Like lowly tech journalists, CIOs face a constant barrage of product pitches from hungry young startups.
And much like tech journalists, CIOs have a tough time separating which product pitches are really worth their time and which should be thrown to the scrap heap. With this in mind, three CIOs of big-time enterprises shared friendly advice with the eager startup companies on hand at this year's DEMO Fall convention in Silicon Valley today. What was perhaps the most valuable piece of advice? No stalking.
"Don't stalk CIOs," advised Ralph Loura, the CIO of Clorox. "There are times when I get an email from someone, followed by a voicemail, and then my get administrative assistant gets called three times. If there's any interest in your initial message then we'll follow up.
"Loura and the other two CIOs on hand, John Murray of Genworth Financial Wealth Management and Sheldon Wang of eHealth, all said that startups really needed to do strong background research into the companies that they're pitching their products to. This often involves reading quarterly and yearly company financial statements, dropping in on quarterly earnings calls and figuring out what efficiency issues within the companies need to be addressed.
"Look for the highest point of leverage," said Murray. "I'm most likely to consider a technology where there's a demonstration where you can show me how adopting the technology will take care of problems specific to my business."Murray also noted that part of getting to know the companies you're pitching is helping those companies cope with what happens if they find their product doesn't work for them.
"The person who's doing the selling has to ask themselves, ‘What's the impact on the buyer if I fail?'" Murray explained. "The more you're able to address that question and then put a risk assessment package together, the better off you'll be."
Wang expressed a similar sentiment and said startups needed to have a way to help companies transition away from their products if they don't work out.
"If you're a company that adopts a lot of new technologies, you've got to have a process in place to prepare for the fact that a lot of those technologies aren't going to work out," he said.
Finally, Loura said that startups needed to accept the fact that their products might simply not be good fits for particular companies. However, he said that if startups delivered honest pitches that didn't exaggerate their product's capabilities or try too hard to make a sale, then they'd be in a better position from a long-term branding perspective.
"Be true to yourself and be true to your product," said Loura. "Some folks are trying way too hard to make products fit just because the stakes are high. Don't do that. If the product is a natural fit then it'll work."