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Selling To The CIO: The Ultimate CIO Cold Calling Script

It’s a new day. 

You’re sitting at your desk. And you’ve got a list of accounts to tackle. 

You see Chief Information Officer (CIO) as one of the job titles, and you think “Oh no - how do I sell to a CIO?” 

Anxiety takes over, and you’re stuck! 

We’ve all been there. But you’re in luck! Because we’ve gathered intel and research, to create a personalised and tailored cold calling script for you. 

So, next time you dial, you’ll know exactly what to say to CIO prospects. 

We’ve featured insights from a wide range of contributors, including our Senior Enterprise SDR Maddie Hopkin

Scroll to get started 👇

What does a CIO mean in sales?

In a nutshell, a CIO is responsible for the IT strategy in a company. For example, they could be responsible for virus or malware protection. 

Alternatively, they could be in charge of maintaining software that gathers data to provide company insights. 

They could even be responsible for optimising workflows across tools, so it’s easier for a business to collaborate on something. 

Why is it important to cold call CIOs?

CIOs are an important prospect, as their role aligns with the wider goals of a business. 

They’ll most likely have a vested interest in determining whether a solution is even needed in the first place.

The best way to sell to CIOs is to pick up a phone and call them. But before you do that, research their company profile to understand the organization’s business needs, structure, technology they use and their budget.

It’s best if you have access to buyer intent data, sales triggers, and technographics to close the information gaps and reach to them at the right time. 

What are the focuses for CIOs currently?

Here’s the deal. 

In order to truly have an impact, your outreach has to be personalised. This means truly understanding who you’re prospecting to, and what they care about. 

With that in mind, let’s deep-dive into some of the core focuses and challenges that are facing CIOs currently. 

Steven Mills, Co-Founder and Chief Information Officer at Pressat, shared the following two focuses for the organisation at the moment: process and technology.  

He said:

“From the process standpoint, I’m constantly striving for operational efficiency, whilst ensuring that I’m adhering to IT protocols. I also am looking to improve technology that’ll help optimise project delivery timelines across the business, in the different teams.” 

This is a really important one. According to a report from Evanta, 76% of CIOs selected increasing operational efficiency and productivity as part of their top three priorities for 2023. 

Steven also said:

“I’m keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advancements, ensuring system and data security. And I’m managing legacy systems while integrating new solutions too.” 

This is also known as digital business acceleration

And again, from that same Evanta report, 61% of CIOs considered this to be one of their top three priorities for 2023, too. 

And our VP of Engineering, Andreas Schröder, shared this view:

“CIOs are thinking about how they can implement AI into their company workflows.” 

Andreas also noted that CIOs are thinking about:

  • Migration into the cloud
  • Remote work and collaboration tools
  • Sustainability and green IT

Best time and length for a CIO cold call

Jason Smit, CIO of Contentellect, said:

“Generally speaking I prefer early mornings or late afternoons - this is when I tend to get on with the bulk of my day without constant interruption.” 

The CIO cold calling script

Bearing this information in mind, let’s look at what cold calling a CIO would look like, in practice. 


Maddie said:

“Usually, when it comes to my opener, it’s going to be based around the fact I’ve had some information from individuals lower down in the company. I won't go in completely cold, and I’ll name a few people.”

For instance:

Hey [insert name here],

I just had a quick chat with your colleague [insert name here], and he/she mentioned that I should reach out to you. Can I have a quick moment to explain why I’m calling?

Oh, by the way it’s Maddie calling from Cognism.

“If they’re friendly, I might ask them how they’re doing. But this depends - some prospects prefer a more direct response.”

For Steven, the opener that resonates with CIOs, demonstrates a rep being respectful of time. Here’s his suggestion:

I value your time - can we discuss how we improved efficiency by 30% for a similar organisation in just a 10 minute call?


Your bottom-up approach can come in handy here. Maddie offered how you can begin the middle part of a cold call by leveraging information:

I spoke to [insert name here], they mentioned this and said they were struggling with this.

I also spoke to their manager [insert name here], who also said this is a pain, but it’s not under his/her remit. 

Maddie said:

“Phrasing a pitch like this makes it seem like a real priority. Because you’re not only stating the pain from the end user, but the manager is also noticing the impact.”

“It can be really valuable to go with all of that information, relay it, and paint a picture for them in their head. Because it’s creating a strong business case.” 

Furthermore, when it comes to technical decision-makers like CIOs, it’s vital to make your value proposition straightforward and valuable. 

Julia Gilinets, Interim CRO at Uplevel, has had lots of experience reaching out to technical decision-makers. 

She said:

“When you’re speaking with someone like a CIO, cut out all of the fluff. Remove flowery additions from your language. Because they’re not going to care if the product that you’re selling is the best in the market.” 

The bottom line? 

Prove out the value! And don’t pitch irrelevant parts of your product or solution.  

Steven agreed, stating:

“I want to know how the product can provide tangible value to my organisation. Steer clear from jargon, and focus on measurable outcomes that I can visualise.” 

Maddie shared this view:

“With your line of questioning, paint the picture of a positive impact all round. With a CIO, it could be helping to envision a really positive workflow.” 

For example:

If you had xyz, what do you think the impact would be on the overall efficiency of the workflow for your team? 

They’ll respond with a positive result - you’re helping them realise the potential through a relevant line of questioning. 

Julia also added:

“During the course of your outreach, have an emphasis on storytelling. That’s the best way to get people hooked. Before you pick up the phone, consider this: who is a customer that you have in a similar space?”

“Share in a succinct way how you helped get wins for them. This means you can display facts without overpromising anything.” 

Steven is also a fan of this peer-based approach:

“It’s about mentioning if another CIO or reputable company has benefited from the solution you’re selling - that can pique my interest.” 


Maddie said:

“Don’t leave it two to three weeks out - the show rate on your meetings will drop significantly. Try and set the meeting sooner rather than later. That’s how you stay top of mind and create urgency.” 

She uses the following phrases:

Okay - I appreciate I’m keeping you on the phone, I know you’re probably super busy. You mentioned to me that your team is struggling with xyz, would you be opposed to discussing how Cognism can…

I’m just looking at my calendar - Tuesday is pretty free on my side…

A note on objection handling when selling to CIOs

1. “Send me an email.” 

Maddie suggests that this is how you should respond:

As a CIO, I’m sure you’ll get thousands of emails a day. Can I take 30 seconds now, just to explain why I’m calling?

2. “Budgets are tight.”

Maddie offered this response:

This makes complete sense. I’ve spoken to numerous companies who have said that budgets are tight. 

But they’ve also said due to market conditions, they’re dealing with xyz problem, which means it’s tougher to achieve goals. 

Would you be open to discussing now, ahead of when budgets open up in 2024? 

Closing thoughts

It can be daunting prospecting into industries that are more technical. 

But it’s not an impossible task. If you need inspiration, or want to make as much of an impact as possible, talk to your internal CIO or equivalent. 

They’ll be able to provide you with valuable and relevant insights. And that’ll mean your outreach will be thoughtful. 

Improve your cold calling technique

If you’re looking to brush up on your cold calling, or even your outbound skills more generally, check out our SDR Zone. 

There’s an abundance of resources on there that’ll help you and your team book more meetings 🚀

sdr zone cta

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