Content Discovery Smackdown: Hootsuite vs. Buffer vs. KloutContent Marketing Minds: Ingredients of the Tastiest Content [Nutrition Label]From the Corn Field to the Digital Era: Content Marketing Starts with TrustContent Marketing: Is 2014 Really Shaping Up to Be the Year of Video?
Your Customers Aren’t Listening! How to Create Consumer Dialogue that Converts4 Tools for Nonprofit Social Listening and Reputation ManagementThe Promising Role of Social Listening in Treating Health IssuesThe Importance of Social Listening for Brands
- Public Relations
Facebook Testing a Way for Users to Buy Products on the Platform7 Website Tips to Attract More Shoppers to Your PagesHow eCommerce, Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Redefine the Retail ExperienceSearch Query Analysis to Increase eCommerce Website Conversions
- Content Marketing
Technology & Data
Social Startups: Bizible Connects All the Dots from Marketing Contributions to RevenueCreating the Perfect Profile for Your Social Media Marketing EffortUsing GPS and Localization for Social AnalyticsAnalytics and Prospect Intel: Discovering Your Ideal Prospect
- Big Data
- Tech & Innovation
3 Security Risks You’re Taking Every Day While Using Social MediaShould the President Have the Power to "Pull the Plug" on the Internet?How Safe is Your WordPress Website From Hackers and Other Malicious Attacks?
- Software & Tools
- Small Business
- Social Organization
Celebrating the Grand Re-Launch of Social Media Today! SBH Podcast Episode 8Why Should You Care If Your Employees Are Thought Leaders?Beyond Engagement: The Art of Managing Social-Media Risk in Employee Advocacy
Why All-in-One Social Media Management Systems Don't Cut It for Social Customer ServiceWhat You Should Know About Customer, Digital, and Contextual ExperienceSurging into Q3: How to Make It Better Than Q2Is How You Serve Your Customers Costing You Business?
Join us September 15th in Atlanta for The Employee Advocacy Summit and learn how to unleash the power of your employees.
Post your event here and we'll share it with our community. If one of our members is featured, we'll promote as well on their profile.
- Marketplace & Webinars
The SMT Marketplace
Your resource for exclusive content and insights from Social Media Today, and opportunities to reach our community of professionals.
The Social Business Book Club brings you books, discussions, and insights from today's to business thought leaders.
Join interactive talks and and panel discussions with leading thinkers and practitioners on social media and networked business, or browse the catalogue of recorded sessions - all completely free.
Reach Social Media Today's community of marketing and communications professionals in an editor-approved context with a native advertising package.
What You Need to Know when Selling to the CTO
Posted on March 28th 2014
In the past, I’ve blogged about the new sales cycle and how it has changed completely in the past several years. As a follow-up, here are current insights from an executive roundtable hosted by the Georgia CxO Forum, the Social Executive Council and TAG Social.
At the session, tech execs opened up about how they approach the buying process, and what they’re looking for from vendors. Bjarke Ormstrup, VP, IT at EndoChoice, Martin Schmidler, VP of IT with Unipro Foodservice and Dan Webber, CTO & CFO of Monacle Health affirmed the fact that the sales process for technology solutions has been turned inside out.
Technology buyers know what they need, and they often have a roadmap the stretches one to three years in the future. As a result, they’re looking for solutions to a well-defined set of problems.
It Starts with Research
Dan Weber explained that he and his peers have thoroughly researched options through a variety of channels before sitting down with vendors. Usually, he says, “We know more about the product than the person selling it.” Buyers develop a deep understanding of capabilities, pricing, discount levels and vendor reputation “before we take the first call.”
While research is critical, one CTO pointed out that vendors are not using the same language to describe problems as their buyers are. Martin Schmidler explained that he finds vendor websites loaded with features and functions instead of real solutions. It’s very rare, he says, to discover one who leads with an understanding of their clients’ problems and how their offering solves it.
An IT buyer’s search for solutions may start on Google with an expression that describes the problem at hand. Since most vendors aren’t speaking in these customer-focused terms, buyers must poke around the search results until they find the vendor language that describes offerings that fit. Then they can search using these terms to narrow the field.
Martin shared that it’s unusual for a vendor to pop up in the first round search results with problem-oriented content, making the research process more challenging. As a provider, imagine how much more productive it would be if your company appeared on the top when the buyer’s problem was entered in the search box?
Because simple web searches don’t yield all the answers, buyers rely on social networks as well–and not the ones that you might think of immediately. They’re not turning to Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn to identify potential partners. Instead, they’re accessing their peer networks of CIOs and CTOs who openly share their knowledge and solutions. They rely on trusting relationships that develop over time.
Relationships and Reputation
These industry networks allow buyers to connect with people who have experienced similar situations and don’t mind helping others. Members of these groups can share pointers on which vendors are reliable and trustworthy, and which are not.
When you’re selling to this group, your personal reputation is even more important than your company’s brand. As one panelist said, “I’m looking for a 2 AM vendor.” That’s the person who be available when the chips are down and he needs help. This doesn’t mean he’s going to call every night at 2 AM, but when he does, he need an answer. In return, he expects to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship that’s not just about the dollars.
By the same token, Bjarke mentioned that it may take as long as five or even ten years to develop the kind of relationship that leads to business. He explained, “I may not need you now, but when I do, I’ll know exactly who to call.”
This is much longer than most sales reps would like, but the reality is that a vendor partner who proves himself over time by providing answers and helping buyers find the right solutions to a variety of problems will be of more value and is more likely to win business in the long term.
A few years ago tech buyers relied on the RFP process to help them identify the right vendors for their needs. With buying cycles compressed, no one has time for a six-month RFP process. They need solutions quickly to keep their plans on track. Add to that the fact that, ”anyone can game an RFP,” according to Bjarke, and the value of that exercise is dwindling.
Today, there is more emphasis on using proof of concept to validate vendor qualifications. These small, speedy implementations can show that a solution works as advertised. When it does, there’s an opportunity to expand the footprint, scaling the business over time.
Contracts, when they exist, are also shorter than they used to be. Buyers demand a way to exit unproductive relationships. If a vendor doesn’t live up to expectations or fails to show that they are in the relationship for the long haul, it’s easier than ever for a buyer to disengage.
As the seller, if you do not deliver, word will spread. Buyers who are actively speaking to their peers both online and off will share information and offer warnings to others when appropriate.
At an organizational level, technology vendors need to develop a culture that inspires their people to focus on more than immediate gratification. Individuals at these firms should remember that their personal reputation is just as important as (if not more than) the brand of the company they represent. An offering that incorporates the right features and functions can seal a deal, but a mindset that drives one to consistently solve a buyers’ problems can propel a career.
Whatever business you’re in, it pays to monitor the trends. Sales habits and buying processes can evolve rapidly, and you have to stay ahead of the curve. Tune in to your customers’ needs, their concerns and frustrations, and you will accelerate the growth of your business while competitors that turn a deaf ear fall behind.
(CTO / shutterstock)