Enterprise Selling – It’s More Than Just Cost-Cutting


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Spend any time scanning the marketing materials of enterprise technology vendors and some common themes will become apparent. In an effort to break away from the comfort zone of features and functions, marketing teams turn to what they consider to be the messaging that C-level prospects want to talk about:

Cost saving
Productivity gains
Performance improvement

It’s true that as you navigate higher in an organization, the features and functions of a vendor’s solution become less important, replaced with greater interest and emphasis on what those features and functions will actually DO for a company. Reducing costs, increasing productivity, and improving performance seem to be the three topics that marketers adopt as the basis of their enterprise strategy.

But it isn’t so easy. Transform a sales team from feature/function selling to technical end-users, to enterprise selling to the C-suite, using cost/productivity/performance and the often expected fast success might take a lot longer to achieve than originally thought. Why? Surely cost/productivity/performance are the C-suite’s hot buttons. So why can’t an enterprise software sales guy with a good story about why his software will achieve these things, not reap fast rewards?

Think about it. Pretty much every enterprise software vendor out there is claiming the same three things. A CIO might have 10 mainstream vendors knocking on his door on a regular basis, all offering ways to cut costs, increase productivity and improve performance. Which of the ten does the CIO choose? Selection of one vendor’s solutions might have a negative impact on another vendor’s solutions. How does a CIO make the right choice? And how would he prioritize which vendor to select as part of his cost cutting/productivity increasing/performance improving strategy?

From a sales rep’s perspective, targeting a new prospect with a cost cutting message and expecting instant interest is naive. Sure, it happens, but we need to evolve. What is the missing component that makes cost cutting etc a far more effective, and differentiated message from all those other vendors claiming the same thing? We must realise that no company saves money for no reason. Spending some time to understand the real goals that your customer is aiming to achieve (why do you need to save money at this time?) will give you far deeper insight, and a stronger understanding of the customer’s needs.

It’s simple. A simple question, or a simple conversation. WHY would a CIO need to cut costs, increase productivity, or improve performance. Why, and why now? And what does that cost-cutting exercise look like? Is it IT staff consolidation? Is it less DBAs doing more with better tools? Is it a migration of data centers to a cloud service? Is it a bigger picture goal? The company needs to reduce customer churn, or accelerate go-to-market capabilities, or increase annual design cycles. Why does the CIO need to cut costs, why now, and how does he see that cost cutting happening?

IT departments are regularly under pressure to cut costs, grow productivity, and improve performance. But a CIO might have a completely different vision, or expectation, of how he needs or plans to achieve this, than the solution you are offering. By having that discussion before taking a deep dive in to your cost-cutting solution, you will be in a far better position to redirect the CIO’s thinking towards cost savings based on the solution that you are pitching. By taking the time to ask “why do you need to save money now?” you are avoiding the presentation of a cost cutting solution that you ASSUME would be of interest to the CIO. Don’t forget that as we move up the corporate chain, we start to have more strategic conversations that often have substantial budgets attached to them only once a year. The CIO will be making a highly visible, high profile, and high value decision. Will he make the right one? We need to educate him about why the cost savings that WE can achieve with OUR solution will give him the best outcome.

We are inclined to take enterprise technology messaging, think of it as the secret password to significantly bigger deals, and start to hit all our prospects with cost cutting emails. Winners in the enterprise technology space will take the time to ask about, and understand, the CIO’s “vision.” What will cost savings give him? What will cost savings give his stakeholders? How will the CIO benefit, professionally and personally, by successfully delivering cost savings without sacrificing IT performance or quality of service? Have these conversations and you will differentiate yourself from other enterprise sales people, and be more likely to secure your big win.

Michael Fox
VMware UK Ltd
More than 25 years in the high tech industry, evolving from IT Support, through consulting, sales, and sales management (IBM), marketing and PSO (Business Objects), sales enablement strategy and execution (Silicon Valley area), and leading strategic field readiness in EMEA (VMware). Thought leader, innovator, and communicator dedicated to delivering desirable customer outcomes with measurable and repeatable success.


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