Scott & The CEO
By dcb on Dec 28, 2004
A couple years ago, a senior field systems engineer wrote to me said, in part:
I recently had lunch with Scott McNealy and the CEO of one of our largest customers. Scott launched into his BFWTS pitch and I watched the CEO play with his pasta salad. When Scott switched topics to talk about what we can do together to increase the CEO's competitive situation, the CEO paid close attention, and offered to pay for lunch!
I still find this interesting and enlightening. Too often, I think, we (Sun's field) focus on the wrong value proposition when we talk to business execs. Scott can teach us an important lesson.
We know how to talk to IT execs....
There are those who need to solve a specific point problem. We seek to understand their challenges and show how our (and our partners') products and technologies and services can be tied together to provide a complete solution to that problem. We make sure the customer appreciates why Sun's solution is superior to what our competitors might be proposing. We can also describe a collection of proof points related to our vision and experience and market share and investments and quality initiatives and technologies, etc, that paints a picture of a full solution provider that "gets it".
There are those IT customers who are focused on big picture. We describe how we can work together to create a more efficient IT organization that is more tightly bound to the business. We give examples of what we've accomplished with others, and explain how our partnership and initiatives will create a more robust and adaptable infrastructure with reduced IT cost, freeing up cash to fund incremental innovation and progress. We can provide ideas about initiatives they might like to investigate, and offer to develop a Proof of Concept around some of them.
But, outside of IT, how do you help a CEO/COO/CFO increase their success on \*their\* competitive battleground? Discussing the latest in dual-core superscalar CPU designs or OS partition strategies probably isn't the right approach :-)
A good start may be to help the business exec understand how others are effectively using IT as a competitive weapon, rather than just a captive overhead cost-center. We need to offer C-level ideas about how IT can be retooled to make their company's core value proposition more attractive and/or accessible in the marketplace. Ultimately this is what IT can do to increase their competitive situation. IT can help generate wealth. In addition, we can also show how IT can drive cost out of operations. New services that streamline or provide new B2C and B2B opportunities.
While Sun is a powerful crucible of IT innovation, we (each one of us, talking to our customers) need to spend more time demonstrating how our technology has transformed businesses into leaders in their market segment. And how we can do the same for the customers with whom we are interacting. Technology discussions and sales (the cart) will follow the value proposition (the horse).