What CIOs say they would change about how IT vendors sell to them.

SalesmanTwo weeks ago, we asked Heller Report readers to respond to the following question: "If you were to change one thing about the way vendor reps sell to you, what would it be?"

We received a huge number of replies, all of which fell into six categories. We have assembled representative comments here for you to review. Feel free to chime in on this question using the Comments section below.

I. Do Your Homework

“Don’t presume you know my business and that your solution is going to work in my situation. Get to know me first, get to know our business and how it works, get to know the pain points that we have."

"IT vendor sales reps could make significant improvements and inroads with their prospective clients if they would seek to understand their clients’ business needs and application architecture. Using these insights, they could tailor their proposal/pitch on how their product/service would address our business needs and fit into our architecture. In other words; engage like a partner with us."

"I forget the number of times I've had to tell the salesperson to stop trying to sell me a solution that is a total misfit for my IT landscape."

II. Build the Relationship

"In order to command my respect and trust (and therefore make me want to work with them when the need arises), a vendor has to demonstrate that they’re interested in more than the sale…that they’re committed in some way to making things better in a broader way, either at my company or in the industry."

"I do have "stories of love and admiration" about some of the sales reps I have worked with. They are the ones who are relationship sales reps. They are honest about products or services their company offers and let us know when it isn't right for us. They send me helpful information or give me helpful connections for my situation that may have nothing to do with their company's solution. They have a long term view, patiently build up the relationship and then when I have a need it is often sole-sourced to them."

"They need to understand its about the relationship, not the transaction. We live with our decisions for a long time, they need to appreciate that reality."

III. Integrity, Honesty & Transparency

"The thing that I would value most is transparency right at the start. Many times during negotiations, it feels like you are dealing with a magician with three cups and a ball where you are always trying to figure out which is the cup with the ball under it. "

"You’re not always the right solution – don’t be afraid to admit it."

IV. Prospecting

"I'd change the endless parade of vendors bombarding my email and voicemail with poorly written scripts filled with buzzwords, then following up 3 times to 'shame' me into responding."

"Don’t have some minion with no product knowledge call me.  I will give most companies at least a little time to make their pitch, but having someone call me that cannot answer simple questions about the product is a waste of my time. "

"Reaching out to the CEO / COO / CFO and then using them as a reference to talk to me is an absolute NO. Many vendor reps feel name-dropping is going to get them extra brownie points - it doesn't."

V. Pitching

"Stop asking me ‘what keeps you up at night?’ which invariably leads to ‘we can help you with that’.  I’m interested in what you do best and why you do it better than anyone else. "

"Quit pretending that your software is easy to install and configure out of the box. This is very rarely true. Instead, focus on what the reality is and what they think the best approach is to deal with the complexity."

VI. Support

"Stewardship. This is one attribute that I demand of vendor reps. It takes many forms; from regular interaction with my staff (not just when there is something to sell), to actively participating on project teams, to being our advocate within the vendor hierarchy, and more. I want an investment of time and intellectual capital ... not just an order taker."

"I'd appreciate finding one who will take ownership of the relationship when there are problems and step up toward getting their organization in line to provide a solution, rather than handing off problems to subordinates. If you want to 'own' the relationship... 'own' it."

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