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What to Say to a Public Sector CIO (Hint: Answer These Four Questions)

|April 28, 2021|

You have been waiting for this meeting for weeks, maybe months. You’ve finally secured a sit-down with the CIO and are rehearsing your approach over and over. The sales pitch is memorized. The slide deck is done. It seems like everything is good to go. But… is it?

Having sat through dozens and dozens of meetings with government CIOs, I can tell you that they see slide decks and hear pitches all day. Yes, it can be valuable information to know what is available in the marketplace, but is it compelling? Are you helping the CIO understand how you relate to his or her IT environment? Are you connecting dots for them?

Here are a few questions you should be ready to answer, so you can knock your meeting out of the park.

Where are you presently working in the government market?

It’s important to be able to put your product or service into context. State CIOs are responsible for the enterprise-level technology policy and shared services. If you are working across departments, that will resonate. The same can be said of county and city CIOs who see technology implementation across many departments.  The CIO may even be able to offer some guidance on who you should be meeting with. If you aren’t in any departments currently, then the CIO may have advice on how to approach the department leadership.

What is the cost of not using your product or service?

If you have done a good job with your sales presentation, then the value proposition makes sense. Why wouldn’t the state want to work with you? But there are a lot of great products and services in the world. The question really is whether the pain caused by not working with you is significant. Will you create meaningful cost savings that could impact the budget and free up funding for another initiative? Is it cost avoidance? Is it a reduction in cybersecurity risk? Perhaps the current way of doing business is going to be costly and you can help prevent a project from being so expensive.

What are the technology dependencies?

If your product or service depends on a technology stack, be honest. Sometimes the government needs a solution deployment accelerated for political or operational reasons. For instance, federal stimulus funding has required the state and local government to act quickly. If your product works best in a particular technology environment, you cannot assume that technology is in place. Also, can your solution work in a shared environment? Integrations, legacy systems and cybersecurity standards could all impact the use of the solution you are proposing and should be addressed.

What skillsets or training does your solution require?

I hear the terms "low code" or "declarative programming" used in software technology pitches. The selling point being that this solution doesn't require a government employee to have an advanced degree to make it work. That is great news to a CIO who may not have the skills in-house to take on a major technology project. If your company offers free training or the solution is relatively easy to learn, mention it. 

Setting a meeting with a government CIO is a big step in getting closer to your government sales goals. But in order to make the most of the time the official has carved out for you, make sure you’re prepared to answer these crucial questions.


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