By Sharon Gillenwater
Pity the poor chief information security officer (CISO). Once engaged in a role buried many layers down in an organization, the person in this position is now a business leader, CSO from IDG wrote recently.
According to Dawn-Marie Hutchinson, executive director in the Office of the CISO at Optiv, “The new CISO is more the CIRO (chief information risk officer) tasked with managing risk to data and technology.” It’s a high-pressure job and, on top of that, they’re dealing with “vendor overload.”
A Glut of Vendors
CSO from IDG noted there are more than a thousand companies pitching security tools and solutions. A 2015 report by CB Insights found that, over the past five years, $7.3 billion was invested into 1,208 private cybersecurity startups. Yikes! Who has the time to evaluate each offering – and still do their job?
As a vendor for enterprises in any industry, the last thing you want is for your team to aggravate potential customers like these CISOs with irrelevant information. The customer is hand wringing over problem X, but your folks are eager to download product details that address problem Y – or, even worse, rat-a-tat-tat about all your products, hoping to score with something.
Why Customers Are Overwhelmed
The customer, who is likely being pitched by scads of other vendors besides you, is justifiably irritated on any number of levels. The problem isn’t being solved. It’s a selling exercise – not an effort to solve problems. And, of course, a waste of their limited time.
In a recent article in Channel Partners, CenturyLink chief security officer David Mahon said that a lot of people are being pitched “gold-plated security tools” to solve a range of problems – some more pressing than others. He noted that, with so many vendors, enterprise customers are confused and he likens the situation to a construction project with too many subcontractors in the mix. “Something goes wrong, you have the plumber blaming the electrician, the electrician blaming the framer,” he said. “We need a consolidation, for a number of reasons.”
In the face of the ever-changing technology landscape, vendors overwhelm customers with irrelevant information when what is called for is precise targeting – especially if you are pitching to a busy executive.
Sure, the temptation is to tell them about everything in the hope of hitting on something they need. But a smarter approach is to do your homework and find out what the customer is focused on and then connect the dots between their needs and your products and services.
Five Tips to Stand Out from Your Competitors
With that in mind, here are five tips for targeting your pitch and cutting through the vendor “noise:”
- Do your research: The basics are key. Who are you going to be talking to? What are they focused on? What are the company’s goals and priorities, their setbacks and strategies, and their competitive position? What threats are they facing?
- Address market realities: You not only need to know their competition, you need to have a firm grasp of yours and how you are different. Your customer is facing a landscape in which the vendors and products – and the very technology itself – are constantly changing. Focus less on this “noise” and more on how your product or service alone can help them meet their business goals.
- Listen: If you go into a meeting anxious to download information, you’re going in to sell. But no one wants to be sold to. Instead, ask intelligent questions that reflect your knowledge of the customer’s business. Listen carefully to their answers and make real and clear connections between your offerings and their needs.
- Start with the basics: Instead of trying to be all things to the company, try to focus on their biggest priorities first. This will help you build credibility and earn the right to expand the business relationship.
- Be a collaborator and an advisor: Help your customer figure out what’s coming down the road by providing a steady drip of relevant, useful nuggets of information – anything that will help them plan for the future. Instead of wasting their time, you become a go-to advisor.
As technologies evolve and vendors grow in numbers by leaps and bounds, meeting customers where they live becomes essential. Instead of being the bore who annoys CXOs with too much that addresses too little, do your research and tap into their concerns and needs with just enough of the right details to pique their interest.
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.