“But I’m an IT Guy, Not a Sales Guy….”
Have you ever been through a bunch of sales presentations and then talked to the one person who got it? No sales BS, just straight facts that are relevant to your situation.
To succeed, you need to be that company.
Often my marketing conversations, which I do all day with MSP’s, include them saying something to the effect of “Hey, we are IT guys, not sales guys.”
The funny thing is that I'm the VP of Business Development for Pronto, but I went to college for software development. I never ever thought of myself as a sales guy. I was an IT guy. I was the guy in the basement working on code who never talked to anyone. But I could, and I frequently helped bridge the gap between end-users and developers, leading me to where I am now.
Before long I found myself taking on a sales role. Surprisingly quickly I exceeded the expectations of myself (being not to get fired) and my company. To put it simply, I left the guys who've been selling for years in the dust.
Despite compliments from people impressed with my “natural sales talent”, I never approached anything like a sales situation. Instead, I ask “how can we help?” In my mind, I already know I am the guy our prospects need to talk to. About 30 seconds later, so do they.
How big of a difference does this help-first approach have? Consider that:
- Nearly everyone I spoke with signed up.
- My sales cycles were markedly shorter than the company average.
- I willingly picked up the phone when most did not.
- I worked to talk to every lead ASAP.
- I was brutally honest about whether we were right for them.
- My customer retention was better than everyone else’s.
With this in mind, I wanted to put together some insights on how Pronto approaches sales and what has been most successful for us and our clients in the modern software world.
INTEGRITY IS KEY
If your goal is only to put numbers on the board without regard to the end result for your customers, you can probably stop reading now. This isn’t going to work for you.
When there’s a large disconnect between the sales process and the outcome, the marketing process, and the satisfaction, you’re creating a recipe for failure. A candid conversation belies subject matter expertise that in turn puts people at ease.
We've all shopped around for solutions only to find that one person who absolutely knows what they are talking about. Four minutes into the conversation you know you’ve found the right solution. No sales magic. No million-dollar rebuttals. The rubber just hits the road right then, right there because the salesperson approached the conversation with integrity, with the goal of helping the prospect. You need to do the same.
One of the first things I noticed when I first started selling software is that people in nifty suits would rear back and spend an hour showing off charts and sales briefs in their “presentations”. They were doing all the talking and none of the listening. I wanted to know about the client. What did they need? Why did they need it?
We were presenting a different version of what they already had...which wasn’t working. Was it the solution? The implementation? The application? Did we even really know? The other thing I realized is that the sales process was excessively drawn-out. There was no two-way discussion in the meeting. It was stretched over weeks after the meeting.
First, there was an email about the meeting. Then there was an email about the email. Then there was a group email. The first thing I did in sales was end this cycle. I was consultative and honest, getting to the heart of the matter quickly. Clients subsequently appreciated the candor and we had good phone calls.
Even as they continued the process of searching for a service provider, I was afraid that they would get dazzled by somebody else's presentation. But more often than not, we stayed in contact and closed fairly quickly.
Communicate and Say “How can we help?” versus “I'm here to sell you something you may or may not need... I'm not sure because I haven't asked.” Salespeople were too often armed with all the information in the world on how to sell but only had a vague understanding of what the actual product was and what the client needed. In short, salespeople were not IT guys.
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF
I'm often asked about competitors or what about this company or what about that company and frankly I don't care. Not even a little bit, I am 100% on our business and leading. If someone has a better idea, I am all ears and if I think somebody's drinking the Kool-Aid I will be straight with them. “Hey, I personally don't think that's a good solution for you and here is why” but I never am negative or disparaging of another company. I am focused on my product in my solutions and how that can help the client.
There's nothing wrong with saying something is a bad fit in my opinion, no disrespect to XYZ company. There's nothing wrong with putting a little buyer affirmation in front of people. One of the things that are often true is that most companies come to Pronto feeling like marketing is this fuzzy-hazy black hole that you throw money in and hope the phone rings. They are often taken aback when I try to put it in relatable terms and focus on transparency as much as humanly possible.
I hate comebacks, I don't like salesy questions and I absolutely try to answer all customer questions. If I think the question is taking them down a bad path or inappropriate I will try to explain why. Of course, other companies have knocks on Pronto. I don't really care about the knocks but I will address them honestly. We are the leading MSP Marketing company by far and we have pretty big shoes and a big chin for everybody to punch at. There's a specific reason why we do things so if someone hits you with what they think is an apparent negative or a downgrade, tt is absolutely correct to explain why you do things the way you do. Be confident in that answer and you make the company who dishes it out look cheap. There's nothing wrong with saying that “unfortunately that is incorrect information” it's a confident powerful statement.
After every phone call, consultation request, email, referral, snail mail or paper airplane with your name on it……. follow up with a phone call. Now.
Nothing impresses potential clients more than when things move quickly and efficiently, with no hoops to jump through. If they schedule a call two days in the future, call him now because between now and two days from now they're clearly talking to someone and it ain't you. The first cat in the door gets 85% of the mice.
At the end of a conversation with someone it is completely fair to set expectations for a follow-up conversation. Try to get a rough timeline on what their plans are. Make sure you state your intent as well, “If I haven't heard from you, I'll give you a call back in a week if that's all right.” When you call in a week or two it's not a pesky nuisance call; it's a follow-up to a conversation that you had.
I like to alternate phone calls and emails every 4 to 5 days so they are getting at least one touch from me every workweek. You don’t need the fanciest CRM in the world to do this.
If someone goes dark on you, it could be for any number of reasons. It could be budget, other priorities, or pain point resolution, but you don’t so keep at it. The best salespeople I know are obsessed with follow up.
I generally don't let a prospect 100% go until they let me know it's time. We just had a client sign up that first contacted us in 2015. I don’t call them every week and haven't for a long time, but I still give them a call every couple of months to check-in. All of a sudden he got a newsletter from us and replied to that. Stay at it and you’ll be surprised how effectively you can build new relationships, even from old connections.
While we often consider ourselves IT people or process-oriented people we should really think of ourselves as friends and helpers and as a result, good salespeople. When you start to focus on selling just to make numbers, you lose track of so many other things - customer satisfaction and overall business health among them. What good is landing a load of new customers if they’re falling right out the back because needs and wants were misaligned during the sales process?
When I first started working with Pronto we considered a more elaborate sales process. But the more elaborate the process, the more I talked and the less I listened. During follow up calls I'd find out they remembered very little if any of the presentation and most of it wasn't relevant to them.
If the sales process is correct, you should have no problem with the closing. It may come to a final decision but if you listened well and responded in kind, you did the best thing you can do for them and the choice should be clear. If you talked too much, it’s easy to think “it’s just price.” Those that listen will know for sure.
You are the solution to your prospects’ problems and the only person they need to talk to. Make sure they know it by how you present yourself and your company. This is a sharing of knowledge and skills. If it’s a fit, it’s a fit. Now go get’em, Tiger.