9 tips for selling to IT leaders

Selling to IT leaders is a tough game, and we IT leaders would love if you changed your tactics a bit. These 9 tips will help salespeople sell more effectively to IT leaders.

Selling to IT executives
Credit: Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license

It is not an exaggeration to say that if I took every request (call, email, whatever) from IT vendors, I would have no time to do anything else. This is nearly universally true for all IT decision-makers at nearly every level. Yet for some reason the calls and emails keep coming. I guess calls from IT vendors are like spam — of them turn out to deliver results that it is worth the effort.

But there is a better way for vendors to get IT decision-makers' attention without annoying them no end. Below are my nine tips that will hopefully help you while also helping IT decision-makers.


Sales 101 teaches you to care about "What’s in it for me" when selling. Yet almost every call I receive from a vendor is about what you want. You want “30 minutes of my time”  to help me. Take time to realize that I don’t have 30 minutes. If you want 30 minutes of my time then…

2. Earn it

Do your homework before calling me. At least read my blog, Twitter feed, press release or company accounts to find out where there might be a match. A blind cold call makes me dislike you very much. If you read on my blog that PCI compliance is important to me and you represent a security firm, mention that, or better yet share and comment on the blog. But if you are selling something and there is nothing to point to then…

3. Do not call me.  Do not leave me a message

We delete your voicemails in the first 10 seconds. As soon as we realize it’s a sales call, it’s over. On the rare occasion you fool us, we are mad.To get us to listen, mention our blog, press release or something as soon as you start. “I just read your blog and…”

4. Do not use a generic request to be my connection on LinkedIn

Someone has clearly taught salespeople that connecting with anyone and everyone is a great tactic. Wrong (mostly). If you want my attention and my connection, at least follow the advice from No. 2. Otherwise, I delete your request, I am annoyed by you, and I hold it against your company. At the bare minimum, make your request interesting.

5. Do not add me to your generic email list

Email me unexpectedly and you are immediately added to my block list at Postini. Your future email will never be seen by me, not even in my review of junk mail. On the occasion I do see an advertisement or message from your organization, your company is on my mental black list.

6. Acknowledge you want to sell me something

We are not friends; don’t act like we are. You want to sell me something, and I may want to buy it, but not from someone hiding their intentions. If you have to ask me to share my needs with you, you are already behind.

7. Accept rejection quickly

Quickly acknowledging my rejection as legitimate shows me you are listening and not just selling. You will have earned my respect, and if there is a follow-up from you in some fashion acknowledging that but keeping the door open (“if your needs change…”), I will probably contact you when the need arises.

8. Use your connections

If you know someone who knows me, use that to get to me either by having him or her introduce us or learning what they know about me so you can use it to reach out to me.

9. Send me a package with something useful

Packages get my attention. I do not need another USB drive or T-shirt (I am in the promotional business, so I have plenty, but most people will respond to promotional products). First, the package gets my attention, and before I do just about anything else, I open the package to see what is inside. If the item in the package is of reasonable interest or value, I am going to at least email you if not call you.

Of all my tips, doing your homework is the most important thing for both our sakes. If I have a need that you can help with, it’s worth both our time. If not, it wastes both our time.

I have had a few vendors successfully reach out to me via email and LinkedIn who knew enough about me to make a connection. I’ve spent significant dollars with them based on these connections, either because they had a solution to something that I was dealing with at the time or because they planted a seed that was useful later.

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