by Robin Austin

Are tech/business evangelists necessary to ensure your company stays relevant?

May 22, 2019
CIOIT LeadershipIT Skills

Most executives and sales/marketing pros believe they are effective communicators. It’s the people to whom they’re communicating that “just doesn’t get it.” Every company, regardless of size, should hire a technology/business evangelist to act as the official communicator for stronger internal and external messaging.robin a

Technology/business evangelist is a fairly new position in many companies, but an absolutely necessary one and well worth the price tag to maintain resilience and relevance. In this day and age affective communications between the C-suite stakeholders, vendors, partners, potential customers and investors are extremely important to every business whether it be start-up, mid-tier or enterprise.

Entrepreneurial energy is running rampant and the lifespan of companies are “here today, gone tomorrow” – whether being acquired or falling short. Technology/business evangelists on the payroll can make the difference in a company’s longevity and reputation.

What’s an evangelist, anyway?

Evangelists touch just about every department and every level, universally working with stakeholders, sales, marketing and product development. Evangelists are C-level strategists working alongside CTOs to develop products and services and communicate them to the appropriate target audience affectively especially to the potential C-suite executive. Evangelists support brand effectiveness and messaging maturity.

Even if the organization is not operationally mature, evangelists can maintain an image equally comparable to a well-established organization. By writing articles for publication, speaking at conferences, maintaining a social media reputation, communicating effectively with potential and current C-level executive customers as well as internal product development teams, evangelists aid in almost every facet of product monetization and revenue generation.  

Communication is key

Recently, I attended a few events in Dallas, TX, and had a chance to experience and learn much. It was an opportunity for the vendor community to help me understand what they were offering.

As you can well imagine having attended technology events for many years, the room was full of vendor booths all explaining their products benefits. Everyone was either there to learn and possibly buy or there to teach and possibly sell.

A couple of gentlemen I had never met before approached me and began an introduction…but not well. Although I think of myself as more open than most of my peers when in information-gathering mode, I caught myself quickly interrupting and instructing the gentlemen, because the language in their address already caused me to shut down.

If it hadn’t been for another unrelated gentleman who chimed into the conversation in agreement with my instruction, the conversation would have ended, and I would have dismissed the two entirely. This would have been a missed opportunity for both of us.

The conversation took on a lighter tone as I explained what not to say at a first introduction. To their credit, they were extremely patient with my instruction which told me a lot about their character in a very short amount of time.

The point is this: although communication is the most important skill for sales and marketing, many salespeople who are hired by vendors have ineffective communication skills…especially C-suite executives. Many times, I ask questions that the vendor’s salespeople just can’t answer, not answer thoroughly or not in a manner that “speaks my language.”

Although the new digital ecosystem with increased competition requires timely, innovative strategic approaches, many vendors still hire under old practices. Presentations are still communicated exactly the same as they were 20 years ago. Approaches and introductions are still archaic and ill-advised. Just like the two gentlemen who approached me, we are still in the dark ages with poorly developed soft skills.

Understandably having different career experiences, salespeople may not have learned the best style or language to approach a C-level person affectively. This is where a technology/business evangelist makes a huge difference. An evangelist provides more cohesion, better communication to the appropriate people and therefore a better customer relationship and a shorter sales cycle. In addition, shorter sales cycles mean increased revenue with fewer resources utilized and reduced costs.

Hire an evangelist

There are current and former C-suite talents that make perfect evangelists. As long as old hiring job descriptions are used for the new digital transformation economy, companies will miss the mark. Proactive mature vendors hire evangelists to increase revenue opportunities, communicate more effectively with their customer executives and potential customers and therefore create a more mature brand and market image.

At another event, I approached a booth to ask a question about a current security vendor’s offering that had been in business since 1993. This is a well-established security company that started as a firewall and progressed forward.

The VP of engineering was on stage speaking and I saw much of the presentation, but I went to the booth to ask specific questions while he was speaking. There were two gentlemen at the booth and neither of them could answer my questions.

At first, I thought this was understandable…but then concluded that it just isn’t acceptable. If specific information is being offered in front of the room, then those in the booth should have the knowledge to support what’s being presented. Too often I have experienced delays and a lack of knowledge within the vendor’s organization about their own product. For the vendor, a missed opportunity. For me, a possible missed necessary solution. Having an evangelist present could have made all the difference.

Stakeholders, sales, marketing and product development need technology/business evangelists to help open doors to the C-suite in potential customer companies as well as an investor pool. Evangelists are seen as trusted advisors for prospective customers who “speak C-suite language.”

Strategically, they are able to identify architectural weaknesses and vulnerabilities while offering input into possible risk. Evangelists “walk in the customer’s shoes,” identifying with the challenges at the executive level. Evangelists are strategic thinkers and communicators both internally and externally affectively communicating the company message, strategic position and reputation. Every company should have one.