Everything You Need to Know to Sell to Today’s Enterprise CIO

By Sharon Gillenwater

Recently we did a deep dive into the backgrounds of CIOs by analyzing data regarding nearly 1,000 CIOs in the Fortune 500 and beyond. If you are familiar with our service, you know we maintain in-depth profiles of several thousand CIOs as well as thousands of other C-suite executives. And, while much of our focus tends to be on their business initiatives and challenges to help sales teams create compelling strategies for partnering with customers, our profiles also contain rich, personal information, such as their hobbies, where they are from, and where they started their careers.

We set out to answer three questions:

  1. What does the enterprise CIO archetype look like?
  2. What do enterprise CIOs have most in common?
  3. How does the CIO archetype differ from the other C-level titles we profile in our database?

So what did we learn?

What Are CIOs Really Like: Five Insights

Insight #1: Our CIO group – in aggregate – looks quite different from other C-level executives.

They’re more cerebral in that they have more intellectually-focused interests and hobbies. They enjoy reading, writing, and speaking on topics such as technology and leadership. They’re more multilingual and globally focused. And they’re also more altruistic in that they show a strong interest in volunteering and mentoring.

Insight #2: Our analysis – which, again, looked at nearly 1,000 CIOs in the Fortune 500 and beyond – found that only 16 percent are women.

While this is a disappointingly small percentage, consider that, in 2017, only 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were women, which is itself a new record high.

Insight #3: Unlike when we look at other C-level titles, golf is not the favorite pastime.

For enterprise CIOs, travel tops the list of favorite hobbies, followed by running. Golf tied for third with cycling. After that came mentoring, reading, and skiing.

Insight #4: CIOs are a very international group.

They’ve lived and worked all over the world. After the U.S., our sample of nearly 1,000 enterprise CIOs come from Canada, India, South Africa, and the UK. Nearly six percent are multilingual, speaking 25 different languages in total. After English, top languages are French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Hindi.

Insight #5: The CIOs we looked at have been groomed in their early careers by a handful of large organizations – what we have come to call “leadership factories.”

These companies include IBM, Accenture, PwC, JPMorgan Chase, and GE Company. Many also cut their teeth in the military and other public sector organizations such as the Secret Service and the FBI.

Here are just a few examples of CIOs included in our study, which represent our findings well:

  • Tony Young is the global CIO at Sophos Ltd. He is a frequent traveler who has said he dreams of a “transporter” – the fictional teleportation device in Star Trek, of course. He also speaks Chinese.

  • Maya Leibman, EVP and CIO at American Airlines, has visited about 80 countries. Based in Dallas, she volunteers with several local organizations, including the “So SMAART” program, where she works with minority girls, ages 9 to 12, to teach them about technology and life.

  • Stephen Fraser, SVP and CIO at Realogy Corporation, has taken regular trips to India, has spent a lot of time in the UK and Italy, and is hard pressed to pick one favorite place. “It’s hard to pick Rome over Barcelona over London or Paris,” he has said. Fraser is also a mentor and coach at the Society for Information Management and a volunteer mentor at Everwise. He began his career as a client leader and consulting manager at Accenture.

  • Naveen Zutshi, CIO at Palo Alto Networks, enjoys traveling, reading, sports, and astrophysics. Born in Srinagar, India, his favorite books include Saturday, Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, A Brief History of Time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blue Ocean Strategy.

  • Luc Hennekens, Airbus Group’s CIO, speaks Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He loves mountain biking, triathlons, photography, adventure travel, scuba diving, skiing, golf, and sky-diving. He’s travelled to more than 45 countries and worked in 12.

  • Diane Enberg Jurgens, CTO at BHP Billiton Plc, is a Seattle native but lives and works in Singapore for an Australian company. She speaks Mandarin Chinese and enjoys traveling. Interested in attracting more American women to engineering careers, she mentors engineers.

  • Javier Polit, Procter & Gamble’s CIO, was born in Ecuador but raised in the U.S. He started his career at PwC after earning a Master of International Business Administration from Tiburg University in the Netherlands and a Master of International Management from the Budapest University of Economics and Science. Polit has since conducted business in more than 40 countries on five continents, and speaks French, Portuguese, and Spanish. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, reading, playing the guitar, racing cars, flying Cessna airplanes, riding his horses, and playing chess.

Certainly, these are accomplished people, but why should you care about all of this – what countries they’ve been to, the fact that they enjoy reading or running? Simple: The more you know – even beyond the essentials of the companies they work for – the better chance you have of making a connection.

It could be a connection with you; it could be a connection with an executive sponsor at your own company. If you are meeting at an event, it’s an opportunity to invite that person to go for a run or literally speak a common language. If, like your CIO, your target CIO got her start at Accenture or GE, they have very specific experiences in common – and your CIO may have a better understanding of her approach to business given their common career-forming foundation.

In sales, it always helps to know as much as possible about the executives with whom you need to connect in order to drive business forward. Deep insight into executive decision makers can be a powerful tool.

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, the only business intelligence tool designed exclusively for C-suite sales, marketing, and recruiters who need to reach, engage, and build relationships with C-level executives. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

How to Set Prospect Expectations During the Sales Process

By Sam Holzman

Picture this: A sales rep and a prospect begin the last of several meetings in the hopes of making a deal. Everything has gone smoothly so far, and both the sales rep and prospect expect to leave the meeting satisfied. However, when the sales rep gives the final details of the purchase, the prospect has objections. Eventually, they both leave the meeting frustrated and, ultimately, the sale falls through.

So, what went wrong? This scenario is all too common in the sales world – and it boils down to one thing: The sales rep failed to manage the prospect’s expectations throughout the sale process.

Today, we teach you how to avoid this situation with four easy tactics to manage your prospects’ expectations. Keep reading.

Four Tactics to Manage Prospect Expectations

Tactic #1: Establish goals.

Clear goals are the foundation of any sale. They ensure that both the sales rep and the prospect are working toward the same thing. If you fail to establish goals early on, you risk losing the prospect in the later stages of the sales cycle.

Here’s where many sales reps go wrong: They set goals during the first meeting, but fail to check in on them throughout the process. To start, discuss small goals to provide structure to your meetings. How long do you want the process to take? What do you hope to accomplish in each meeting? What are the next steps?

Then move on to bigger goals, like what the prospect hopes to accomplish with your product and what their ideal price point is.

Tactic #2: Be clear about anticipated outcomes.

Case studies and customer testimonials can be effective sales tools. They give prospects specific examples of what your product has done for past buyers. However, these materials showcase the best possible outcome and can often lead to unrealistic expectations during the sales qualification process – leaving your prospect disappointed and confused.

When you walk the prospect through the anticipated outcome, be hopeful but realistic. Don’t promise the best-case scenario just to sign a deal. If you promise results and then fail to deliver, you will lose any potential business with the prospect in the future.

Tactic #3: Work to extract specific answers.

A vague answer like “maybe” might seem harmless during an early conversation. But, down the line, these non-committal responses from prospects may result in deal-breaking problems. Therefore, it’s important that you push for specific answers from your prospects during your discovery calls. This might seem uncomfortable, but it will prevent either side from making incorrect assumptions about the other’s priorities.

For example, let’s say you want to establish a timeline with your prospect. You ask if they will be ready to make a decision on the deal by the end of the month, to which they say “maybe.” You don’t press for more details – and then, at the end of the month, the prospect reveals they still aren’t sure if they’re interested, and the deal drags out indefinitely. Avoid these last-minute roadblocks by getting concrete answers from the prospect early on.

Tactic #4: Get everything on the table.

Sales reps often hesitate to be upfront about important issues for fear of losing important deals. But building trust in sales is important. So be upfront and address potential roadblocks or issues as soon as you recognize them.

Yes, this means you might have to deliver bad news at times. But deal-breaking issues don’t just disappear if you ignore them. When you wait to address them until later in the process, you may have wasted the prospect’s time and your own.

Worst-case scenario: You disclose that your product may not be the best fit – or that it’s more expensive than the prospect’s allocated budget. You lose the deal and shift your attention to more qualified prospects. Best-case scenario? The prospect appreciates your honesty and works with you to overcome any barriers. Either way, you come out on top.

Final Thought: Not Every Prospect Is a Good Fit for You

Sales reps and buyers are rarely on the same page. Here’s a quick example: According to research from Hubspot, 83 percent of sales reps don’t think they’re pushy, yet more than 50 percent of buyers disagree. Using these four tactics, however, sales reps can better manage prospect expectations – leading to a better experience for all parties involved.

And remember: Not every prospect will be a good fit for your products or services. Setting prospect expectations early on can weed out the bad from the good and make your sales conversations more productive. With more productive and honest sales conversations, you’ll generate more deals and more lifelong customers.

Sam Holzman is the content marketing specialist at ZoomInfo, where he writes for their B2B sales and marketing blog. ZoomInfo is a leading B2B contact database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Visit zoominfo.com for more information.