By Andrew Neitlich

Lessons from a solid consultative sales call

By Andrew Neitlich

A potential IT vendor made a terrific impression yesterday on a consultative sales call. I thought I’d share with you a few of the things he did to make the call productive:

1. He has a clear point of view, area of expertise, and niche. In his case, he has two edges: He knows how to find and tie together certain types software; and he knows how to find the best resources around the world to do that. But he knows what he is, and what he isn’t, and so it is easy for prospects separate him from others.

2. He knows his stuff. He was able to give clear examples of work he has done that meets the requirements I/we seek.

3. He asked great questions about what I/we are trying to do, pushing my own knowledge.

4. He connected technology to business by asking great questions and making solid comments, like:

– In your situation, speed is more important than quality. Here’s how you can launch fast, while saving lots of money and getting revenue in quickly….

5. He pushed back, and came to us as an equal, not a tacky salesperson. He told what he could and couldn’t do, made no guarantees, and even noted that he has been thrown out of clients before (noting this in a way that made him seem more solid rather than less; after all, some organizations do not want the approach he uses, even if they initially think they do).

By the end of the call, we felt confident that he knows his stuff, gets our business, and would be a potential asset to us.

  • fedora3

    If only they were all like that.

  • fedora3, I think that should be changed to “if only WE were all like that”. Its amazing how many web designers (& co) will simply respond to “what do you do” as “we make websites”.

  • I’d actually say “If only all [u]CLIENTS[/u] were like that”.

    Far too many would have walked away from that same meeting remembering [u]NOTHING[/u] about the sales call except that “he was $200 more expensive than the kid we saw yesterday.”

  • Hmmm… If that’s all your clients can remember from your presentations/meetings I don’t think it’s fair to blame the client. Fatal mistake to blame the client if they can’t tell the difference between you and your competition!

  • Mrsmiley, I must admit that I am one of those people who often end up saying “we make websites”! What do you suggest would be a more appropriate response?

  • MarkB

    Good point, RockyShark – standing out from the pack is one of the strongest sales tools you can have :)

  • Those are skills some people learn from courses
    or family and they give great to them advantage over smarter, more qualified introvert people.

  • Philwilks – You sell solutions to problems – not websites. If you are a non-profit then I’ll show you how xx investment will bring in xxx in higher donations or we’ll get your message out to xxx more people. If you are for-profit then, with a little input from you, I’ll show you how an investment of xx will increase your profits by xxx and your investment will break even in only xx months.

    Many small businesses cannot wrap their minds around anything but price. They want it cheap. Perversely, those people are almost always the worst clients when it comes to ignorant or unreasonable demands.

    I have sold many things over the years. If you are not doing (eating) well then desperation sets in and you present poorly, exhibit no confidence / expertise and tend to sell on price. What few sales you do make have squeezed margins and the downward spiral continues. If you are not as stressed to make sales then the opposite is true and, almost unfairly, you trend upward.

    Too many web developers try to make a living on their own without a sufficient base of income. Keep the day job until you develop a network of high end clients. Then launch. Or, like a friend of mine, keep the day job part time, market projects to good clients, and sub the work out to designers with more talent but less business acumen. He makes more than they do.

  • Bluetone, what you said is so true. This year my goal was to start selling solutions and not development. I still do develop but my approach is so much different. When proposing to a client, I focus on the features, benefits, and value the solution we are developing will bring them. I do not sell on price or charge per hour but instead on the benefit the solution will bring the company. It took me about two years to figure this out. I have also started outsourcing in a way. My new strategy and business model shows promise as I am already getting more work than I did in the past. Plus it is easier to sell as clients are starting to view me as an expert.

  • I agree with what bluetone has said, highlighting what Andrew has talked about in the past as well as adding from his own background.

    You also can’t just “say” you sell solutions, you must prove it – it has to say it on your business cards, leaflets, offline and online promotional material

    It can be quite hard because if your website just says “we sell solutions”, it might not be picked up by SE as well as if you said “we sell websites” – mainly because people search for “websites” and not “solutions”

    Apart from that, everything about selling solutions and not services is true.

  • [QUOTE]mainly because people search for “websites” and not “solutions”[/QUOTE]

    This is actually one thing that exposes a weird presumption by a lot of web developers. They tend to think that their clients (who by definition either don’t have websites or have inadequate ones) are looking for them online. I’m sure this comes from the fact that they (I’m in this camp too) tend to look for pretty much everything online themselves.

    The clients who can benefit MOST are those who are LEAST likely to find you online. Yet, I see all over forums, etc. people asking what online sites to advertise on to get clients or whether they can get good clients through Sitepoint itself. It has always struck me as strange. Yet, if you talk to the most successful in the IT services business world, they make farm more money pushing their business through offline marketing than online.

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