When I first became a professional IT consultant many years ago, I had no idea that I was on a collision course with sales. I obviously didn’t think it through as, back in those days, I would rather have had my fingernails removed with pliers than get involved in sales!
Yet I was ambitious and wanted to progress my consulting career – I even wanted to run my IT consultancy one day…..
Like any business, IT consultancies need to get sales from somewhere and, as I discovered for myself, IT consultants – even shy, introverted ones, can be very effective at finding and winning consulting projects.
Some people seem to be born to be in sales and then there are IT consultants! Let’s just say that selling does not come naturally to your normal IT consultant which turns out to be a potential competitive advantage when they start to take sales more seriously.
So how do you succeed in sales without needing a personality transplant? Based on my own personal experience and in coaching and mentoring hundreds of consultants to succeed in sales, here are 7 tips for succeeding in sales that really make a difference:
Become a student of sales
In order to master anything you need to become a student. When you decide that you are committed to becoming confident and competent with sales then you become open to learning. You need to develop your own style that works for you and that is why reading and learning is important. Just fifteen minutes study a day adds up to 7.5 hours a month. That’s a whole day!
If you don’t have time to read then buy some audio books and listen to them in the car or when you are doing the chores around the house. You should also give yourself feedback and review your performance and seek to be making small improvements all the time rather than big gestures.
Seek different perspectives
Did you ever experience seeing a spectacular view on a sunny day? Then you go back on a day when the sky is grey and the rain in falling hard. You are in exactly the same place and yet get a totally different outlook. The way we look at things changes the way we perceive them. If we want to understand how to best think about sales then learn to see things in the same way as someone whose abilities and values you admire. The best way is through some form of mentoring relationship but just by seeking new perspectives we will begin to find them.
Do lots of activity!
Activity is everything in sales and motivation drives activity. I like to think of it as ‘motive for action’. Having clearly defined and motivational goals is a start. You need to have them for the long term as well as the shorter term. If your goals do not excite you into action then get some that do! As well as clearly defined goals make sure you have a roadmap for achieving the goals. This will ultimately break down into sales activity. Your goals do not have to be materialistic at all but they do need to be compelling enough to drive you forward.
Work on Your People Skills
For many, their lack of confidence in sales in rooted in a lack of confidence in interacting with people. IT consultants are often introverts to some extent and their people skills can be further developed. Although personal development will reduce levels of shyness and increase self confidence, it will not change an introvert into an extravert. That’s not a problem in sales, especially if you want to sell to executives. Where having the ‘gift of the gab’ can actually be a disadvantage.
Get good at discovering buying motivation
Developing self-confidence, excellent people skills and high levels of motivation is all very well but if you do not have what people want to buy then you are going to have a hard job in sales! If you assume that people do not buy products or services for no reason at all then you need to discover the motivation to buy.
There are only two primary motivators – pain and pleasure. Pleasure in sales is about the prospect moving towards something desirable. Pain is about moving away from something undesirable. Often the potential buyer wants both! I discovered that it was much easier for people to justify spending money to move away from something they do not want. In the current status quo and I made it my business to find a target audience where I had credibility and they had real unresolved pain.
Learn to tell stories
If there is one skill that will help you to sell without feeling like you are selling it is storytelling. All the top sales people do it naturally and you can learn to do it too. People who like each other trade anecdotes and talk in stories. If you incorporate storytelling into your style then you will find everything so much easier!
You can use stories in so many different ways in sales. For example, when you first meet someone ask them their story of how they started in business. It really helps to break the ice much better than any rapport technique I know. Have your own stories about how you started in business and how you have helped clients to successfully resolve their problems. You can also develop stories to inoculate against objections and to up-sell other products and services.
Clarify your sales process
What really surprised me and surprises lots on accidental sales people is that selling is not just one activity but a whole series of activities. Each business will have a natural process of taking a sale from initial interest to cash in the bank. It should be a repeatable process that others could follow if necessary. Getting clarity about the specific actions required to achieve the desired level of sales gives a huge boost in confidence.
Hold yourself accountable
If you have a boss that understands sales management then they will be working with you to stay motivated and coaching you to raise your game and meet your agreed targets. They will also hold you accountable for achieving those targets. If you don’t have someone to keep you focused on the activity and your targets then it is easily slip into the ‘feast or famine’ syndrome. This is where an external sales coach can pay huge dividends. If you don’t like the thought of a sales coach then see them as a personal sales manager.
If you knew me back in 1997 you would believe me when I say that, with some effort and patience, anyone is capable of succeeding in sales. You don’t have to be the best person in the world at sales, you just have to be good enough to reach your goals.
You owe it to yourself and your family to master sales. Believe me when I say, you can sell without compromising your integrity or damaging relationships. You will not change the way you feel about selling overnight but it will happen relatively quickly if you embrace sales and work at it.