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Why Most Vendors are Not Trusted Advisers

Marketing and sales executives in technology firms aspire to develop a meaningful relationship with the CIOs in their target enterprise accounts. But, according to a Forrester Research market study, most CIOs believe technology firms remain "just another vendor to deal with."

Why, you may ask? Because the marketing messages and sales methodologies assume the CIO thinks just like a target buyer. Apparently, the very nature of the CIO position, and their views of success and failure, put vendors in a very different perspective.

Forrester says that vendors can improve receptiveness to their CIO message if they understand how these executives measure a company's offering benefits, gauge its fit with their existing organization, and perceive how a relationship will benefit them.

Clearly, this perspective raises questions about all those vendors who like to believe they're "trusted advisers" to their business technology customer base.

Forrester believes a typical CIO will evaluate a product or service from the perspective of the one responsible for the whole IT organization and for the business benefits that organization brings to other stakeholders.

CIO motivations are more about the risk of a wrong or poorly thought-out decision -- not about the features and benefits of the product or service. Their personal level of comfort is a function of perceived risk and rewards.

Vendors usually have a clear picture of their target buyers but are often sketchy about the decision stakeholders that those target buyers need to satisfy. The CIO can be one of these elusive stakeholders that vendors misunderstand.

Every IT salesperson knows the result -- sales opportunities that look like a sure thing but then drag on or mysteriously go cold. Forrester says vendors that want to build a CIO partnership should do the following:

1) Create CIO personas, based on actual clients, to tune marketing and sales techniques. 2) Incorporate an understanding of IT archetypes in sales training. 3) Go beyond just products and services to address the CIO's "What's in it for me" needs and concerns.

Forrester concludes: once a vendor can evolve its image to include its interest in helping its clients be successful, then it will differentiate itself in the CIO's perception. Networking opportunities, information exchange and access to peer-level guidance are the best means to accomplish this objective.

Happy New Year -- if you are searching for a trusted adviser, then I hope that you find that special vendor who is proven to be worthy of your business.

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