How to pitch a CIO successfully

Here are key tips to help technology and services vendors successfully sell to CIOs.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Balancing IT constraints and realities against organizational business goals, schedules, and budgets means the typical CIO constantly juggles multiple priorities. These pressures make CIOs a tough sell for vendors, especially during these challenging economic times.

For vendors seeking to pitch a CIO, success comes from pricing your offer competitively, ensuring it solves a real problem, and defining the ROI or value in concrete terms. Beyond these basics, it's critical to pitch the CIO substantively. Especially during this difficult period, vendors should avoid marketing fluff in favor of clear, straightforward, and compelling presentations.

Information Week blogger, Scott Vaughan, wrote about these issues after speaking informally with several CIOs. The CIOs gave Scott this advice:

  • Case Studies. “Very helpful when provided by technology provider, especially when they are written by third party (trusted analysts, media, etc.)” Case Studies should include all of the following elements (wherever possible): business goal, the stakeholders involved, overview of client process and/or timeline, technology architectural approach, options that were evaluated, technology deployed, and business outcomes. Lead with vertical market wherever possible. Charts, graphs, time lines and templates – while not always directly applicable – spark ideas and are great starters for the prospect reading the case study.
  • Lessons Learned. “The MOST valuable.” This is taking a case study discussed above and adding a couple of important elements.
    1. If you re-did the project, what would you do differently?
    2. Three things you must do to be successful
    3. A bibliography of information resources they can turn to for more information (list of URLs with very brief abstracts).

  • Customer References. Invaluable to CIOs and are a critical part of business and sales/marketing programs. Since these are not always publicly on the record, we can utilize during the short list process where references are checked. This typically happens in partnership with sales and their procurement department directly via a phone or live conversation versus a written case study.
  • Customer Success Stories. “Never use these for external publishing to get me to read – very okay for sales references.” Success Stories are a clear signal that the company installed your product and everything worked perfectly. There is absolutely no value or need to read. According to the group of CIOs, these are stories not reality. BANISH THIS LANGUAGE and re-think, re-label and re-write. As the CIO of Citigroup EMEA said, “…I already know the bloody ending. Why would I ever read it?” NOTE: There is still huge value in listing your customers and successes. Words and context matter.

These are great comments for vendors trying to sell enterprise technology or services. To position your firm well during the sales process, follow Scott's advice to make life just a tad easier for the CIO.

Editorial standards