Tech Vendors: Create a Connection Early in the Sales Experience

Like most CIO’s, I get messages daily from sales reps at companies that I don’t do business with currently. A few catch my attention, and some I will respond to. The methods and timing for vendor communication can create a positive association or a negative one, and it’s important to know that fine line. So, here are a few things vendors can do to create a connection in a positive way, helping them get a foot in the door.

  1. Research my company and relate the product or service to us.
    I work for a medium-size technology media, events, research and marketing services company. Sending me information about a manufacturing supply chain solution wastes both your time and mine. My peers think this is important as well.   In our Customer Engagement study, 80% of them said the representative being familiar with the particular line of business is important.
  2. Provide relevant information.
    Generic messages don’t make for a good first impression. By sending me tailored content such as links to white papers and webinars that are relevant to my industry and company size, I am much more likely to engage with you. It’s also important to make sure the content is balanced and educational. Early in a sales cycle, IT groups need education about a vendors’ product or service market. It’s not time yet to dive into feature sets for a specific offering or why one company is better than the competition. But even more importantly, if you do send relevant content, be able to speak to what it is about. One of my peers at a recent IDG Engage event related the story of having downloaded a white paper. Following that download his phone started to ring, every day at the same time, without the person leaving a message. So, after several days of this, he picked up the phone. When the sales person on the other end asked him what he thought of the white paper, the CIO turned it around and asked him what he thought of it. There was a long pause followed by the embarrassed admission that the sales person did not know which white paper the CIO had downloaded.
  3. Preferred Method of Follow-up
    My voicemail message suggests hanging up and sending me an email. Just like my peers, my preferred method of follow-up is by email. If you need to leave a message, make it short, and offer an incentive for me to contact you – such as a no-strings-attached offer to come for an hour and educate my team on the market. If you do reach me on the phone, I suggest being prepared with a good opening that lets me know you have researched my company and me, and understand a little bit about us. Give me the answer to the question, “why should I keep listening?”
  4. Enhance the connection in your follow-up.
    If I don’t respond in a timely manner, don’t just forward the same email or leave the same voicemail message. Send me a different educational link to a webinar, white paper or article that is connected to the vendors’ product market and relevant to me. When I receive a thoughtful follow-up message, I’m more apt to think the sales rep would be a good resource and I’m more likely to respond.

I know that sometimes a company dictates the follow-up process. I also understand that researching each company and person takes time, and that finding relevant content is hard. But if a sales person demonstrates that they’ve taken that time, it differentiates them. Ultimately, you will be more effective by being focused, engaging, and relevant. At this stage, your job is to engage not sell.

Want to gain a deeper understanding of the types of content consumed throughout the tech purchase process, along with insight into keeping the conversation going with timely and informed sales follow-up? View the 2016 IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement Research.    

CIOs and vendors  – share your stories about customer engagement – tweet me at @Newkirk_IDG.


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