Breaking into New Accounts: Advice from NetApp IT
By Mike Capener
As the head of IT infrastructure and shared services at NetApp, I work a lot with technology suppliers. I’m constantly receiving unsolicited calls, emails, and proposals from suppliers looking to get our attention and break into NetApp. I couldn’t possibly respond to each one and still do my job.
Most emails from suppliers go unanswered.
If you’re a vendor and you’re looking to catch my attention and earn my business, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Leverage quality contacts, not quantity of contacts
I do not answer cold calls or emails. I might take a call as a favor to a colleague, but I will always listen to my enterprise architects. I trust them to know the landscape and understand our challenges better than anyone. I do not make any solution decisions without their input.
You may want to start at the top with executives, but without an internal ally, you’re unlikely to succeed.
Start with the people who have solved the real problems and give them proof points and references on how you will make their lives better. Understand their challenges and demonstrate how you can deliver value. Do not come in and just ask what we need. Go in with the knowledge of what has worked at other places – referenceable and trusted.
Make long-term investments in your customers
If you’re trying to take out an incumbent, make sure you’re willing to invest for long-term returns. Don’t be afraid to give something away for free. I don’t negotiate on price because it’s fun for me—I do it because I have limited resources and a lot of competing demands. Even though it might cost you money and commission at the outset, it’s an investment in a long-term partnership that may pay dividends significantly more than your down payment.
For example, I was working with a vendor that had a solution our architects really liked, but it required a big separate upgrade for it to work for us. I told the vendor that while we were happy with the product, it was going to take a lot of effort on our part to implement. They came back and offered us credit to help with the upgrades.
This proactive investment – a long-term investment – was what we needed to see. They weren’t interested in getting a quick win. They were interested in being a real partner that grows with us.
Manage and exceed expectations
Over-deliver and always exceed expectations. I have a lot of vendors I’ve been working with for almost 20 years because I can call them up and they’ll do whatever I need to make it happen.
Never stop trying to learn or earn our business. Our best vendors don’t pitch us products we don’t need, because they know we don’t need them. It’s this deep understanding that builds trust.
They also educate us through their interactions with other companies or their own industry knowledge. Proactively showing us how we be more effective or efficient goes a long way.
The bottom line
Talk to the right people about the things they care most about. Work your way up the chain and demonstrate your willingness to invest in their success.
Mike Capener is the Vice President of Infrastructure, Data, and Strategy for NetApp IT.