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Selling Enterprise IT: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

Sharon Gillenwater
by Sharon Gillenwater on Jan 25, 2015 10:14:00 AM

This week the Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal ran an article by two Bain & Company partners entitled, Why Enterprise Technology Customers Are Not Happy (and What to Do About It).

Screen Shot 2015 01 25 at 7.34.35 AM

According to the article:

  • A Bain & Company survey of marketing, customer service and supply chain functions found that nearly a third of technology purchasing power has moved beyond IT to so-called line-of-business executives.
  • Technology vendors need to get better at selling to executives outside of IT—for example, chief marketing officers and HR leaders—while maintaining strong ties with CIOs, who still lead or have input to purchasing decisions
  • Vendors need to transform their sales approach and invest improving customer loyalty and the customer experience. 

The article then provided specific insight into how the sales focus needs to shift. Among the points made:

  • Your buyers will vary from company to company, so you need to understand the key players:  According to the article, "In some companies, CIOs will still lead the decision-making process, but they will also consider more input from the business and functional leaders. In other companies, CIOs will only provide input or may even be cut out from the decision process altogether. Technology providers see this happening, but few are ahead of the game in figuring out how to respond. One mistake they make is assuming that the shift will occur uniformly across functions. However, in most companies sales and marketing executives appear to have more power in decisions about technology than their peers in, for example, the supply chain or customer service."
  • Sales teams show skills gaps: "Another common mistake we see is telling sales teams just to extend their IT sales efforts to business buyers...Sales teams that have successfully sold to IT may lack the capabilities to sell to executives in other parts of the business...In reality, these new customers look at technology differently than traditional buyers do. IT buyers are accustomed to evaluating a technology’s features and functionality, and their teams routinely do a lot of integration and customization work. Business buyers are more focused on outcomes, and they think about how long it will take for the technology to boost sales or reduce costs."

We've said it once and we'll say it again. Whether you are selling to CIOs or LOB execs, a cookie-cutter approach focused on your product's features and benefits is not effective. Instead, focus on being relevant to an audience of one, do your homework on their business initiatives and connect the dots to your offer.

To learn more about how to be relevant to any decision maker, check out our recent webinar, The Relevance Advantage, in which we take you through a real-life example and show you how to connect the dots between an executive's "careabouts" and your solutions.

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Sharon Gillenwater
Written by Sharon Gillenwater
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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