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Identifying RFID Project Leaders

Advocates for the technology come from many different areas within a company and hold a wide variety of titles.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 19, 2016

Our salespeople are often asked for information regarding the titles of our readers. It's a common question all publishers receive, and it makes sense when selling a mature technology. If your company sells, say, storage devices, then you want to reach the most senior person at a firm's IT department to tell him or her why your storage devices are better, less expensive or whatever than your competition's. Alas, this doesn't work with new technologies, such as radio frequency identification.

First, if you target a senior person in the IT department, that individual is almost certainly going to reject RFID out of hand, unless his or her CEO has decided RFID is the right thing to do. That's because RFID doesn't benefit IT in any way and it adds work—more boxes on the network to manage, more data to analyze and filter, and more applications to develop. And if things go wrong, it's the IT executive's fault.

Targeting senior supply chain, operations or other executives might seem to make sense, and in a few cases, that might be the right person to contact. But more often than not, he or she will have read some negative articles a few years ago about RFID and thus thinks the technology doesn't work. What's more, that individual has other projects that he or she is likely championing, and will almost certainly reject an RFID pitch without doing much serious investigation.

Titles are irrelevant. In some companies, such as Macy's, the VP of logistics is leading the effort. At Marks & Spencer, the head of packaging used to run the RFID project (an RFID leader now handles that task). And at Walmart, RFID was driven by the CIO. So that's three retailers with three different functional areas leading their RFID efforts.

At our RFID in Health Care event in 2014, we had as a speaker David Rutherford, the nurse manager at Riverside Methodist Hospital. How many salespeople asking about titles are focused on nurse managers? Answer: none. But that was the right person at that hospital to contact.

So how do you sell RFID if you can't target by company and title? You focus on the people who "get" RFID and who believe it is the answer to an issue affecting their company's performance. The only way to find people like Carlo Nizam, a talented supply chain executive who understood the value of RFID and pushed it within Airbus (see RFID Special Achievement Award: The Man Who Gave RFID Flight in Aerospace), is to focus on those actively researching solutions.

If someone is not actively researching RFID solutions, it is very difficult to convince that person to buy one, since the technology is not an improved version of what he or she already uses—it's a new technology that brings business-process changes and risk. And even if you manage to convince someone you met at a manufacturing conference to use RFID, you'll also have to convince his boss and his boss's boss. It only takes one person within an organization to say "no" for a project to be killed.

If you do find a person who "gets" RFID in an organization, you'll then have an advocate within that company who will help sell RFID internally. Even if that person is not high up in the management ranks, he or she understands the problems that RFID can solve and will have credibility internally to push for pilot funding. A project still might be killed as the request for funding goes up the chain of command, but you'll have a much better shot if you have an advocate inside the company pushing for RFID.

I receive emails from people with a variety of titles all the time. They are passionate about using RFID to solve their problems and want to know who they can work with. It's too bad that solution providers are often looking for those with higher titles.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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