RFID Journal Editor Mark Roberti's Blog

RFID Deployments Rarely Start in the C-suite

February 12, 2010

RFID vendors often tell me they really want to meet C-level executives. They believe that if they can get into the C-suite, they can convince top-level decision makers that their solutions can drive tremendous value, and that once they convince the top decision makers, they'll be guaranteed to get the sale.

Unfortunately, it almost never works like that. And more often than not, the C-suite is the wrong place to start. Two best-selling authors with very different vantage points explain why.

In Geoffrey Moore's Inside the Tornado, the follow up to his bestseller Crossing the Chasm, the author says most companies are run by pragmatists who don't want to take a risk on new technologies. CIOs don't want to risk problems with their network, CFOs don't want the capital expenditure and CEOs don't want to take risks that could disrupt operations. The person who will take a risk is the one down in the organization with a problem—the individual for whom the status quo is unacceptable.

Moore says the only way to sell to companies in the early stages of adoption is to find people within an organization that have a compelling need to adopt your solution. Those folks will lobby for the new technology, because it solves their particular problems. Later, as the mainstream adopts the new technology, the C-suite will embrace the new status quo—which is adoption.

I've also been reading Jill Konrath's book, How to Sell to Big Companies, which offers smart tactics to help small technology firm sell to large, established companies. Konrath also believes small technology businesses are wasting their time trying to get into the C-suite. It's difficult to do, she says—and once you finally get in, you have no credibility, and the CEO or CIO has no reason to embrace a switch to what you are offering.

Like Moore, Konrath suggests focusing on a person within an organization who has a compelling need. She calls this the "foot in the door" tactic. The idea is to solve a small problem for someone within a big company (say, a person responsible for assets that frequently end up missing). She then suggests using that individual to get to others within the organization who can benefit from the same application, or a similar application of your solution. A few successes, and you can get introduced to people higher in the organization, and then sell them on the benefits as well—but now, you have credibility.

We've invited Konrath to conduct her sales seminar at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010 (see . I think sales and marketing executives from all RFID companies could benefit hugely from hearing her tactics. We're offering exhibitors a low rate of $100, which could be the best $100 a technology company ever invested.

What’s interesting is that both of these best-selling writers say the same thing, even though they are looking at the same issue – getting companies to invest in new technologies – from very different vantage points. (Konrath worked for Xerox and has focused on sales strategies for technology companies; Moore is a big-picture consultant.) My own anecdotal information suggests they are right. A few innovative CEOs, such as Dov Charney at American Apparel, might be willing to invest in RFID, but most CEOs have other priorities and are happy with the status quo.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. To comment on this article, click on the link below.


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