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Oftentimes, marketing and sales teams get too caught up in the numbers when going after new business leads and targeting top CISOs. Many sales teams treat new business and prospecting as a sprint, not a journey, and that right there is their downfall. By remaining shortsighted and just trying to “close the deal,” they’re completely ignoring the CISO’s pain points and may have already lost their opportunity to get in the door to sell their solutions.  

Here at Merritt Group, we recognize the need to break down this confusion and have spent a lot of time trying to get a better understanding of CISOs’ top priorities — how they make their purchasing decisions, how they prefer to be contacted and what they need to be successful. We teamed up with T.E.N., an industry leading technology and security executive marketing and networking organization, to survey more than 100 CISOs and hone in on the top five steps when marketing to the CISO. Here’s what we found:

1. Sell the Problem, Not Your Product

When asked how CISO executives prefer to learn about vendor solutions and content offerings, marketing collateral came in at only 16%, while cases studies were the top choice (at 68%) and white papers/ebooks (which often contain use cases) came in second at 50%.

What does this mean? It means that time focused on developing fancy product slick sheets might be time wasted, and the CISO you’re looking to target has likely already thrown your one-pager in the trash. Bottom line: CISOs don’t want to read about product specs and capabilities, they want to learn about how your solution is going to solve their individual problems.  

Take a step back and consider their pain points and daily responsibilities. From there, explain the security problem you can solve and tie the message directly to their organization. You’ll have a better chance of getting the sale when you’ve cut through the marketing hype and, instead, lead with why they need to invest in a solution that won’t drain their budgets and will actually solve real challenges they are facing

2. Don’t Just Tell Them; “Prove It”

As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” Demonstrate how you’ve helped an existing client and showcase how your solutions were not only successful in addressing the problem at hand, but also in making everyone’s jobs easier from an operational standpoint. Show, don’t tell! Case studies are powerful because they validate your technology in a concrete way with measurable impact. And if you want to add a cherry on top, offer those case study customers as references to your prospects. They will be able to hear first-hand from your customers and feel much more confident in the decision and investment they’re making.

3. Leverage Industry Conferences

T.E.N.’s ISE® Programs and ISE® Private Dinners, RSA®, and Gartner Security Summits are the top ranking information security events and a great way to get in front of CISOs. They typically attend these events to meet with partners and customers, but they also use them as an opportunity to learn about new security products and vendors.

This is where you come in. You’ve got to attend top security events and get yourself to where the CISOs hang out. Leverage these industry conferences by scheduling face-time with them; whether it is on the show floor, at a conference networking event or during some one-on-one time that you’ve scheduled with them directly. These in-person meetings are critical for closing deals. In fact, in-person meetings ranked second (21%) behind product demonstrations (26%) in terms of how CISOs prefer to be contacted and pitched.

4. Win Over Their Peers & Their Team

CISOs rely heavily on their industry peers’ experience and lessons learned so they can be more efficient in their efforts and not make costly mistakes. If you can educate their peers and team on how your solutions will solve problems and produce a high return on investment, your job is more than halfway done. This connection can be the foundation for a future rapport with a key influencer, setting you up by establishing a relationship built on trust.

5. Keeping “Selling” Once You’ve Won the Business

Again, it is a journey not a sprint. While the above steps will increase your chances of getting in front of CISOs, it’s important to continuously show your value once they’re paying customers. Marketing and sales is an ongoing process, and you must continue to hone your message and educate key influencers and the market on what you’re doing to help solve industry problems.   

With all this in mind, our advice is to get out of the number-chasing mindset, build a stronger understanding of the market and develop new relationships. Ultimately, you’ll have a better chance of winning new business with this recipe for success.

Still need help navigating the best way to target CISO? Download Merritt Group’s latest report “Marketing & Selling to the CISO” and contact us today.  

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