Secrets of selling to the CIO

Five things to do -- and five things to avoid -- when trying to sell to the CIO, direct from CIO .

Avnet CIO Steve Phillips

Avnet CIO Steve Phillips

SPONSORED CONTENT — There is no shortage of content out there telling you how to sell to CIOs and IT executives. However, most of it has been created by salespeople. With that in mind, let me share the CIO’s perspective on successful selling. To keep it simple, here are five DOs and four DON’Ts to follow if you really want to get—and keep—my attention.

  • DO #1) DO show how you can help me do more for less.  Delivering greater system reliability for less cost is an evergreen goal.  Show me how your product or service helps Avnet do that, and I’ll be interested.
  • DO #2) Do talk to me about using IT to solve business problems.  Avnet’s in a competitive, mature industry. I need to use IT to help make Avnet easy to do business with, deliver a superior customer experience, demonstrate our value, and lay the groundwork for profitable growth.
  • DO #3) Do show how you can unlock the potential of our data investment.  is a significant strategic initiative at Avnet, and we’re looking to make the most of our SAP HANA-based infrastructure investment to drive breakthrough decision-making and analysis capability.
  • DO #4) DO tell me about keeping Avnet more secure. There’s little that keeps me up at night more than maintaining the integrity of Avnet’s systems and data. This aspect of IT is evolving rapidly, and the stakes get higher with every highly-public data breach. If you can improve our security infrastructure and protocols, I’m listening.
  • DO #5) DO tell me how I can balance the with the need for centralized governance, administration and oversight. and cloud-based applications are just the start of this transformation in the workplace, and it’s my duty as CIO to give employees the tools they need (and want) while still ensuring that every device and scrap of Avnet data is accounted for, backed up and secured.

Along with those five things to do, here are four activities you should actively avoid if you want my attention.

  • DON’T #1) Don’t contact me through generic bulk emails.  Email is a good way of making the initial contact, but if you want to get past that point, do some research on what matters to Avnet, frame your offering around helping us meet our business goals, and share some supporting content. White papers, studies and surveys are likely to get my interest, especially if they come from third-parties.
  • DON’T #2) Don’t overstate the financial benefits of your offering. That only gets both of us in trouble. If you’re going to talk about return on investment, make sure your information is credible and easy to reference. If it’s not a strategic initiative, I need to see 100% ROI in 12 months or less, ideally far less.
  • DON’T #3) Don’t try to sell me cool technology.  As a CIO, I am a technologist, but that doesn’t hold my attention at all. To maintain it, you need to sell to my inner CFO.

I’m only interested in being a trendsetter if your product delivers bottom line benefit and doesn’t expose Avnet to potential breaches. To maximize your chances for success, talk to me about benefits, results and business impact.

  • DON’T #4) Don’t offer me free trials to get me to test-drive your company’s products and services.  Free trials may be good for consumer sales, but it doesn’t work for me in the enterprise.  I’m looking for solutions-oriented long term partnerships.   If your company delivers value to me, I’m happy to pay for it.

The CIO role has evolved greatly over the last decade, and the approaches that worked then likely won’t work today. If you keep this list of dos and don’ts in mind as you plan your next round of sales and marketing pitches, you’ll be much more likely to get my attention and keep it.

About Steve Phillips

Steve Phillips is senior vice president and chief information officer for Avnet, Inc., reporting to Avnet CEO Rick Hamada. He is also a member of the Avnet Executive Board and a corporate officer.

Mr. Phillips came to Avnet with the 2005 acquisition of Memec, where he had served as senior vice president and chief information officer since 2004. Prior to joining Memec, Mr. Phillips was senior vice president and chief information officer for Gateway Inc. He joined Gateway in 1999 and served as vice president of information technology (IT) in London and San Diego before his appointment in 2003 to chief information officer.

Between 1996 and 1999, he worked for Diageo, the international food and drinks group, where he was the IT director for its European foods division. He previously spent eight years in a variety of leadership roles at Thorn EMI, a U.K. defense-electronics company.

Under Mr. Phillips’ IT leadership, Avnet has been recognized with multiple IT awards, including CIO100, InformationWeek Elite 100 and InfoWorld Green 15. Additionally, he received an HMG Strategy Transformational CIO Leadership Award in 2012. In 2011, Computerworld named Mr. Phillips a “Premier 100 IT Leader.” This lifetime recognition honors executives for exceptional technology leadership, innovative ideas that address business challenges and effectively managing IT strategies.

Mr. Phillips is chairman of the board at Wick Communications, a news and specialty publications company. From 2008 through 2011, he served as chairman of the board of the Arizona Technology Council, a trade association that connects, represents and supports Arizona’s technology industry.

Mr. Phillips holds a BSc (Hons) in Electronic Engineering from Essex University and a post-graduate Diploma in Management Studies from Thames Valley University. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering & Technology.

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