Network Security

Winning business: CISOs chime in on the cyber vendor ‘dating game’

What sales tactics actually work?

In light of a new study that dissects the various marketing tactics used to get the attention of security executives, SC Media asked four high-ranking security professionals for their biggest likes – and their biggest turn-offs – when getting wooed by vendors with their wares. Here’s what they said what attracts them (best practices) and repels them (pet peeves) during this courtship process.

Mark Eggleston, Health Partners Plans

Pet peeves: “Phone calls for free white papers. Repeatedly re-forwarding emails. Asking for 30 minutes of time to review their offerings out of the blue… Showing up to my business, unannounced.” And finally: “Once you agree to vendor chat initial discussion, [the] first 15 minutes are spent on a PowerPoint showing customers, years of business, etc.” – very basic information that he always knows if he agreed to meet in the first place.

Best practices: “Start with the relationship and always keep this in mind. This often means do not try to sell me on anything for the entire first contact. Learn my pain points or gaps. Start with a .pdf, 2 pages max. Anything more and you’ve failed in concise messaging. Sponsor something – a dinner, conference, lunch, my company’s foundation – everyone’s time has value.”

Neil Daswani, Stanford Advanced Security Program

Pet peeves: “Biggest turn off is a cold call where the vendor has no idea about who I am, what’s my role, and what is my organization’s business.”

Best practices: “I am a big fan of demos. Demos are worth more than a thousand words. Even better would be a published scientific study by a university or independent lab that evaluates and shows effectiveness.”

"If a vendor really wants to seal the deal, showing their effectiveness through a free or paid trial in which they are ready to subject themselves to competition and a bake-off is a big turn on!"


Gerald Beuchelt, LogMeIn

Pet peeves: Big turn-offs include sending unsolicited email, sometimes with a random calendar appointment; trying to jump on the latest hype or scare to create urgency; and a lack of understanding of my business such as sending me a Zoom or WebEx meeting.” (LogMeIn sells GotoMeeting, a competitor to these two conferencing platforms.)

Best practices: “To get time [with me] I can recommend time-tested hard work. Try to understand the business and the person. Learn about the company's business cycle – budget planning is not aligned with the seller’s end of quarter, so make sure to reach out when next-year planning actually occurs. And be humble and courteous in your communications. 

Caleb Sima, Databricks

Pet peeves: “Requiring an hour-long meeting to do a presentation with no product demo.”

Best practices: “…Giving a free-to-download-and-view, five-minute-or-less actual product demo. And be clear – no buzzwords – with a helpful product sheet. This helps a lot. I need to be provided information that can be easily forwarded as an email through the company so that people can view the value and make comments.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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