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The best way to connect with a distracted and time-crunched security buyer

Jul 23, 20184 mins
Cloud SecurityData and Information SecurityTechnology Industry

These four techniques will help you rise above the noise – warning some of it may be uncomfortable.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Let’s face it. There is tremendous overcrowding in the security space. 6500+ cybersecurity companies at last count. And as a media pass attendee covering #BlackHat, I am being pitched relentlessly so I know first-hand the tactic these vendors indulge in – full of ridiculously sounding jargon, scary stats shock therapy treatment and most awesome sounding award recipient fame.

There has to be a better way. In fact, there is. If only, the vendors take a pause and decide to do something slightly different.

First idea – When being presented with an opportunity to present to a prospect, chances are that you have already passed the smell test, or you have an existing relationship with one or more people on the other side who have given you the benefit of doubt. Seize the moment . Before you go to the meeting by looking at the attendees (most times you do have the names of the attendees beforehand) social profile. Tweets, Shares, Articles. Do they believe in crypto currency? Are they big on public cloud for data backup and recovery? Have they been on a podcast where they have revealed what they crave for in a vendor pitch? In short, do your homework and strike a conversation with the CISO and her deputies even before the meeting starts referencing their own public statements.

Use social media to your advantage and establish a rapport with people.

Second idea – As a former security vendor exec, I know this for a fact that asking a customer to reveal their problems is a non-starter. However, by charting on a time graph – yes on the whiteboard – about what I have seen other customers of mine (yes, their competitors included) do for instance in their “secure digital transformation” journey, I have always elicited comments that are golden. Either they completely subscribe to what I have charted (typically the minority) or they start throwing darts about how their journey is different. And this is the exact conversation you want as a vendor. Being able to learn what they are doing and see what value you can add or not (qualifying out early is a win too).

Create a neutral transformation graph that can be used to debate and learn from

Third idea – Offer a longer pilot for your product. Not the usual 2-week cookie cutter one that you have on deck but a customized longer one for them to test your product. Why? Because you can then suggest to them that it gives them a chance to actually test you as a vendor – not just from a product efficacy and effectiveness perspective – but also from a post sales customer experience perspective. Let’s say a three-month pilot. And chances are an attack of some sort that requires weekend support or an outage that requires rapid decryption of the gargantuan backup storage pushing the product capabilities boundaries and your customer support personnel as well. How refreshing would that sound?

In good times and bad, we are with you – test us

Fourth idea – Really put yourself in the customers’ shoes but answering this question for them ‘What can I stop doing right now to listen to your pitch and maybe do an evaluation and a POC in the future aka where do I get the commodity that I don’t have – time?’ This is a difficult question to answer but a very important one. Knowing what is publicly available about the customer, what did they tell Wall Street, whose vendors’ products do they already have, maybe some exposes about them that are public knowledge. Using this, create a theory of what they may be spending time on today that you could actually help recover some of if they invested in understanding your capabilities. Showing that you are cognizant of their time-strapped world and are seeking ways to help them through that would catapult you above most other vendors.

Yes, I know you don’t have time. Maybe this could help?

I admit, none of the above are breathtakingly new ideas or breaking new ground. However, in this noisy environment where there is little attention span or tolerance for self-serving vendor pitches by the CISOs and their teams, taking a simple and more grounded approach is sure to set you apart. It will take some learning and unlearning for sure. A divorce from the dreaded PowerPoint or white papers in favor of whiteboard conversations and actual dialog with an intent to listen. I promise, it will do wonders.


Ashwin Krishnan is the COO of UberKnowledge, a cybersecurity knowledge sharing, training and compliance organization.

As a former vendor hi-tech executive in the cybersecurity and cloud domain he has turned writer, podcaster and speaker. His focus is on simplifying technology trends and complex topics such as security, artificial intelligence and ethics through enduring analogies which he shares on his blog and his talks. Ashwin is the author of “Mobile Security for Dummies,” and as a recognized thought-leader he contributes to a variety of publications, including Entrepreneur Magazine.

Ashwin is a regular host with CISOs on podcasts such as the Cyber Security Dispatch where he bridges the education gap between what the security practitioners need and what the vendors provide; as a tech ethics evangelist he is frequently on main stage at conferences educating and empowering consumers and vendors alike on the role of ethics in tech; his recent speaking engagements include the Smart Home Conference, Fog Computing Congress, and the Global AI Conference.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Ashwin Krishnan and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.