From technical, to emotional; learn to speak their language

Business leaders (CEOs) are responsible for buying 75% of cloud products, and are in most cases technically illiterate (Osborne, 2015). This means that IT-solution providers are dealing with a new decision maker. Over the past years I have spoken to hundreds of IT-solution providers and I noticed a difference between the successful companies and the companies who might not be there in a couple of years.

The biggest difference is the way sales teams communicate. The successful companies focus their communication on the humans who have to work with it, as opposed to only speaking about technologies. The companies which are struggling to keep up often talk to customers in technical terms. As the decision unit is changing and there is more pressure from software vendors it is important for the sales force to learn more about their new target audience.

How to communicate with non-techies?

It will be important for the IT-providers sales team to change their game and communication style to level with the (technically illiterate) business leaders. The figure below shows the biggest differences between business leaders (e.g. CEOs) and technical leaders (e.g. IT managers or CTOs). Their interests differ and this is something to keep in mind during the entire sales process.

An advantage can be create when demonstrating cloud products to CEOs, as they tend to focus on productivity and innovation power for the short term. Demonstrating the solution while highlighting the short term benefits can influence their opinion. Whereas the technial leader is process driven and focuses on the technical aspects of the implementation and security of the solution. While demonstrating the cloud solution to technical leaders, they are more likely to discover pitfalls and raise questions about implementation and security. Therefore, you should be able to answer those questions as well. The key lesson is to focus on the end-users, which are humans who want to work easier.

Advantages of IT-providers compared to software vendors

In most cases business leaders can easily order cloud products at the software vendor or via an IT-provider. A good example is Office 365, which can be bought directly at Microsoft or via Microsoft’s cloud service partners, the IT-providers. So, why would a business leader order their solutions at an IT-provider instead of directly from Microsoft? According to Gartner’s Tiffani Bova, it is key to add value to the cloud products (Lee, 2012).

Many IT-providers claim to be the safest or offer the best service on Office 365

From my perspective, there are multiple ways to add value to cloud products. While many companies claim to be the safest Office 365 reseller or they offer the best customer support, their claim doesn’t really add value to the solution itself. To add value to a cloud product, it is important to show the customer that you know why, how and what cloud product is suitable to their business.

Ask yourself, why would you choose a particular IT-provider?

A cloud solution is often exactly the same at each IT-provider or vendor. So, when an IT-provider sends a sales person telling that they are safer or offer better customer support than competitors that does not differentiate them. That is why it is about adding value. So, as an IT-provider, it is highly important to use the Golden Circle of Simon Sinek (2009) to show why the customers should choose your company instead of the vendor.

Figure 2 – Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle (2009)

Illustration of the ‘Why, How, What’ sales principle.
This example shows how the principles could be used to determine the communication strategy for sales representatives in case of selling a cloud product to a health care organisation.

Why: We are an IT-provider specialized in health care because we want to make health care workers focus on their patients, without having to deal with frustrations with IT and the limited accessibility.

How: Since most care takers poses a mobile device, we can bring all the software directly to them, instead of having them to leave their patients to administrate their day on a desktop or laptop.

What: We can use our experience with CareInc, HealthCorp and Hospital Center, to set up Office 365 especially tailored to meet the needs of your care workers.

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