In my last post I covered Lesson 1: Find a Niche and OWN it! Today I cover the second thing I learned along the 10 years of running my last IT business.
Lesson 2: Sell, sell, sell
For most people, selling is a dirty word. Most folks associate selling with being coerced or talked into buying something they don’t need or want. (Think used car salesman) I can see why many feel this way. There are a lot of sleazy, incompetent salespeople out there. Some make you want to take a shower after the encounter. Most salespeople are never trained properly, and most companies view them as a necessary evil. The hiring qualifications for sales people in most companies is a person’s ability to fog a mirror. Yet sales is the life blood of any business. Do you see the conundrum?
I’ve pretty much been in sales since age 8 when I started my first business with my older brother and 2 cousins. I don’t think selling is a dirty word at all. If nothing gets sold, there is nothing to service. Nothing happens until something gets sold. To me, selling is providing a solution to someone’s problem at a fair price for both the client and for our company. No “coercion” is needed if both parties find the solution and price to be acceptable.
One of the biggest lessons I learned about selling while running my IT company was this: We were a sales organization first. I learned this from being part of a Mastermind Group of fellow IT providers from around the globe. My business coach, Robin Robins, taught us this during one of the first quarterly training trips to Nashville. That stuck with me. It completely changed how I operated on a daily basis. We were no longer an “IT Company”. We were a Sales Organization. It was my job to “sell” an IT solution to our target markets. I provided a solution to a small business’s big, hairy problem…providing competent IT support at a fair, flat-rate, predictable price. Both of us agree to the service level and pricing. Done deal. This is sales. Simple.
However, I quickly learned that scaling the business would be extremely difficult without a documented, repeatable sales process. This was yet another lesson regarding sales. Just “winging it” wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to get consistent results if the process was different each time. I documented the complete process in our Professional Service Automation (PSA) software, Connectwise. (fancy acronym for CRM software for IT providers) I was quickly amazed at how fluid the sales process went from that point forward. I knew exactly how the process would go from the time the lead came in to the time the sales was closed. It was now easier to get consistent results. Hmm. [Picture light bulb going off over my head]
I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs say, “I’m just not that good at selling”, or “I really don’t like sales”. Guess what? You will never be successful if you keep telling yourself that. Every entrepreneur must develop this important skill. If you’re not that good at it, get better. There are plenty of resources available. Join a mastermind group. Get a business coach. Take a class. Become a student of selling.
Selling is not a dirty word. Zig Ziglar said it best, “Selling is the transfer of feelings.” If you believe with all your heart in the solution you provide, you must learn how to sell it. I will get off my soap box now. (If you couldn’t tell, I am very passionate about this subject.)
I warmly welcome any feedback in the comments below. Stayed tuned for “Lesson 3: Fire Rotten Clients” next time.