Monday, August 11, 2008

6 Things to Avoid When Selling to CMOs

I was at ad tech last week in Chicago and took some time to walk the exhibit floor and speak with a few companies selling to CMOs. After asking a few companies what they did and how they differentiated themselves, I was amazed at the number of awkward rambling responses or “blah, blah, blah” from sales people at the booths. Many of the booths imagery and content was equally confusing or “Me To”. Flying back from Chicago I started thinking about advice I would give companies selling to CMOs to break through the clutter. If I was speaking to a room full of Marketing technology and services companies or agencies, here are a few things I would share:

1) Don’t lead with words like “optimize”, “value added”, or “quality” in your elevator pitch or collateral. Responses like, “we help you optimize SEO through value added insights and technology”, doesn’t make you stick out. Also think beyond the tag line. You get 3-4 sentences, not one to wow CMOs.

2) You’re only as good as the salesperson talking with to the CMO. Make sure all people in your organization that touch your customers and prospects can clearly articulate your solution/services, what you are really good at, and ROI. Everyone needs to be aligned on this and trained to deliver. I would implement a training program and test you must pass to speak to customers and prospects. It is that important. Also don’t forget ROI, if someone tells me specific $ for increased revenue per lead, or decreased cost per acquisition, etc. they will get my attention.

3) It may not always be best approach to start with CMO. Many CMOs delegate decisions to their VPs/Directors. Also if you are selling list management services, or collateral printing services, these are not hot buttons for most CMOs. Focus on CMOs when you deliver to their “top 3” strategic or ROI priorities. I was speaking to one company when I was CMO at DoubleClick and they actually told me, “this is not your biggest hot button so can you please give me the name/number of the person in your organization and I can follow up with them”. This made a positive impact.

4) There is a fine line between persistence and “wearing down” a CMO. After a few calls and emails, time to try plan “B”. If I do not respond to 4 emails, it is unlikely I will suddenly open the 5th. After the 5th call I start to get annoyed and it creates a negative view of the company.

5) Differentiation matters. I have spoken with fifteen SEO/SEM optimization companies and ten Interactive agencies in the last month and only a few have been successful in differentiating themselves. Make sure you can answer the question “How are you different”, not with general comments about “customer service focused”, but specific strategic areas of focus around industry, technology, etc. or tactical ROI based results. Tell me your company focus and sweet spot is SEO for $50-100 million companies in B2C space based on your success with __,__, and __ and delivered 30% increase in search effectiveness for last 5 customers, and you have my attention.

6) It’s all about Thought Leadership. CMOs are working hard to drive change in their business, improve customer engagement, think through the best approaches to leveraging new technologies and social networks, etc. They need help in making the right decisions or engaging the customer effectively. Help them. However, sales pitches or “Marketing 101” disguised as “Thought Leadership” whitepapers will backfire. If you don’t have true thought leadership, develop it, or try feature/function approach with lower levels in the marketing organization.

Finally, one of the most effective ways to sell to CMOs is to have other CMOs talk about your company. The CMO Recommendations section remains one of the most popular section in our CMOs only club site at

No comments: