Engaging the CIO

I have discussed before the different aspects of engaging CIOs in order to sell into their organization.  As the CIO of Westcon, I am often asked to be a proxy for the CIOs of our customer’s customer.  Westcon runs seminars and sessions around this process, in order to help our customer’s succeed.  It is part of the value proposition that is Westcon, and we are happy to do it.

In these sessions we often structure the material around real life examples.  I thought two recent examples were noteworthy and would share them here.

The good and the bad

The good – as a company that has been through a few acquisitions, there is some legacy voice equipment still running within the company globally.  Intuitively one can imagine that there are incremental costs (maintenance and support primarily) that could be eradicated if we could be on a single standard platform.  And we could provide a more globally consistent unified communications experience for our employee’s.  But, standardizing just to standardize does not always make financial sense.  One of our key VOIP suppliers stepped forward and said that they would be willing to work with us to standardize our entire global VOIP platform, assuming we could make the ROI work.  Even though there is a significant investment of time that our Manager of Voice & Data would need to make to complete the analysis, the fact that the vendor came forward with an opportunity wherein the final decision would be premised on a positive ROI has made the engagement very productive for everyone involved.  And, even if for some reason the ROI does not work (which I am sure it will), I am definitely pre-disposed to looking at that vendor first for any future solutions.  And, I am more than happy to open up to her what my entire IT strategy is, because she has shown herself to be a true partner, focused on my needs.  Of course, she is trying to sell me something, but if it solves my problems, then everyone is happy.

The bad – conversely, recently we had a series of experiences at two levels that might be worth shareing.  First, there is the blind call/email.  There is nothing wrong with a supplier running a campaign, identifying me as a prospect and then either emailing or calling me to see if I am interested.  That’s how IT works.  But, there is a line that I feel seems to be getting crossed more and more.  If I do not respond to your email or call, please do not berate me or accuse me of being inconsiderate because I did not answer your email.  That’s not how it works.  I would say that the tone of the “follow up” has gotten more aggressive in the past 18 months.  I guarantee you that no IT leader appreciates being told by a stranger that it is inconsiderate that they have not received a response or “I have tried you many times and you don’t answer”.  Well, get the hint.  There is nothing wrong with sending a CIO a follow up to an original email,
stating something like “maybe you missed the first one”, but nicely make it clear that if there is no response to the follow up, there will be no more follow ups.  IT leaders get so many contacts every day that they quite often do not get to every email, and solicitations are at the bottom of the pile of emails or calls to reply to.  Personally I would rather get a “checking in” email every 6 months or so as opposed to the email that says “why haven’t you returned my emails?”.  In either case, don’t be surprised if you do not get a response but do be considerate in any follow up you may make.  (something about bees and honey and vinegar?)

The second-level of mistakes we have run into recently is the opposite or the lack of follow up.  If we are talking about something together, and there is a genuine opportunity, then I expect you will follow up with me or my team.  Yes, it requires work.  Similar to the “good” example above, if you want the business you will have to make the investment.  But, as with the above “good” example, your investment pays back in multiple forms.  First, hopefully you get new business, but second, you get access to a larger portion of the IT organization and third, perhaps you get a view as to the key strategic imperatives of the firm.  Ironically, if you never follow up with me, or expect me to take the next step, you will probably receive little more than an empty feeling that nothing was accomplished.  I may be difficult to reach, but show progress based on our last conversation, demonstrable progress, and any IT leader worth their salt will take the help.  “Tell me something I don’t know” about my own organization or the industry I compete in, and you will get my attention.  But, even if in our last call I said I would do something, and it didn’t yet happen, follow up with some more information to make sure I am fully aware of all the value you can provide to my organization.

It may be that times are tough, so folks are getting too aggressive at some points.  Or, perhaps business is starting to really pick up, leads are coming in, and you are dropping a few leads here and there.  IT managers remember things, for a long time.  Always make sure you have the bandwidth to engage with a prospective IT leader, otherwise it will backfire severely.  Conversely, making the commitment to become a true partner with the IT leader will always lead to more long-term business.

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One response to “Engaging the CIO

  1. Pit Burkhardt

    Good points on how to structure the engagement such that it becomes productive – and not a nuisance…

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