Can Leadership Change the Way You Sell Technology?

In the April 2010 issue of CRN Magazine, Kelly Damore shares the fact that in 2009 Mark Hurd, HP CEO, met with roughly 3,000 CIO’s in 2009 and is expected to exceed that number in 2010.

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about why this matters to your high growth technology business. On the surface, you may think it doesn’t apply to your business. You’re busy, you have deadlines to meet, payroll to make, and making sure your deals don’t go south at the last minute. But can you really afford not to know what your best clients are doing firsthand?

When I’ve worked with Fortune 500 CEOs in the past, I’ve always stressed that a major part of their job was to get out of their office and meet with their best customers whenever possible. It provided them with a great opportunity to hear their clients thinking firsthand. They’d hear about what they are doing well and sometimes, if they were lucky, what they aren’t doing so well. All of my bosses and former CEO clients took my advice. Maybe it was because I was hired by their board, or maybe, intuitively, they knew it would be good for business. I’ve gone to meetings with clients and they took me and my CEO to task for a business decision we made without consulting them. Now that I manage a much smaller business, I take time to work closely with my clients to get a better understanding what I can do to help grow their business. I spend a couple hours each week monitoring my clients, their competitors, and their clients. I try to reach out to at least 10 potential clients or partners a week. Over the past year I’ve built out my LinkedIn profile to over first level 1300 contacts, with over 800,000 second level contacts in the emerging technology and software markets. I try to talk with 25% of my new first level contacts when we first connect to see how we can grow our businesses together. I start tracking my second level contacts to uncover their interests and challenges we may have in common. I try to let our shared interests define out future networking opportunities.

I’ve just started using Facebook to track my non-profit clients and partners more closely. It provides me incredible insights into their lives. It also provides a significant look at their activities and what they have passion for. When I took sales training, I was taught how to use the Mackay 66 to develop connections with my clients.  With all my connections into the social media networks, I can keep track of most of the people who are important to me. It’s amazing how my life and selling has come full circle. It took me a while to get used to dropping a quick note to people. I’m rather long winded and it’s hard when you only get 140 or so characters to make your point.

I discovered that the more human I become, the stronger my ties are to clients. When I got sick last year I got several get well wishes within 24 hours. It works even better in reverse. I found the more I got to know people, the better I understood what was happening in their lives. It’s been challenging when highly personal things come up, but I’ve struggled through it. But seriously, social media is here to stay. It possesses the potential to change the way the world does business.

When news stories break, I get my Google Alerts ASAP. There have been times when I’ve called clients to see how the news impacts them and if they needed to talk. Most don’t but by being available, I build extraordinary partnerships with my clients and friends.  I don’t do it because I have to; I do because it’s how I want to do business. Right now, you have a choice in how you do business. But once you clients get used to doing business with people who care and who are interested in them, it will require dynamite to break up our partnership.

With Mark Hurd of HP meeting 3000 CIOs in the past year, he has raised the bar for all Technology CEOs. Are you ready to bring yourself to your client relationships?  If not, you might consider finding another job because your company will always be considered just another software and consulting business. Next week, I will be sharing with you a new way to start doing social media more effectively; using several tools I’ve found to enable this process. Until then, I’ll see you on Twitter or Facebook.

Tripp Braden is an IT marketing and sales consultant who specializes in developing seven figure partnerships and businesses.  He is also the editor of Market Leadership Journal.  Discover how to grow your company through extraordinary partnerships by visiting where you can find resources and products to increase your success.

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