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Why CIOs Don’t Pick Up the Phone

Why CIOs Don’t Pick Up the Phone

Prospecting, selling, and success in the IT-Business arena

A recent conversation in a blog illuminated a lot of erroneous thinking on several people’s part (if I may dare to say so) regarding prospecting -largely cold sales calls -and selling in the technical arena.

My qualification in this area is several-fold:  I was an IT Director for 20 years in a major Metro environment; I worked in the Fortune 100, association/non-profit, government agency spaces; and I am at present involved in business development for a successful custom enterprise/mobile application development company.  I do a fair amount of cold calling to business prospects, as well as making sales to current clients.

I was never a C-class executive (prior to my present employment; I was never a CIO, CTO, COO).  However, this is an advantage for today’s discussion:  IT Directors and Managers are closer to the grunt work.  They manage vendors, projects, HelpDesks; they resolve business-IT problems where the rubber meets the road.  C-class execs are far removed from both the day-to-day, and even the granular planning for the sustained relevancy of IT’s fit-to-business.  They’re concerned with high-level budgeting, over-all business fits, and comprehensive enterprise goals.  As to the details – they’ve got the directors and managers for that.

If you’re selling something, recognize that a C-class exec is not generally going to be your entrée (unless you know someone personally, but that’s another thing).  Most execs – and for that matter, most directors and managers – don’t pick up their phones on inbound calls from an unrecognizable number.  I don’t, nor do the vast majority of my colleagues.

So – what to do?  It’s not like you can throw cold-calling out the window – nor should you.  It can and does pay off.  It requires diligence and patience, for sure.  But – recognize that calling C-class execs is a waste of time.  Hit the directors and managers.

Leveraging voicemail

Yet, they most often don’t pick up either.  Whether they’re avoiding unrecognized numbers, or just by virtue of them often being away from their desk, you’re left with voicemail.

Ah, now here’s where it’s very important to have a solid plan, a template, for the ideal voicemail.

  • One:  Relax your voice.  Be well-modulated, and don’t speak too quickly (a temptation, being that you have a limited amount of time).
  • Two:  Get a “hook” in early.  You’re obviously going to “up front” your product/s and your solution/s as a fit to their environment.  But the actual hook? 
    • Tout your affordability (as a differentiator to the next/present vendor). 
    • Subsequent:  Your efficiency. 
    • And after that:  Your accuracy. 
    • Overall:  We’re on-target, on-time, and on-budget.

Essentially, you have to pique their curiosity on a voicemail by convincing them you can do things economically, better, and faster.

If you’re not sensing that your voicemails are too long (or if you run out of time – the dreaded “you have 15 seconds to complete your message”), make the point that you can alleviate pain, and avoid disruptions as you emplace solutions.  This is of big interest and salability as well.

Do these things, and you just might get a call-back.  I frequently do – or an e-mail.  Once we set up an intro call, we get them to go for a “proof-of-concept” project – something small and reasonable.  Scope it, deliver it, and you’ll find yourself spec’ing their next large project.

Good luck out there.

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