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At Big Sky Communications, we keep our eyes on the big picture. We watch the latest high-tech marketing trends and look out for what’s ahead. One way we do that is by inviting industry leaders to share their thinking with us on a range of business communications topics. If you want to stay at least one step ahead of the competition, too, join us regularly on this page for Q&As, essays, how-to articles, and other insights from the experts.

The importance of customer references is reinforced in this article by Michael Friedenberg, CEO and President of CXO Media, Publisher of CIO Magazine.

5 Principles in Selling and Marketing to the CIO

In my recent conversations with many of you, we have discussed possible "best practices" when marketing or selling to a CIO. I decided to go to the source—CIOs—for their advice, rather than answering this question based on my own thoughts. Here is what they had to say:

1. Share great peer-based examples

There is no better sales/marketing tool than a happy customer willing to share their story. Peer-to-peer advice is the #1 information resource CIOs use when making a purchase decision. Show great examples of where you have deployed your solution in a similar industry and/or environment. If you have happy CIOs, get them to spread the gospel.

2. Come clean about the good, the bad, and the ugly

CIOs really want to hear the true story, knowing that IT projects are not easy. Be up-front and honest on expectations. Too many CIOs say that they only hear infomercials. Tell them where they should expect some pain and how you plan to overcome that in true partnership form. Technology is still complex—changing business process is even harder—marrying the two takes it to a whole different level.

3. Make sure it maps to their objectives

Today's IT solutions are a perfect example of the ability to start small, prove it works and then expand across the enterprise. Mapping the solution to a small part of the business and making it work, will allow you to build the credibility to expand further. It seems simple, but CIOs say that too many tech vendors are still trying to boil the ocean.

4. Talk competition but not competitive

CIOs know the market and the vendors. CIOs get very frustrated when they ask the basic question of "Who is your competition?" and you answer "We have no competition." WRONG ANSWER! CIOs know the competitive landscape and will search them out if you don't provide them with the information. At the same time, they don't want you to slam the competition. Sell your services, know the competition and avoid slamming the competitors.

5. Market and sell to the CIO

In a recent CIO Magazine Tech Poll, the average sales cycle when the CIO is aware of your brand is 4 months compared to 6 months when they are not aware of you. Sounds basic, but you need to include the CIO in your sales and marketing strategy. (I know this might sound a bit self-serving but trust me on this).

If you can follow these 5 principles, I think you will find a receptive audience.

Happy Marketing!

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Michael Friedenberg,
CEO and President,
CXO Media