How To Start a Warm Conversation About a Customer Problem

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

Q: In the early stages of a company when you are doing the Customer Discovery phase–and don’t actually want to pitch a solution/product to someone–what has worked for you in terms of getting IT people / CIOs to take a meeting? Is it predominately warm references? How are you setting the stage for these meetings?

Most of our approaches to reach prospects in larger firms, in particular intrapreneurs or change agents, are warm (not a cold call or cold e-mail):

  • through an introduction by someone respected by the prospect
  • an on-line conversation in a newsgroup or forum
  • blogging about the problem and generating in inquiry
  • speaking about the problem
  • organizing a meetup or birds of a feather at a conference about the problem

IT people are very difficult to approach. They are rarely internal change agents and they are typically focused on compliance with existing policies and preserving the current direction / status quo. As a rule of thumb CIO’s hate startups.

Theresa blogged about this in “Selling Around IT in Larger Firms” and suggested five ways to avoid getting blocked:

  1. Provide a service (deliver the results of you running your software) instead of selling software.
  2. Package your offering as SaaS at a price that’s below the radar of IT.
  3. Leverage an existing partner: Who else is your prospect buying from?
  4. Find someone who is in a lot of pain whose needs have been ignored by IT.
  5. Find someone whose needs span more than one IT administrative boundary, so that no single IT group views satisfying the need as their obligation.

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