Selling to the Enterprise from the CIO Perspective #demo2013

Startups, established businesses and veteran sales people often seek an audience with CIOs from the largest companies. Here is the advice four of them gave this week at the DEMO 2013  conference in Silicon Valley.

Build Relationships

CIOs from the Fortune 100 might be out of reach for all but the largest of enterprise players, but Workday's Steven John, BDP International's Angela Yochem, DISH Network's Mike McClaskey and EchoSign cofounder Jason Lemkin all made themselves available for a brief round table on how to pitch a CIO at DEMO Fall 2013.

"CIOs often spend 70 percent of their budgets on maintaining existing systems and the other 30 percent on innovating," John said. "We want to hear about things that help us focus more on innovation."

Particularly for startups, executives might seem intimidating at first. Because of that, they may address sales calls to line of business directors or other business leaders instead. This strategy can backfire, McClaskey said. A common tactic startups use is to build their customer base and then approach a CIO with a message that the tool is already widely used and successful.

"CIOs are looking for technologies their competitors may not even have," McClaskey said. "If one of my competitors may already be using something, we might pass on it."

Even if that particular company doesn't end up buying, it is fair to ask the CIO to recommend another  person to call,  Yochem said.

"If a company doesn't have a need for that particular product at that time and they are impressed by the technology anyway, that is a perfectly professional thing to ask," she said.

This kind of relationship building is helpful because once that trust is established, it becomes easier for business connections to form.

CIOs Are People Too

CIOs have their trusted networks just like any other business professional and establishing relationships with them and people on their teams helps build credibility, McClaskey said. Sometimes, a company or product will be brought to a CIOs attention by an adviser and the CIO will reach out to that company instead of the other way around.

It's happening more often, in fact, because CIOs are always looking for innovative technologies, McClaskey said. CIOs are now getting curated exposure to some venture capitalists' portfolios in order to help this kind of process along.

Companies like big thinking and innovative ideas and startups should embrace that when trying to solve problems inside large companies.

"Every company has a need for technology that is key for its survival and that is lead by someone on the executive team," Yochem said.

Too many companies don't go for the brass ring, she said, referring to those startups that avoid CIOs for whatever reason. Providing critical technology to the enterprise is all about solving white spaces, Lemkin said, and if that can be done, CIOs will be the ones who find the money it takes to bring that technology in.

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