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Technology Sales – A CIO’s Perspective

A month ago, I had the opportunity to attend a standing-room-only business meeting with members and supporters of Minorities in Technology Sales (MiTS), a non-profit organization led by Mark Hill, Executive Director. This meeting was exceptionally hosted in first-class facilities by Gary Newgaard, SVP of Corporate Development at ASRC Management Systems in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The less-informed may ask: “Why would so many technically inclined, educated, professionally trained, technology sale professionals hazard a dark, Washington DC Beltway commute at 25 degrees Fahrenheit, with 35 mph winds, and 10-foot un-melted ice banks (with some commuting from as far as Northern Virginia) to meet in a large conference room after a long working day?” Answer: Because they know that to be the best, you do what’s necessary to be in the presence of the best. And so Debora Weste, a member of the MiTS Executive Committee and Client Principal at Hewlett-Packard Company introduced the evening’s featured guest speaker, Ed Anderson (who is now off-limits as one of your sales prospects 🙂

By any measure, Mr. Anderson’s list of professional accomplishments is impressive and includes but is not limited to: His current appointment as Senior VP and Practice Leader of Anerian LLC. Previously, he was appointed to CIO positions at the US Peace Corp and Americhoice Health Systems. In addition, Ed has held senior technology management positions with global responsibilities as a VP of IT at Sodexho, served in management positions with Verizon and Accenture, and has been formally recognized by E-Week magazine as one of the Top 100 CIOs in the US while also being named one of the Top 100 Black Engineers by Black Engineer Magazine. (Ok, I think you get it… this guy probably knows a little something about corporate information technology, right?)

During his career, Ed Anderson has overseen the procurement or implementation of hundreds of millions of dollars of technology-centric products and services and has had to interface with an army of technology sales people with sales managers who have instructed them to “sell high.” So last week, Ed provided members of the MiTS community with some useful insights and counsel that is certain to help them optimize future interactions with high-level, senior technology executives. Here are just a few of the tips Mr. Anderson shared with the group:

1. Spend time investing in me and my organization. I prefer to do business with people that I know and trust. Once a trusted business relationship is established, it’s difficult for an outsider to encroach upon it.

2. Be prepared – don’t waste my time. If you do, you may be summarily dismissed, lose your access to me, and not be invited back.

3. Don’t try selling me a commodity-based product in a strategic relationship. I buy commodities based on best price, not the relationship. I buy strategic solutions, based on the value you’re empowered to present because of the relationship.

4. Be in place strategically BEFORE trying to do a deal. When an opportunity avails itself you may have an intimate awareness of my business requirements and will be empowered to make strategic recommendations that may favor my organization and yours.

5. Be honest: don’t engage in behind the scenes lying or communicating un-truths to my team such as: “your boss said to do this.” These types of antics in the selection or procurement process will eliminate you from consideration.

6. Keep personal drama behind your own corporate wall. Quota goals, commissions, club trips, sales management contention, and personal financial distress …are YOUR business, not mine. Keep it to your self.

7. Protect your Brand: One’s name and reputation will open and close doors of opportunity. I don’t leverage social media to connect to people I don’t know. Nor do I refer people that I don’t know. You may want to do the same.

8. Understand your competition: You probably don’t have the only product on the market so if you want my attention, be prepared to tell me how you compare to your competition. This saves me time and energy in my diligence process, but please be advised – I call on my team to check the facts.”

***** Best Question of the Evening***** Ed, how do we get a CIO’s attention with so many salespeople calling and with all the demands on your time?

  1. I’m not a webinar person because I usually end up being distracted, so that probably isn’t the best way to pitch me your value-proposition.
  2. Be clear and concise in your voicemail messaging. Give me a compelling reason to return your call that addresses MY requirements… not your quota objectives.
  3. If you email me, put the heart of your message in the subject line. In this way, I won’t have to actually open your email to prioritize it for action.

The technology sales and business development profession requires unique skill sets and for sure… the job isn’t easy. However, more of us are certain to be successful as a result of the counsel and insights Ed Anderson shared with us last week. Thank you Mr. Anderson!


Christopher Bell, III

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