Most IT professionals don’t think of themselves as salespeople. They’re usually more comfortable working on an IT solution than they are talking to clients – and most of the time, that’s okay.
But when you freelance or run an IT business, your ability to sell your services is directly tied to your success. And you know what? It doesn’t take much to step up your sales game. (Don’t believe us? Check out our article “3 IT Sales Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Free Consultant.”)
Below, two expert sales coaches explain how anticipating questions, building relationships, highlighting your expertise, and learning from your mistakes can ramp up your IT business's sales.
1. Get Your Answers Ready
It's tempting, but don’t wing it when it comes to sales. Plan your sales approach as you’d plan any other project and try to anticipate questions that might come up.
Steven Stearns is an experienced
sales coach and runs the
K.O. Sales Coach podcast
(@KOSalesCoach). He suggests you take some time before every meeting or call to ask yourself:
- Why do people buy from you?
- What problems do you solve?
- What’s in it for the client?
- What are some of the objections they may have?
- What makes you, your product, or your service unique?
This preparation ensures you’re not caught off guard when a sales lead asks something about you (because they will). It also forces you to think about why somebody should buy services from you, if you haven’t thought about it already.
If you can pinpoint the why (e.g., you’re passionate about problem-solving or you drop everything to help clients), you have a reason for closing the sale besides just making money. You’re helping the client accomplish something the best way you know how.
When you have a compelling reason to sell, selling becomes easier.
2. Build a Relationship First
IT business owners might have more of a marketing problem than a sales problem, says
Leanne Hoagland-Smith (@CoachLee),
sales strategist and author of the
Increase Sales Blog
. “Marketing is about attracting and building relationships,” she says. And relationship building is at the heart of sales.
She says it’s important to ask yourself, “Does the sales lead know and trust me before I start offering solutions?” If you’re going in cold with nothing but a pitch, she says, “You’re not going to get a sale.”
The good news: marketing is easier than you think. A strong online presence lets potential clients get acquainted with you before you ever meet them. You can point sales leads to your website as a way for them to get to know you.
You can also have casual meetings with sales leads without the pressure to sell anything. In fact, Hoagland-Smith says she goes into first meetings with potential clients without any goal other than forming a relationship.
“I buy from people I know and trust,” says Hoagland-Smith. She describes how she gets emails all the time from complete strangers pitching their services and how useless that is. If a business or person has never heard of you before you start trying to sell them something, that’s a way to get nowhere fast.
The bottom line: build a relationship before trying to sell.
3. Highlight Your Expertise
Hoagland-Smith also suggests you “market your expertise, not your experience.” She elaborates, “Expertise implies that you deliver results.”
That advice is also true in selling situations. You don’t want to focus exclusively on how long you’ve been in IT or what you’ve done in the past. Instead, you want to demonstrate that you can solve IT problems now and in the future for your clients.
Hoagland-Smith points out that many professionals demonstrate their expertise online and in their professional communities. They publish whitepapers, do interviews, and review books related to their field. That legwork builds trust and can warm up leads for a sale before you ever meet with them.
4. Learn from Your Mistakes
Stearns says the best way to get better at selling is to sell. “Review what went well and repeat it; identify what didn’t go as planned and work to improve it next time.”
The more you try selling, the easier it becomes. You can even practice on colleagues, friends, and family.
You might start by honing your conversation skills. “If you’re doing all the talking, they’re less likely to hear you,” says Stearns. Instead, he suggests asking open-ended questions to encourage conversation and establish a rapport.
There’s no substitute for actually doing it, so take the opportunity to practice whenever you can. With time, selling can be as natural to you as IT.
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