After being in the role of a marketing consultant to literally thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes, primarily working with businesses who are NOT sophisticated marketers and salespeople (not gripe...that’s the way they’re coming to me), you would think nothing would surprise me. But when I recently posted a note on Facebook saying I was looking for a part-time sales manager/coach, I was shocked at the apathy and sheer laziness I found in the responses I got. I would expect that from the majority of companies that are the everyday butcher, baker, and candlestick makers of the world, but these were all supposedly professional sales trainers who earn a living teaching others how to sell!
For starters, NOT ONE person who responded or who was referred made ANY attempt to follow up. Most e-mailed a response (once). One actually sent me a message on LinkedIn, which is not even as effective as sending an e-mail, given the fact that I only check LinkedIn once a week.
Only two actually called the office. One was incredibly rude to Kathy and outright unprofessional in trying to “get past” her, giving zero information about who she was, what she was calling about, or what company she was with. She wanted to know if I was actually there in the office and my personal cell phone, saying, “Oh, Robin will know who it is.” What’s crazy about that is that if she had simply answered the questions, “What company are you calling from and what’s this about?” I would have taken her call. But her evasive and flippant answer raised every red flag to Kathy, who took the message and passed it on to me—then trashed it. The second one who called in was polite and professional, but hasn’t made a second attempt to call back, send me anything, or otherwise follow through in any manner—she was the one that actually appeared to be the most professional, but I flat out refuse to be the one to have to follow up with them.
One candidate refused to follow a simple request to provide basic career and professional background information, stating that he doesn’t “play well” in structured environments—not to mention he was over a week late in getting THAT reply to me after we talked and he agreed to get the information to me. What’s really incredible is how he assured me that what I really needed was someone “better than me” at selling (which he stated he was) and someone who would challenge the status quo instead of just complying with my requests. Geez, good thing we weren’t dating and I told him “no.”
Red Flags To Watch Out For
Note to all: NEVER hire anyone who screws up or refuses to do the first thing you ask of them, regardless of the reason; and secondly, NEVER hire a salesperson that doesn’t make an attempt to SELL YOU on why you should hire them. I suppose, to this nincompoop’s credit, he did try to defend his position—but he assumed he knew what I wanted and needed without asking ANY questions, and didn’t justify his skills or credentials in any manner. No testimonials, no case studies, NOTHING. Just “trust me.” That’s not just bad salesmanship, it’s arrogant.
Worst of all, not one… I mean NOT ONE… made a second attempt to reach me. Not ONE actually mailed me a letter or information about themselves or their company. NOT ONE pointed me to a web page or content that would further “sell” their capabilities and help me understand more about their credentials, results they’ve gotten, their methodology. NOT ONE offered testimonials, a USP or even a simple value proposition. NOTHING.
If that’s not bad enough, at least three of the companies’ web sites I went to were completely hosed up with broken images, links and even videos and forms that didn’t work. One only had a Facebook fan page, which screams “amateur” and “broke start-up.” Most offered nothing other than stock photography (not a picture and bio of them) and stiff, corporate brochure speak, completely lacking any salesmanship.
The Lost Art Of Salesmanship
I’m not that old, but old enough to remember when salesmanship was a far more serious profession. When the great sales trainers like Zig and Tommy were at the height of their careers, packing rooms full of eager, attentive sales PROS who took their jobs seriously enough to invest in learning how to ask the right questions, build value, handle objections, ask for the order and to properly follow up. I would add this was during a time when you couldn’t just tweet someone a note from your iPhone or send an e-mail to a web page. REAL work in selling had to take place. Real sales PROS know their product inside-out. They know their competitive strengths and weaknesses. They know how to build rapport, ask questions, look for buying hot buttons and ask for the order. They’re confident without being arrogant. They understand how to apply polite and appropriate persistence.
And they know how to follow up—all skills that are WOEFULLY missing from the vast majority of sales professionals today, as evidenced by this little exercise in trying to find one. And when it comes to selling IT services, you have to be even MORE professional, MORE prepared and work even harder at your sales process. Selling IT services is not as simple as selling a tangible product like a car. Aside from the obvious fact that a service cannot be seen, felt, test-driven, touched or even easily compared, the vast majority of the clients you sell to are NOT savvy buyers and do NOT know what to look for when buying IT services, making the sale more complex and difficult.
Most of your prospects don’t understand the fundamentals of what good IT support is, what it should cost and how to truly compare one service provider with another. Your services are often seen as a “necessary evil” to be bought at the cheapest rate possible. Additionally, there is no standardization in IT services delivery, with service providers operating under vastly different business models, SLAs, managed offerings, contracts, pricing models, delivery methods, etc. Buyers are confused—and a confused buyer is extremely difficult to sell to.
Selling products and services people know they need or want is easy, but it also drives those types of products and services into the commodity zone, with thin profits and tough competition. Services that people don’t know exist or never thought they needed or wanted—like many of the higher-level services you are now offering—have to be SOLD; and that’s why a more sophisticated approach to selling IT services is required to be effective.
I would add that I do NOT believe in trickery or “controlling” others. I’m talking about genuine leadership. Delivering extreme value in advance so that prospects benefit from engaging you in the sales process, whether they buy or not. Persuasive communication based in TRUTH, acting with your clients’ best interests in mind. And acting as a trusted advisor to your clients—a phrase that is thrown around far too casually with no real understanding of what it means to be one.
Robin Robins is the CEO and Founder of TechnologyMarketingToolkit.com, the largest sales and marketing consulting firm in the IT channel, specializing in sales-generating marketing campaigns for MSPs, VARs, and solution providers. To date, over 7,000 IT services firms have enrolled in one or more of her programs. Click here for more information and to request a free one-on-one marketing consultation and marketing roadmap for your IT services firm.