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Posted: December 10, 2010

Let’s bring integrity back to the tech marketplace

Time to modernize

Mark Hall

A couple of years back I hosted a town hall meeting at a CIO magazine event, playing Dr. Phil to five CIOs and five technology vendor executives on stage who had come to let spill what they really thought about each other.

I jokingly reminded everyone to remain respectful of each other and avoid breaking out into any Jerry Springer-esque brawls. There were no brawls, thankfully; instead, we witnessed a coherent, albeit highly passionate exposition of the very real and negative tensions that exist between buyers and sellers of enterprise technology.

In a nutshell, CIOs were growing increasingly aggravated with some of the sales and marketing practices employed by technology providers. On the flip side, vendor executives were equally frustrated with the mounting difficulty of winning an audience with a receptive decision maker who didn't assume they had long ago sold their soul to the devil.

This experience convinced me of two things.

First, the way business technology is bought and sold is stuck in the dark ages. Here we are, equal participants in a $1.5 trillion industry that is changing the face of business and society faster than anything the world has ever known. And yet, the underlying stratagems that we rely upon to market and sell remain locked in the consumer advertising models originally conceived with the rise of mass production in the late 19th century.

Sure, the media channels have changed significantly, but the fundamental principles have not: attract an audience and persuade them to purchase or take some action upon a product or service by associating them in the minds of consumers with certain desirable qualities. Cold calling is even worse-hardly one step removed from the travelling vacuum cleaner salesmen of the mid-20th century.

I will never be convinced that the ill-will created in the mind of the business-technology buyer through cold calling will ever be offset by the occasional business won via this method.
Second, the town hall meeting put into focus that buyers and sellers of business technology are both open to discussing new models to bring the marketplace into the 21st century.

 We have launched this blog site with the express purpose of bringing all participants in the B2B technology industry together-buyers, sellers, industry observers and academics-to recognize and acknowledge those practices and behaviors that lead to tensions between buyers and sellers, and to discuss new models that the industry can build upon.

As we begin our discussion, let me lay out some fundamental beliefs and principles I believe we can all agree on:

• The business-technology marketplace is built on antiquated advertising paradigms that create friction and distrust between buyers and solution providers
• IT buyers have become increasingly desensitized to traditional marketing and demand generation efforts
• IT sellers are looking for more effective and efficient ways to engage with active buyers
• The problem and its solution are the shared responsibility of all of the players within the ecosystem - buyers, solution providers, advisors and influencers
• The industry is ready and willing to discuss new models for 21st century

The industry can-and must-come together to bring the marketplace into the 21st century and create a new working relationship that benefits everyone.

CIOs are ready. The vendors and solution providers are ready. We're all ready. And there couldn't be a better time-because none of us can afford to let this issue get any worse.

Now is the time to bring trust and partnership back to the marketplace. But to truly move past the negativity and the inefficiencies that plague the buying and selling process as we know it, we need to work together. That includes everyone -from CIOs and IT executives to IT manufacturers and solution providers to vendor sales strategists and industry observers. It's a shared responsibility.

If you believe, as I do, that the system is broken, help us fix it. If you feel strongly that buyers and sellers can find new ways to collaborate for success, then it's time to speak up. I invite you to share your thoughts - either here or on the Rational Markets blog. Let's work together to move forward.
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Mark Hall is the founder and CEO of xPeerient, a company focused on improving the way enterprise technology is bought and sold. The company has partnered with several Colorado fixtures including CXO, a leading executive networking organization based in Denver and the CIOs of the City of Denver, EchoStar Corporation, The Sports Authority, National CineMedia and Square Two Financial. Mark is also the former founder and general manager of CIO Magazine's Executive Council, a global community of the world's leading chief information officers. He can be reached at mhall@xpeerient.com and you can follow him on Twitter @mhallxpeerient.

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Readers Respond

Interesting concept - I like your mission! A challenge to get both parties to change, for sure. Good luck By Events Submit on 2010 12 10

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