I get asked all the time by IT service business owners on how to sell their services over their competitors.
So, I ask them what their selling process looks like and almost every time I find that they are selling like a salesperson and not like an expert.
How do you know that you’re selling like a salesperson?
These are the top 10 signals.
(If you’re doing any of these things now, you need to fix them.)
Let’s break this down.
1. YOU being too readily and easily accessible
2. No assistant, gatekeeper, or “people who handle that”
To start, reflect on your role at your MSP/VARs/IT Services company. For example, are you too easily or readily available? Moreover, you don’t have an assistant, a gatekeeper, or “people who handle that.”
Even if you are small, you need to have somebody answer the phone.
Now, I’m not saying that you don’t answer your phone live. I’m just saying you don’t answer your phone live.
The minute you answer your phone live, it signals that you’re small and you can’t be that busy. Most often, an in-demand consultant is hard to get to.
To illustrate, the guru at the top of the mountain is indeed at the top of the mountain, and people climb to get to the guru at the top.
However, there’s no line for the guru at the bottom of the mountain that’s taking anybody and everybody.
This is really about positioning.
3. Appearance (logo shirt vs. blazer or suit)
Next is your appearance. Are you wearing a logo shirt or a blazer/suit?
If you go into a sales meeting with your logo shirt on, it will scream “technician.”
When I have plumbers, HVAC people, the refrigerator repairman, and the pool guy show up, what are they all wearing? Logo shirts.
When you meet with a client, you need to wear a suit.
Now, you don’t have to be in a suit and tie all the time, but it depends on the audience you’re selling to.
If you’re selling to bankers, you better wear a suit and tie. At a minimum, maybe a casual jacket and a collared shirt.
On the other hand, your techs can wear the logo shirt because they’re engineers, but not you.
4. Brochure instead of authority material (book, reports)
Another mistake is handing out brochures instead of authority material like books or reports.
IT salespeople have brochures.
Consultants in demand, authors, experts, and specialists don’t walk around handing out brochures.
Instead, they hand out books or authority materials like reports, research reports, and white papers.
So, that’s the material that you want to hand out when you’re selling your services.
5. Willingness to cave in on fees, terms, or advice
If you are busy and in demand, you won’t budge on your price.
It’s like, “Hurry up, Bubba, make a decision, because I’ve got ten more standing here in line, and if you want me, you better make a decision now, and I can’t even start your project for six months.”
The busy doctor, hairstylist, or people in demand aren’t open for an appointment tomorrow because they’re booked out months ahead.
Now, I’m not saying in your sales process that you make a prospect wait for three months to meet with you, but what I am saying is that you don’t want to be too willing to cave on fees, too willing to give a discount, or too ready to roll over on your advice.
People want certainty.
Furthermore, they want somebody who appears to be confident and firm in their recommendations, and if you are, you won’t cave on price.
6. Being too eager to sell; rushing the decision, being “pushy.”
Additionally, you don’t want to be too eager to sell, rush the decision or be too pushy.
I’m not saying that you don’t try to get the sale, but you don’t want to appear to be trying to get the sale.
P.S. One book that everybody should read is Chris Voss’, Never Split The Difference. If you want a way to know how to elegantly get somebody to say yes, that’s the book for you.
7. Evading questions or appearing squeamish about price
Next, it’s surprising how many of you never bring up price in the first sit-down consultation.
Now, I’m not saying you lead with it, but you need to bring it up.
If the first time a prospect sees the price is when you email them your proposal (which is exactly how salespeople act), you’ve got it all wrong.
You have to have the price discussion.
Although this is necessary, I wouldn’t have it until I’ve asked some diagnostic questions, but you want to bring up price because that shows confidence.
It would sound something like this: “Well, based on your situation, Mr. Prospect, I can’t know for sure until I do further diagnostics, but I can tell you that someone of your size and scope is going to spend somewhere around $2,000 to $3,000 per month on a managed deal. There may be a project attached to it. I don’t know. I’ve got to get in here and look around. Is that within your expectations?”
As you can see, I’m not trying to talk him into it, saying, “That’s a good value, isn’t it?“
But by bringing up price, it shows confidence, it shows you’re not hiding anything, it shows you’re perfectly, completely comfortable with it, and you need to build that into your presentation.
8. Nervousness or neediness, in any form
9. Using sales language (quote vs. action plan)
Another signal that makes you sound like a salesperson is nervousness or neediness in any form or using sales language like calling it a “quote” or a “proposal.”
I would call it an “action plan.”
For example, you may say something along the lines of this; “We’ve got to do a diagnostic process, and then I’ll come back to you with my report of findings, and then we’ll put together an action plan of how to get you from where you are to where you want to be.”
See, that’s consultant language.
IT sales language is “I’ll email you a quote.”
10. Prescribing (selling) without diagnostics
Next is a big one; prescribing or selling without diagnostics.
Aside from gathering helpful information, which is included in asking questions in a diagnostic process, it’s necessary.
If I’m going to sit down with you and talk to you about a marketing problem, I need to ask you some questions.
On Q&A calls, if you’re going to ask me a question, I need to know ten other things before I can give you a good answer.
That’s the reality.
I need to know the situation, the goals, what your problems are, and what you tried in the past. I need to know the details.
Aside from gathering useful information for you to document and use, a good diagnostic sales process also should follow a strategic path.
Aside From Gathering Useful Information, A Good Diagnostic Sales Process Needs To:
- Position you as an expert consultant, NOT just a sales guy.
- Provide a lead generation offer that transcends immediate need.
- Develop dissatisfaction and establish URGENT needs.
- Cultivate trust with the prospect through repetition.
- Get a “buy-in” from involvement.
- Appear to be customizing a solution for their situation, needs, budget, etc.
- Help the prospect “discover” their problem.
So aside from gathering helpful information, an excellent diagnostic process positions you as an expert, not just a sales guy.
Again, with salespeople, they just start selling what’s on the wagon when a prospect shows up.
Comparatively, the diagnostic process will provide a lead generation offer that transcends immediate need.
One of the things that you’ve got to think about is when you’re doing lead generation marketing; most people out there feel like they are fine.
Their network is running, they haven’t gotten a ransomware attack, and as far as they’re concerned (whether it’s good or not), all things are up and running.
So, if you are going to go to that prospect and say, “Hey, we sell IT Support,” they’re going to say, “We’re fine.”
If we can go to them and say, “Take this quiz that allows us to diagnose your cybersecurity situation and know for certain whether or not you’re being protected from cyber-crime and ransomware,” then that transcends immediate need.
(It’s the Cosmo quiz!)
Here’s the other thing, prospects don’t know what “good” is.
If they don’t know what “good” is, how can they tell you are better than their current provider?
You have to teach them.
Specifically, you can do that through a diagnostic process.
You will ask thought-provoking questions that develop dissatisfaction and establish an urgent need.
It should cultivate trust with the prospect through repetition.
The more a prospect gets involved in the diagnostic process, and the more they meet with you, the higher the close rate will be.
My mentor, Dan Kennedy, nearly doubled the close rate on Miracle Ear by simply making the diagnostic process longer. For example, during a hearing test, he more than doubled the amount of time a prospect was there (from 20 minutes to 1 hour), and the closure rate doubled.
This is purely because more repetition builds more trust.
Another reason for diagnostic questions is that you want buy-in from involvement.
If they have to fill in a form, if they have to fill in a survey, if they have to provide you with some information, if you’re asking very thought-provoking questions that they don’t even know the answer to, this again gets involvement.
Diagnostic questions appear to be customizing a solution for their situation in their budget, and it helps the prospect (this is a key one) discover their problem.
Now, again, this is a checklist. Go back to your sales process and ask yourself, “Are you accomplishing these things?”
Many of you say that you don’t want to spend the money because it costs money to do assessments. But, if it’s a small company, you go in and look around.
Don’t let your cheapness mess up the sales process.
Then a lot of you say, “Look, Robin, I’m telling you, I walk into one hundred networks, I can find the same five problems. And then, within five minutes, I look at the number of endpoints. I look at the servers, I look at their situation, and pretty much within a range, I can tell you what they need and how much I’m going to charge.”
Even if you can do that, you should not do that because the diagnostic process is more critical for the prospect than it is for you.
Salespeople say, “Oh, I know what you need. I’m just going to start selling you.”
But consultants slow it down, saying, “Let me understand your situation. Let me ask you some questions. Let me understand what’s important to you.”
The other part about diagnostic questions is that most prospects have not thought through this question:
What does success look like?
So during the diagnostic process, you should ask, “Mr. Prospect, let’s suppose you hire me, and we go down the road six months. How will you know I did a good job for you? What does success look like for you?”
I’ll tell you what, most of them have not defined that. So, how can you possibly hit a goal that hasn’t been defined?
When you’re doing the diagnostic process and consultative selling, coaching is a big part of this.
You’re coaching people to figure out what success would look like and what’s important to them, given that they haven’t even clarified it in their minds.
If you help them clarify their goals, help them understand what’s important, and help them understand how to make a good decision, then that elevates you.
There’s value in that.
Alternatively, if you rush to close, you miss all of that opportunity to help your customer.
This is not just manipulative bullshit. This is real. You’ve got to help them understand.
Because in your mind, you know what success is. You think they know, but they don’t know.
I wish I had a dime for every prospect that came to hire me for consulting, and I ask them that question: What does success look like?
I have yet to have anyone give me a succinct answer. Not once.
They’ll say, “Well, I hope we get more leads.”
How many leads? At what time? At what price point? They haven’t thought that through.
You have to help them think through that process, and in doing so, you build rapport.
You build trust and learn some good information that might help you prescribe something better.