• Are You CIO Worthy?

    Gartner says CIOs are spending too much time with vendors – laying down gauntlet to vendor sales to add more value, or get lost.

    Gartner thinks CIOs are spending too much of their precious time with vendors, and advises to significantly curtail this activity. According to a poll of 1,300 organizations as reported by Linda Tucci (TechTarget) from Gartner Symposium/ITxpo this past month, a total of 13.5% of total IT time is spent on vendor management and procurement. As most CIOs have been forced to do more with less, this time allocation is more precious than ever. As a result of the significant amount of time spent, and the apparent lack of value-add , Gartner recommends vendor time be significantly reduced.

    “Your time is very expensive. Your employees need that time. Your executives need that time — and vendors are consuming that time,” Gartner analyst William Snyder said. “Time is squandered.”

    If you thought getting that executive IT meeting was hard before, this won’t make it any easier!

    Of course Gartner does understand that some vendors are more strategic, indicating that: “It’s important that you meet with the vendors that make a difference to your organization.”  Unfortunately, most IT executives don’t view the average vendor salesperson as strategic.  Don’t think this applies to you, that you are CIO worthy and your sales engagements are viewed as strategic and value add?

    According to IDC, buyers clearly indicate that sales readiness is on the decline, with 29% unprepared for meetings, and 36% somewhat prepared. A little more than 1 in 3 sales professionals are indicated as well prepared.

    According to Forrester, as reported in their Sales Enablement Forum earlier this year, buyers can easily categorize salesperson agendas, with:

    • 27% only wanting to tell the buyer about their products / solutions (transactional focused) at over 27% of the time;
    • 41% listening for a keyword or two so they can give a prepared pitch (buzz word solution focused).

    This leaves only one in three sales professionals as strategic: truly focused on helping buyers find the right solution and focused on assuring the outcome /  or value the recommendations can provide.

    So, how can you make sure you are viewed as strategic, or can migrate your relationship quickly from tactical to strategic in order to earn their precious time and attention, maintain and grow CIO opportunities?

    Here are our top five recommendations that can fuel more strategic engagements with CIOs:

    1.  Strategic knowledge – you need to know the overall strategic direction of the prospect, and current performance against goals. With established customers, this means cultivating relationships that can openly share with you strategic goals, performance and insight. For new prospects, this means staying up to date on the latest news and reports for the prospect making sure you have read the annual and quarterly financial filings, listened to quarterly earnings calls and has reviewed the latest press releases and coverage. Social media can sometimes prove valuable, listening for opportunities and issues, or even posting questions and collaborating.

    Goal: Use this research on goals and opportunities to develop and prioritize your proposals to help address strategic goals. Use inside knowledge to help facilitate the buying process for the CIO, providing content that helps them address stakeholder concerns and overcome objections.

    2.  Industry and competitive knowledge –strategic insight requires that you not only know the customer, but know the marketplaces they are playing in, and the competition. Are the customer’s market opportunities increasing, or challenged? Are their pressures on their business model and operations? How are they performing versus competitors?  Are their new competitors that are changing the game?

    Goal : Use this knowledge to position proposals to address industry and competitive challenges, or use the knowledge to provide unique insight to the CIO, developing unsolicited proposals with ideas on how new solutions can meet these challenges.

    3.  Diagnostic Assessments –A diagnostic capability and maturity assessment can often be used to assess current practices, comparing the current practices against best-in-class and peer benchmarks in order to help buyers better classify and prioritize known opportunities, with third-party evidence that the issues are real and important, and illuminating important issues they didn’t even know they had.

    Goal: Provide a consultative framework for progressive improvement. Move beyond the normal product/solution approach to a consultative diagnostic engagement, helping the buyer competitively benchmark performance, uncover and prioritize important issues, and tying recommendations directly to the highest priority issues.

    4.  Relevant Success Stories – CIOs are risk adverse, and knowing that others have achieved similar success, especially those of similar industry or size and opportunity can help mitigate risk fears. Proactively sharing relevant success stories can seed ideas and promote important improvements. Enhanced case studies with video and audio can be more effective, providing evidence of success in the customers own voice/ image.

    Goal: Help CIOs realize that others are addressing similar opportunities with tangible success.  Overcome risk by proving that similar companies have successful implementations and achieved promised outcomes.

    5.  Financial Justification – For today’s risk adverse and budget constrained CIO it is often easier to do nothing, than change. As a result, CIOs are financially focused, with over 90% requiring ROI proof for any new projects. However, these same CIOs have opportunities to address and goals to be achieved. From a recent IT buyer survey, Demand Creation Specialists indicate that over 50% of new project and discretionary budgets are allocated, not at the beginning of the year, but dynamically for projects that are justified. Proving financial rewards for proposed projects can help prioritize high reward/low risk projects over others that deliver less growth opportunities or savings and bottom-line impact.

    Goal: Provide a business case for high value projects to help make the case for change. Proactively help CIOs recognize higher ROI projects and proactively acquire budgets to fund these rewarding proposals.

    The Bottom-Line

    CIOs are being urged to spend less time with IT vendors, particularly those that are not strategic. At the same time, more buyers report a decided lack of sales readiness and that two out of three salespeople are tactical vs. strategic, adding little value-add.

    IT solution providers should not take IT executive relationships for granted, as many will head Gartner’s advice, closing the door to vendor access and opportunities.

    Sales enablement and capabilities investments must be made to add value to each engagement, migrating relationships from tactical to strategic. This includes improving the ability to gather and communicate strategic, industry and competitive knowledge, perform and deliver diagnostic assessments, share relevant success stories and make the case for change with financial justification business cases.

    A CIO’s time is expensive; not every vendor relationship deserves it, Linda Tucci, TechTarget, October 27, 2011


    Tom Pisello founded Alinean, Inc., in 2001 where he coined the term, “Frugalnomics.”  You can read his daily blog at Tom Pisello: The ROI Guy.

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