7 tips for selling to the CIO

CIOs are frustrated by the sales practices of IT vendors (image credit: Shutterstock)
CIOs are frustrated by the sales practices of IT vendors (image credit: Shutterstock)
CIOs are frustrated by the sales practices of IT vendors (image credit: Shutterstock)

Let’s face it, selling to the modern day CIO is not an easy task. These industry executives essentially live busy lives. They are busy 24/7, and are bombarded with technical sales calls day in and day day out; however, there are ways and means to successfully sell to them.

Ahead of the upcoming Selling to the CIO seminar in Johannesburg, here is our list of 7 tips for selling to the CIO:

1. Understand their challenges
The modern day CIO is an extremely busy individual. Not only are they swamped with technical sales calls, but they are also trying to meet a criteria of objectives that will impact senior management in a positive manner. Much like most positions, this will allow them the opportunity to advance their careers.

By selecting the perfect vendors, CIO’s gain the upper hand in their position. Management wants to know that the CIO has what it takes to move the business forward. But what can you do to get into their good books? Your ability to make a CIO successful is critical to them being willing to engage into a business relationship with you as well as purchase your technology products and services.

At the end of the day, it is all about understanding that the modern day CIO wants to move up in the world of business. And he/she will only be interested in investing their time into something that will essentially meet this requirement.

2. It’s face-to-face or nothing at all

Booking time with a CIO can be a difficult task; however, once you have them hooked it is best to be prepared when you pitch. While a phone call can do the trick, it is always best to meet face-to-face. When selling to the CIO, always be prepared to provide as much information as possible when meeting with them. Remember, their time is short. So delivering the facts is more essential and efficient than trying to deliver haphazard promises.

3. Know the business and technology landscape before you call

As mentioned many times before, the CIO has little time, which essentially means that they cannot take out time to research the features and benefits of your technology offering. Essentially, you will need to supply this information to him/her either on the phone or in person. It is critical to get the facts, features and benefits correct otherwise you may just miss the opportunity that you have fought so hard to get.

4. Dedication brings the results you need
Shifting from one end of the spectrum to the other can cause a lot of disruption when it comes to the modern day CIO. The CIO of today wants to dedicate his time to one or two fruitful ventures at a time. However, by catching their attention on one point and shifting the focus to something irrelevant, you may just lose their attention and interest.

At the end of the day it is all about what ventures will pay off, and what won’t. Stay focused, dedicated and always be prepared. Additionally, stick to one industry that you know through and through, rather than trying to spread it out across various industries that you only know a small percentage about.

5. Don’t try to wing it

As stated before, knowing your stuff is essential when selling to the CIO. While knowing your technology is the base point for attracting the CIO, you will also need to know what your competitors have to offer as well as why your technology differs from theirs. Business is competitive, which means that today’s CIO is always looking for the best opportunities to take advantage of.

At the end of the day product knowledge is key… especially when it comes to your technology as well as the technology of your competitor. Furthermore, having a sales force that is well spoken, knowledgeable, and inspired to do the leg work is crucial to breaking through the barriers of the modern day CIO.

6. Knowledge and preparation goes far

Having a sales force that is knowledgeable is key to selling to the CIO; however, presentations as well as demos go a long way too. One thing that is worse than not knowing what you are talking about is not knowing what you are talking about during a live demonstration or demo.

In the past, I attended a demo that promised to be something spectacular; however, the spokesperson presenting seemed to lack crucial knowledge as well as failed to demonstrate the technology correctly and efficiently. This can often leave not only the CIO, but also potential clients with a sour taste in their mouth’s.

Essentially, knowing your technology as well as having the ability to do an on-the-spot presentation will definitely capture the attention of any CIO who is looking for a fruitful venture.

7. Packaging it all together

In conclusion, we understand that today’s modern day CIO is an extremely busy person. They do not have the time to do the traditional sales song and dance. We know that they need the facts, features and benefits all in one. We also know that they only pursue fruitful ventures that will not only impress management, but also help them get to the senior positions they so often deserve.

While selling to the CIO can be a daunting task, it is not impossible. Always be knowledgeable, factual, and never try to wing a presentation. By knowing your stuff, and by having the ability to pitch your product at moments notice you will realise that you are already half way there.

The other half is keeping the relationship between you and the CIO. Once you successfully sell to the CIO, you may think that the deal is signed and the commission is the bank; however, you still need to keep them as well as the client happy. Keeping both the client CIO and client happy is crucial when it comes to gaining a great reference. Remember, that in technology selling the vast majority of sales to CIOs are driven by reference accounts and referrals.

Without positive references and referrals you will essentially be back in the position you started in, which is trying to figure out how to sell to the CIO once again.


Selling to the CIO Seminar: To gain an in-depth perspective as well as vital skills on how to sell to the CIO, register for a 2 day Strategic Seminar, which will teach IT sales reps how to connect with CIOs, establish trust, and build profitable relationships.

The Strategic Seminar will take place on 25 and 26 November 2014, at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, in Johannesburg. This intensive 2-day workshop is aimed at Vendor CEO’s, Business Development Directors, Business Development Managers, Sales Directors, Consultants, Sales Managers, Key Account Managers, Heads of new business and Sales executives. If your organisation wants to become more effective at selling to CIOs, then this seminar is a must attend for your team.


Topics at this intensive 2-day workshop will include:

+ Your Strategy to Win over the CIO
+ Navigating to the CIO: Top Down and Bottom Up Approaches
+ Organizing the Presentation to the CIO: How to Gain Credibility & Overcome Objections
+ CIOs Describe Habits of the Best (and Worst) IT Sales Reps
+ What CIOs Say Earns Reps Trusted Advisor Status
+ What CIOs Expect from Reps at a Sales Meeting 
+ Penetrating the Organisation at Various Levels of Responsibility
+ Communicating Strategic and Operational Value

The seminar will be completely interactive and incorporates extensive exercises/role-playing to apply the concepts on active accounts or immediately on the next sales call. Everyone can ask tough questions, share their experiences, work on their weaknesses, and learn entirely new skill-sets. The seminar will also include best practices of other successful technology companies.

Venue: THE GORDON INSTITUTE OF BUSINESS SCIENCE, 26 Melville Road, Illovo, Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: 25 and 26 November 2014

For more information contact Vardis or Zenzele, vardis@itnewsafrica.com or zenzele@itnewsafrica.com
Tel: +27 11 026 0982  Fax 0866 130 386 Cell +27 79 182 5084
Alternatively, fill in the form here to reserve your slot. Only 30 slots available

Darryl Linington