iPad about 12 minutes ago and he has not even noticed.

Why are we all in the room? Is it…

  1. To finish the PowerPoint presentation regardless of all obstacles?
  2. To bestow a lifetime achievement award on his company?
  3. To test a new form of torture?
  4. To determine if he has a solution that meets my needs?

If you answered anything but D, you likely helped him write the presentation and it will fail.  It would also put you in the unfortunate majority of presentations I see.

In general, people remember the first and last things you say or do (something called “primacy” and “recency” effects) and most of the middle is a blur.  Additionally, people (prospects!) want to be engaged, tell their story, and find a solution to their problem.

Logic and experience would tell us that if you merge those two ideas above, that sales meetings should lead off and close with engagement.  It looks something like this:

  1. Ask questions to verify that you understand the prospect’s key needs and then show specifically how you can solve them.
  2. Only present or speak to what is relevant to the needs.
  3. Know your material and value so well that you can jump straight to the important stuff.  Your pitch deck should be backup and not the focus & objective.

Open and close with engagement and dialog.  You will be more successful.  After all, you can’t sell anything to me if I stopped paying attention 12 minutes ago.

 

Mr. CMIO

Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.

 

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