Posted by: Arun Gupta
CIO, engaging the CIO, Improper Selling Tactics, Selling to the CIO
This is the second part of the series of articles on the improper selling-tactics adopted by IT vendors while engaging with the CIOs. Read the first part, ‘Stop Selling!’. Also read: ‘How should vendors engage with CIOs?‘
The solution expert across the table looked crestfallen; his manager besides him attempted to calm his frayed nerves while the account manager to his right did not know where to look. The CIO had advised them that the solution was not relevant to his future needs and the discussion was over. Breaking the uncomfortable silence, the manager sought to find a silver lining in the cloud, a sliver of hope that there may be a faint opportunity in the future? Firmly declined the CIO; then things started going out of hand!
The starting point of the meeting was the aspiration of the incumbent solution provider to retain the customer who had decided to move to a competing solution. Over the years that the company had been using the solution, the relationship was managed by vendors’ partners with the principle staying hands off. Challenges with the implementation and support were largely managed by the partner. As the company started feeling the pinch of a suboptimal deployment and support, they sought alternatives.
The alternative solution was not really an alternative but an industry leader with now a dominant local and global market share. After multiple futile attempts to reach across the teams of the incumbent provider, the CIO gave up and started working with layers of his enterprise to gain their support for a disruptive transformation and go with the market leading solution. As the news reached the incumbent, their leaders started arriving in droves to rescue the situation; this was one such meeting.
Unwilling to accepting “No” to his plea, the expert started challenging the decision, making criteria stating his solution was as good if not better than the competing product which had a higher TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). While the number of customers today may be lower, the new upcoming product would compete head on. All other things being equal, why did the CIO not get this? Why was he insistent on going with the other expensive solution with significantly higher license and implementation costs?
The exasperated CIO raised his voice a notch and stated that ROI and TCO were not the primary factors for the decision; the company had lost faith in the incumbent solution and the vendors’ ability to support the new business requirements. The company needed a better and globally accepted solution. Their solution has not found favor within the industry after so many years and neither has the vendor engaged with the company in a way that induces confidence; so no point continuing the discussion.
Desperation defying logic, the red in the face expert could not face the ignominy and wanted to know what he or his company could do to retain the business. How can he prevent the entry of the competing product and solution? He was now clutching invisible straws. The account manager wished the earth would swallow him, while the boss-man tried to pacify the agitated expert. The amused CIO simply said, “I don’t have to answer your questions; this meeting is over” and walked out of the room.
Selling is an art as much as a science. Peter Drucker postulated: “A customer never buys what we sell”. The transaction completes when the need to sell is aligned to a need to buy. In the absence of a balanced equation, the relationship sits on a weak foundation; then the possibility of successful execution is reduced leaving everyone vulnerable. Unfortunately an open dialogue is rarely understood or appreciated today in our target pressures driven by monthly, quarterly, or annual budgets.
I believe that vendors should learn to accept “No” as much as they like to hear good news. Every time every one cannot get a favorable deal; someone will be deprived of success. Don’t push beyond the break point, lest you end up compromising relationships. The CIO too should not be swayed by these tactics, pressure from other CXOs, or end-of-season sale kind of deals. The relationship is based on demand and supply as much as on trust and respect. Any change in the equation will have an impact.