If you want to get the CIO’s attention—or, really, anyone at the C-suite level—you have to start speaking the language of business problems. That’s the message Myles Suer has for marketers targeting executive technology leaders.

“If you’re speaking in the language of technology versus the language of business problems, you’re going to be relegated to somebody lower” in the organization, Myles says. And that means smaller deals for your company.

This shift parallels changes in the CIO role itself. There was a day when CIOs were mainly concerned with whether or not IT services were up and running. 

“In the old days, CIOs might measure themselves by the nines,” Myle says. “How frequently the services are operating versus not operating. And you obviously want to get to five nines. Nobody understood it. And the reality is, it was treating IT as kind of a utility.”

As the role of IT in business has expanded beyond communications and connectivity, the CIO role has evolved to fit. Today, CIOs see themselves as business leaders first. They want to be evaluated on the same criteria as the CEO. CIOs are delivering business outcomes by deploying technology solutions.

The Language of Business Problems

Today, CIOs are concerned with solving business problems and delivering value to a company’s bottom line. For salespeople and marketers who want to reach this audience, it’s critical to understand this shift.

“In the old days, a salesperson—or even a company—could sell on the basis of ‘I have this cool widget,’” Myles says. “We’ve gotten beyond that because there are a lot of technologies out there and a lot of products out there.” 

In a crowded marketplace, messaging that begins from the customer’s point of view will cut through the noise. CIOs especially need to know how your cool widget will help their business’s bottom line. 

“If there’s not a business impact to it, you’re not going to succeed,” Myle says.

Making it about “Us”

This shift represents a massive opportunity for marketers. But capitalizing on it will require gaining a deeper understanding of your customers and potential customers. “I like to tell folks they need to be reading what’s going on, and they need to understand the language—they may even need to understand the industries that they’re going after,” Myles says.

To do this, Myles suggests interviewing existing customers to understand what’s happening in the company and the industry. Case studies are another fantastic resource. The goal is to learn the customer’s language to present your “widget” as a solution for the urgent problems the target business is facing.

“I know it’s kind of a ‘Crossing the Chasm’ kind of thought, but try and go figure out what those common themes are, and message that way,” Myles says.

The goal in all of this is to move toward a relationship-oriented approach to selling that focuses on the customer’s needs. “You’re not saying ‘Me, me, me, me, me.’ You’re saying ‘You, you, you, you, you.’”

When marketing and sales teams refocus around customer needs, building on the idea that—regardless of what the product can do—we’re here to solve pressing problems for the customer’s business, they get better at getting the CIO’s attention. “If you can really be focused on that business problem and how you solve it, then you’re going to be at the right place at the right time for customers to knock on the door.”

Watch the entire interview with Myles Suer on Leadtail TV.