The Challenge

Selling the future to executives stuck in the past

Special to The Globe and Mail

Dan Latendre, founder and chief executive officer of Igloo Inc (Tim Fraser/TIM FRASER FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Every week, we will seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business.

Since 2008, Dan Latendre’s business has been to help companies embrace the future of cloud-based communication.

However, he’s finding that many big-company executives won’t break out of the past.

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The founder and chief executive officer of Igloo Inc., a 36-employee technology business based in Kitchener, Ont., that has developed software to help companies collaborate virtually, says many executives he’s met with — especially in larger companies — aren’t enthusiastic about adopting new technology.

“These people have done business one way for a very long time and they’re not planning to change the way they do business any time soon,” he says.

Most of the revenue he’s generated – $1.6-million last year – has come from mid-sized companies, which, he says, are more open to new technologies.

He’s now trying to market to larger businesses – the Global 1,000, as he calls them – but he’s receiving pushback from many C-suite executives, who simply don’t want to rock the boat with something new.

Besides being set in their ways, big-company executives express concern about security and costs, Mr. Latendre says, and can’t be convinced that cloud computing is safe and, in the long-run, more cost effective than out-of-date technology.

He has tried to target some of the more open-minded people in these organizations, and has developed three separate pitches that speak to different stakeholders – departmental managers, IT staff and C-suite execs – but even so, he’s still finding it difficult to break into big-league companies.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” he says. “They say, ‘I’ve always done it this way, I know it works, why would I take the risk?’”

The Challenge: How can big-company executives be convinced to embrace new technology?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

J.F. Potvin, Toronto-based human resources outsourcing sales executive with consulting firm Aon Hewitt

He needs to leverage his current book of business, especially if clients are in the same industry. Even if it’s a smaller business, there’s nothing better than a client speaking about services, because the prospect knows that person is not trying to sell anything. Our company would get existing clients to provide stories or allow us to use them as a case study. [References]speak volumes.

Get on the speaking circuit. There are many technology conferences that chief investment officers from big organizations attend. If you can spend an hour talking to 200 people, that’s basically like having 100 meetings in one. To me, that’s worth its weight in gold.

Laura Jones, Vancouver-based senior vice-president of research, economics and Western Canada at Canadian Federation of Independent Business

He needs to make sure he’s influencing the tech-savvy people in the company. One way to target those people is to have meetings in a group, rather than one on one. A group increases your changes of having at least one person seeing the benefits of the product and going to bat for you. Once one person’s head nods in a group, others will follow.

The people writing the cheques trust their internal team a lot more than an outsider. Get that internal team to recommend it and you have a much better chance of making the sale. But instead of just going to executives, bring the mid-level management team onside first. It’s a more productive road.

Todd Jamieson, president and CEO of Ottawa-based technology company Envision Online Media Inc.

We’ve encountered these issues before and have found that convincing someone that a revenue stream is attached goes a long way. That may be more difficult for Igloo, because they’re selling time-saving software, but they should point out how much money can be saved by doing things more efficiently.

We were working with a newspaper company that wanted to put all their newspapers online as PDFs. It was cheap to do, but it’s an outdated way to do what they wanted. We had to convince them that spending money would be worth it and we explained how they can generate revenue from a website instead. We also tailored our service to their specific needs. We talked to people to find out the pain points and then we were able to go back to the executives and talk shop.

THREE THINGS IGLOO SHOULD DO NOW

Get on the speaking circuit

There are many tech conferences; big company executives are often in attendance.

Find strength in numbers

Talk to small groups of tech-savvy managers; that increases the chances of getting at least one on board and convincing others.

Push the financial benefits

Many execs only care about the bottom line. Put the emphasis on the financial benefits to the company.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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