Today I attended the TechTarget Online ROI Summit. Great seminar: most importantly one of the panels was focused on 'Understanding the CIO's Agenda and Making Sure you are on it.' Interesting panel. Panelists included the following CIOs: Jay Leader (iRobot), Paul Neilsen (PlumChoice Online PC Services), and Stephen A. Morin (TAC Worldwide.) Interesting questions were asked and important points raised.
The biggest question asked was how to sell to a CIO. The simple answer: good luck, you'll damn well need it.
Bottom line: you don't get the opportunity to sell to the CIO, and if you do you better realize you're damn lucky to do so. They are busy. REALLY busy. If you think for one second that you are going to sell them on the technical merits of your product or solution you've already lost. They have people waaaay down the hierarchy from them with the technical expertise will vet your solution or product before it ever - I mean EVER - hits their desks. They care about three things:
- Does it solve a BUSINESS problem I care about? What problem? SPECIFICALLY? You damn well better know that problem COLD ahead of time - I better not need to ask you. Can you prove it?
- Don't sell me on technical details or superiority. I DON'T CARE. At my level, it's all about business value. What and how will your solution affect my bottom line? Green tech? Great. Save the planet, just not on my dime. I'm a capitalist, first. Unless I use megawatts of electricity look elsewhere. You get the idea.
- You better KNOW my business, KNOW my company and business model (cold), KNOW my products, KNOW my customers, KNOW my pain points. Biblically. If I know more about the tech your are offering you've lost. Get out. Now. You better not only know your tech COLD but be able to answer every one of my challenges to your arguments as to why you think your solution is better than what I have. Especially if what I have is free. Get ready to throw down if you think otherwise. And guess what? You'll most likely lose.
Sounds harsh, but to be honest it's totally and invigoratingly enlightening and starkly honest. Bottom line: CIOs have NO TIME for BS. They have powerful filters that ensure that whatever hits their desk is damn well important. And when it hits their desk you had better be seriously prepared to deal with the barrage of questions they are going to ask to prove the ROI your solution offers over what they currently have - if anything - and why they should spend the next 2 minutes listening to you. You think you're going to get them on the phone using the standard pitch? Think again.
They have problems to solve, and those problems are BUSINESS problems, not technical ones. Make sure you've done your homework on not only your offerings but also their company. They don't have time for BS. Make your case, make it quick, and make it compelling from a business value - NOT a technical superiority - perspective.
To sum up: CIOs don't care about technical excellence. They have people to tell them what technical excellence means. They care about business value. Botttom lines. Solve my pain. Prove the ROI. Master these and you'll win.