While Cisco has continued at the forefront of the IT infrastructure industry with its salespeople continuing to convert leads and gain market share, over the past few years a growing number of deals were being lost on account of not being able to rely just on reputation, but also having to compete on margins or features.
According to Cisco’s director of Enterprise Marketing, the sales teams were no longer just dealing with their traditional buyers – IT Managers, Directors of IT, or Head of Wiring / Operation, but they were increasingly coming face-to-face with their clients’ CMOs and CIOs.
How would this impact their marketing and sales approach?
The CIO and C-suite increasingly take a leading role in the technology buying decision
Until that point Cisco had been very focused on serving its traditional technical buyers, but started realizing the need to shift in order to serve this group of business-focused buyers. This change would have far-reaching implications into how it sells.
At this point Cisco’s marketing team began to research the CIO to see what their concerns are and what they expect from a company like them.
They discovered several things:
- Of all Cisco’ marketing spend only 3% mattered to the business buyer / C-suite
The technically focused white papers, ROI calculators and tools that they were making weren’t useful for sales and didn’t matter very much to the business-buyer.
The C-Suite is driven by overcoming their business challenges rather than just boosting technology performance
In fact the CIO had a much different list of concerns, which considering that they controlled a growing share of IT spend, made it important to address them:
CIOs – What to they care about?
- Studying market trends for commercial opportunities
- Identify opportunities for competitive differentiation
- Develop new go-to-market strategies / technologies
- Drive business innovation
- Develop / refine business strategy
Unsurprisingly the CIOs and the C-suite weren’t interested in router specifications and performance, but rather in new marketing opportunities, how to grow their business, and how to deliver a better customer experience. These were all things that Cisco could was not able talk about from a sales standpoint.
As a consequence Cisco was starting to loose its seat at the table. Their clients wanted to talk about their 5-year business plans with companies like IBM and Microsoft, but not with Cisco.
“You guys are the plumbers, you are behind it all happen, but your are not the people we want to set down with”.
With these new insights Cisco marketing realised that they would need to develop new content and programs targeting the CIO and their C-suite colleagues, which was much more focused around their business challenges.
In the words of one CIO:
“We think of everything we do in terms of: Does it helps us Grow or help us Generate Cash?” – CIO, Alcoa
To remain relevant to CxOs sales people must speak in business terms
The average Cisco sales person was unable to have such conversations. They knew how to sell router technology, but can’t not sit down with a Hospital and show them how to decrease time-to-patient care. Cisco had to think about such challenge in terms of marketing.
Cisco’ marketing team also spoke to their sales teams. They said “help me have the right conversations”.
In fact, the sales organization had the tools that Marketing thought they needed, not what they really needed when faced with these changing buyer trends. Cisco was operating in a very inside-out, not an outside-in manner focused firmly on the customer.
At companies like Cisco marketing plays a key role in helping understand clients, their key concerns and how to address them
Cisco had to seriously consider how to transform it’s marketing activities when it use to be about the IT buyers, but now it’s more and more about the C-Suite.
At any company resetting the current status quo will have far reaching implications into how they do business.
To stay relevant in today’s fast-changing technology market, strategy, marketing, and product leaders must ask themselves:
- Is my firm addressing the right decision-makers? Who are they?
- Do I really know what their key concerns are? Are we addressing them?
- Are our offers in line?
- Do you we have the tools and capabilities so clients can easily understand the value offered and how they will benefit from working with us?