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A sales tip for techies

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Andy Black

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A friend was made redundant after three decades as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It hit him hard, and left him with no desire to work for another company.

I suggested he work with me for three months and see if he could bring me clients. We spent hours going over stories how I’ve helped businesses and how I’ve signed them up.

He arranged a meeting for me with a prospect and listened while I chatted with her for an hour.

After that meeting my friend told me “You’re not a salesman Andy.” He explained how much more there was to learn about sales, and how big his library of sales books was. I smiled and nodded.

To help sign up a local car dealership, my friend went round with his laptop so I could have a Skype call with them.

I spotted instantly the business owners were a couple of regular guys hustling hard to build their business, and that they’d appreciate straight talking.

I did my thing on the call, the client signed up, and we’re into our third month helping them.

Last week my salesman friend told me he wanted to get me on calls with prospects more often, explaining that I bring a lot of value to those calls.

So why did he say that after he initially proclaimed that I’m not a salesman, and how can it help you?

What my friend didn’t realise back then is that I try damn hard to NOT be a salesman.

I’ve since explained to him that when I pop into my local garage with a weird rattle in my engine then I prefer talking to the guys in the oily overalls to the guys in the suits.

That when I ring up Google with a problem then I’d much rather speak to a technical specialist who can tell me exactly what’s up with my account, even if they’re not as smooth on the phone as an “account strategist”.

And that I know I’m a techie, a regular guy, and that I play to that deliberately.

On sales calls I talk too much. I get way too excited. I often speak first to fill in the awkward silence (a big no-no to the sales folks amongst us). I wave my hands in the air, interrupt myself, and go off at tangents. I propose solutions there and then, get carried away, and give away too much.

In short, I act like a techie who loves what he does rather than a salesman trying to close a sale. I do all the things a salesman accompanying me would want me to stop doing.

Except I know this works. I’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve had big agencies in Dublin wheel me into meetings to answer questions from the marketing team in a big corporate they’re pitching to. Apparently one marketing director was sold the moment I bounced over to the flip chart and started doodling to answer his questions.

I “allow” myself to get super passionate and excited about what I do. I don’t try and put a lid on it, or act how I may think a good salesman or good businessman would. If anything I ham it up!

I try to be that guy with oily overalls that loves cars and wants to chat about them all day long.

If you’re a techie then consider playing to it, rather than trying to dampen it down and become more of what you think a professional salesman or businessman would be.

Learn about sales by all means, but consider acting more how a techie would than how you believe a professional salesman or businessman would.

Chances are you’ll do better at sales by not trying to make sales.
 
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404profound

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I’ve been meaning to write about this for years and it recently came to a head when someone asked me to review some cold emails they were sending out. It’s a bit long a rambling but I hope it helps.

Anyway, here goes...

.

A friend was made redundant after three decades as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It hit him hard, and left him with no desire to work for another company.

I suggested he work with me for three months and see if he could bring me clients. We spent hours going over stories how I’ve helped businesses and how I’ve signed them up.

He arranged a meeting for me with a prospect and listened while I chatted to her for an hour.

After that meeting my friend told me “You’re not a salesman Andy.” He explained how much more there was to learn about sales, and how big his library of sales books was. I smiled and nodded.

To help sign up a local car dealership, my friend went round with his laptop so I could have a Skype call with them.

I spotted instantly the business owners were a couple of regular guys hustling hard to build their business, and that they’d appreciate straight talking.

I did my thing on the call, the client signed up, and we’re into our third month helping them.

Last week my salesman friend told me he wanted to get me on calls with prospects more often, explaining that I bring a lot of value to those calls.

So why did he say that after he initially proclaimed that I’m not a salesman, and how can it help you?

What my friend didn’t realise is that I try damn hard to NOT be a salesman.

I’ve explained to him that when I pop into my local garage with a weird rattle in my engine then I prefer talking to the guys in the oily overalls to the guys in the suits.

That when I ring up Google with a problem then I’d much rather speak to a technical specialist who can tell me exactly what’s up with my account, even if they’re not as smooth on the phone as an “account strategist”.

And that I know I’m a techie, a regular guy, and that I play to that deliberately.

On sales calls I talk too much. I get way too excited. I often speak first to fill in the awkward silence (a big no-no to the sales folks amongst us). I wave my hands in the air, interrupt myself, and go off at tangents. I propose solutions there and then, get carried away, and give away too much.

In short, I act like a techie who loves what he does rather than a salesman trying to close a sale. I do all the things a salesman accompanying me would want me to stop doing.

Except I know this works. I’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve had big agencies in Dublin wheel me into meetings to answer questions from the marketing team in a big corporate they’re pitching to. Apparently one marketing director was sold the moment I bounced over to the flip chart and started doodling to answer his questions.

I “allow” myself to get super passionate and excited about what I do. I don’t try and put a lid on it, or act how I may think a good salesman or good businessman would. If anything I ham it up!

I try to be that guy with oily overalls that loves cars and wants to chat about them all day long.

If you’re a techie then consider playing to it, rather than trying to dampen it down and become more of what you think a professional salesman or businessman.

Learn about sales by all means, but just consider acting more how a techie would than how you believe a professional salesman or businessman would be.

Chances are you’ll do better at sales by not trying to make sales.
I can't wait to tell my prospects about the asynchronous beauty of javascript :D... jk.. but you make a great point. In this day and age people are straight up tired of being talked to like laymen. They want to be able to trust what they've paid for (or will be paying for), and trust comes from a deeper level of understanding, and a knowledge that the business's motives extend beyond obtaining money.
 

astr0

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Thanks for another great advice, Andy!

Just wanted to add that, as 404profound mentioned, getting too excited and deep in tech details may hurt.
Usually, people get a feeling if another person still understands them. Use that to check if you're still talking on the same language.

Look professional, but not too geeky.
Prospect understands that it's not your last talk and may decline if it's hard to understand you.
 

ProcessPro

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I’ve been meaning to write about this for years and it recently came to a head when someone asked me to review some cold emails they were sending out. It’s a bit long and rambling but I hope it helps.

Anyway, here goes...

.

A friend was made redundant after three decades as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It hit him hard, and left him with no desire to work for another company.

I suggested he work with me for three months and see if he could bring me clients. We spent hours going over stories how I’ve helped businesses and how I’ve signed them up.

He arranged a meeting for me with a prospect and listened while I chatted to her for an hour.

After that meeting my friend told me “You’re not a salesman Andy.” He explained how much more there was to learn about sales, and how big his library of sales books was. I smiled and nodded.

To help sign up a local car dealership, my friend went round with his laptop so I could have a Skype call with them.

I spotted instantly the business owners were a couple of regular guys hustling hard to build their business, and that they’d appreciate straight talking.

I did my thing on the call, the client signed up, and we’re into our third month helping them.

Last week my salesman friend told me he wanted to get me on calls with prospects more often, explaining that I bring a lot of value to those calls.

So why did he say that after he initially proclaimed that I’m not a salesman, and how can it help you?

What my friend didn’t realise back then is that I try damn hard to NOT be a salesman.

I’ve since explained to him that when I pop into my local garage with a weird rattle in my engine then I prefer talking to the guys in the oily overalls to the guys in the suits.

That when I ring up Google with a problem then I’d much rather speak to a technical specialist who can tell me exactly what’s up with my account, even if they’re not as smooth on the phone as an “account strategist”.

And that I know I’m a techie, a regular guy, and that I play to that deliberately.

On sales calls I talk too much. I get way too excited. I often speak first to fill in the awkward silence (a big no-no to the sales folks amongst us). I wave my hands in the air, interrupt myself, and go off at tangents. I propose solutions there and then, get carried away, and give away too much.

In short, I act like a techie who loves what he does rather than a salesman trying to close a sale. I do all the things a salesman accompanying me would want me to stop doing.

Except I know this works. I’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve had big agencies in Dublin wheel me into meetings to answer questions from the marketing team in a big corporate they’re pitching to. Apparently one marketing director was sold the moment I bounced over to the flip chart and started doodling to answer his questions.

I “allow” myself to get super passionate and excited about what I do. I don’t try and put a lid on it, or act how I may think a good salesman or good businessman would. If anything I ham it up!

I try to be that guy with oily overalls that loves cars and wants to chat about them all day long.

If you’re a techie then consider playing to it, rather than trying to dampen it down and become more of what you think a professional salesman or businessman would be.

Learn about sales by all means, but just consider acting more how a techie would than how you believe a professional salesman or businessman would.

Chances are you’ll do better at sales by not trying to make sales.
Love this. Someone once said that people love to buy, but not to be sold.
 

clickninja

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On sales calls I talk too much. I get way too excited. I often speak first to fill in the awkward silence (a big no-no to the sales folks amongst us). I wave my hands in the air, interrupt myself, and go off at tangents. I propose solutions there and then, get carried away, and give away too much.
I feel you, I'm exactly the same.
And when I try to sell the least and I'm relaxed about the outcome, just giving value to the prospect, that's when they call me back with a YES :)
 

diegorueda

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It makes perfect sense... but the "learn about sales" part is still critical IMO. The thing is that most times when a techie learns sales, he starts behaving weird because is not natural for him.

Would this be a good summary for your post?:
Not just communicating like a passionate tech guy... but to focus on passionately present viable solutions that provide real value to the prospect using your tech knowledge. Then you and your prospects share the same passion for the success of their business.

That probably works like those times you discover that somebody likes you, and you start paying attention to him/her, even start liking him/her.
 

Schwarz

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Great post!
Your excitement shows them you're being honest. That your intent is real, and that it is for the sake of whatever it is you're doing, and not just for yourself. You're not just trying to pull in a sale.
 
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Andy Black

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It makes perfect sense... but the "learn about sales" part is still critical IMO. The thing is that most times when a techie learns sales, he starts behaving weird because is not natural for him.

Would this be a good summary for your post?:
Not just communicating like a passionate tech guy... but to focus on passionately present viable solutions that provide real value to the prospect using your tech knowledge. Then you and your prospects share the same passion for the success of their business.

That probably works like those times you discover that somebody likes you, and you start paying attention to him/her, even start liking him/her.
I think everything falls into place if we focus on helping people.

If you’re losing people because you’re talking too techie, then it’s not helping them, so tone it down.

If you’re proposing solutions just because you can build it (or want to build it) and not because it will help them, then you’re also not focused on helping people.

If you agitate their fears and sell to their hopes but your solution isn’t going to help them... then you are *not* focused on helping them.

By all means, learn to be comfortable in the silence they need to digest what you’ve said. Sure, learn a bit about how to build rapport and ask questions.

I just humbly suggest you may already know how to do this (although the "stfu in silences bit" is probably something to practice).

“Learning sales” is not *critical*.
 

A_Random_Guy

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How do you close a deal? Do you agree to the demands of the client or stay firm to your offer?
I like your perspective of speaking as a techie rather than as a salesman. This gives them a belief that you prefer doing your stuff rather than marketing it. And it brings intimacy between you and your customer.
Will it work for customers experienced with business? Will they take you as a genuine guy interested in his stuff or just an amateur hopping straight into business?
 
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Andy Black

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How do you close a deal? Do you agree to the demands of the client or stay firm to your offer?
I like your perspective of speaking as a techie rather than as a salesman. This gives them a belief that you prefer doing your stuff rather than marketing it. And it brings intimacy between you and your customer.
Will it work for customers experienced with business? Will they take you as a genuine guy interested in his stuff or just an amateur hopping straight into business?
What are you worried they will take you to be an amateur at? Your skillset, or business?

They want your skill. They likely don’t want an amateur at the skillset.

If they can get you for a fee well below market value then they’re not going to say no. So they’d likely love you to be an amateur at business and sales.

Here’s a tip. I don’t see myself as a salesman or as a techie. I see myself as a fellow business owner, who happens to have a skillset they find valuable.

I’m a peer. They don’t intimidate me, and I’m not subservient to them. I have my business’s best interest at heart. They can’t bully me into anything I don’t believe is the right move for my business.

If I don’t think it will be a good fit or the deal is a win-win then the right move for my business is to politely tell them my terms again, and move on.

I don’t care whether they see me as an amateur or not. I’m a business owner running my own business.
 

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Elbert Dockery

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What are you worried they will take you to be an amateur at? Your skillset, or business?

They want your skill. They likely don’t want an amateur at the skillset.

If they can get you for a fee well below market value then they’re not going to say no. So they’d likely love you to be an amateur at business and sales.

Here’s a tip. I don’t see myself as a salesman or as a techie. I see myself as a fellow business owner, who happens to have a skillset they find valuable.

I’m a peer. They don’t intimidate me, and I’m not subservient to them. I have my business’s best interest at heart. They can’t bully me into anything I don’t believe is the right move for my business.

If I don’t think the client is a good fit, or the deal is a win-win then the right move for my business is to politely tell them my terms again, and move on.

I don’t care whether they see me as an amateur or not. I’m a business owner.
I really enjoy reading your post Andy. This message only speaks volume! This also should be applied to techies whom are self employed since they themselves are the business. Freelancers who are techies should know sales. For me personally as a fellow SAAS owner generating revenue is the main objective and focus and I have to keep reminding myself that. Thanks Andy and fellow Fastlaners
 

A_Random_Guy

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What are you worried they will take you to be an amateur at? Your skillset, or business?

They want your skill. They likely don’t want an amateur at the skillset.

If they can get you for a fee well below market value then they’re not going to say no. So they’d likely love you to be an amateur at business and sales.

Here’s a tip. I don’t see myself as a salesman or as a techie. I see myself as a fellow business owner, who happens to have a skillset they find valuable.

I’m a peer. They don’t intimidate me, and I’m not subservient to them. I have my business’s best interest at heart. They can’t bully me into anything I don’t believe is the right move for my business.

If I don’t think the client is a good fit, or the deal is a win-win then the right move for my business is to politely tell them my terms again, and move on.

I don’t care whether they see me as an amateur or not. I’m a business owner.
I have been watching Dan Lok's videos on YouTube where he advises about closing a deal. He prefers talking less and asking specific questions to know what the client is looking for. Let me explain with an example:

Suppose the client wants to buy your product but is hesitant at first. He asks you, "What guarantee do I get or what Insurance can I get from your company regarding the product"? or "The price is too high, I think company X sells it cheaper" etc. How do you deal with it? I consider Dan to be a salesman and he prefers counter-questioning the client to know his motives.
His response will be: "What kind of guarantee are you looking for?" "We offer a refund for up to 30 days from the date of purchase, is that what you mean?", "If no, what guarantee are you looking for? Do you want a guarantee for the product quality? We can connect you with customer X, Y, Z who have made previous purchases. You don't need to buy our product, just ask about their opinion on our product. Would you like to proceed?"
For the question regarding the pricing, he would respond: "Is it the question of price or value?" and "There are many other companies providing the same service for cheap. Why do you think people pay us for our service instead of others?" and finally, "Do you focus more on the price or on the result?"

According to me, these responses make him look like a salesman. How will you respond? I know this is going off topic but I want to know your opinion.
 
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Andy Black

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What guarantee do I get or what Insurance can I get from your company regarding the product"?
“We don’t guarantee results. We guarantee we follow a process, and that process is this ...”


The price is too high, I think company X sells it cheaper"
“Sells what cheaper? I’ve priced what I do. Circle back if you want this.”



PS: I’ve never had these “objections”. They either want it or they don’t. My job is to find out which.

“Sales is a screening process.” (Blaise Brosnan)
 
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Devampre

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Nice post! Nothing drives me further away from a salesperson than someone trying to hard close, talking some "robotic" script or using some cheesy 1950's techniques.

Buyers are more informed than ever before. Sure you can argue there is a lot of misinformation on the internet too. But, the product/service has to make sense. Pull marketing and appropriate value skew is much more powerful than a hungry sales person with dollars in their eyes IMHO.
 

Jeff Noel

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I’ve been meaning to write about this for years and it recently came to a head when someone asked me to review some cold emails they were sending out. It’s a bit long and rambling but I hope it helps.

Anyway, here goes...

.

A friend was made redundant after three decades as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It hit him hard, and left him with no desire to work for another company.

I suggested he work with me for three months and see if he could bring me clients. We spent hours going over stories how I’ve helped businesses and how I’ve signed them up.

He arranged a meeting for me with a prospect and listened while I chatted to her for an hour.

After that meeting my friend told me “You’re not a salesman Andy.” He explained how much more there was to learn about sales, and how big his library of sales books was. I smiled and nodded.

To help sign up a local car dealership, my friend went round with his laptop so I could have a Skype call with them.

I spotted instantly the business owners were a couple of regular guys hustling hard to build their business, and that they’d appreciate straight talking.

I did my thing on the call, the client signed up, and we’re into our third month helping them.

Last week my salesman friend told me he wanted to get me on calls with prospects more often, explaining that I bring a lot of value to those calls.

So why did he say that after he initially proclaimed that I’m not a salesman, and how can it help you?

What my friend didn’t realise back then is that I try damn hard to NOT be a salesman.

I’ve since explained to him that when I pop into my local garage with a weird rattle in my engine then I prefer talking to the guys in the oily overalls to the guys in the suits.

That when I ring up Google with a problem then I’d much rather speak to a technical specialist who can tell me exactly what’s up with my account, even if they’re not as smooth on the phone as an “account strategist”.

And that I know I’m a techie, a regular guy, and that I play to that deliberately.

On sales calls I talk too much. I get way too excited. I often speak first to fill in the awkward silence (a big no-no to the sales folks amongst us). I wave my hands in the air, interrupt myself, and go off at tangents. I propose solutions there and then, get carried away, and give away too much.

In short, I act like a techie who loves what he does rather than a salesman trying to close a sale. I do all the things a salesman accompanying me would want me to stop doing.

Except I know this works. I’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve had big agencies in Dublin wheel me into meetings to answer questions from the marketing team in a big corporate they’re pitching to. Apparently one marketing director was sold the moment I bounced over to the flip chart and started doodling to answer his questions.

I “allow” myself to get super passionate and excited about what I do. I don’t try and put a lid on it, or act how I may think a good salesman or good businessman would. If anything I ham it up!

I try to be that guy with oily overalls that loves cars and wants to chat about them all day long.

If you’re a techie then consider playing to it, rather than trying to dampen it down and become more of what you think a professional salesman or businessman would be.

Learn about sales by all means, but just consider acting more how a techie would than how you believe a professional salesman or businessman would.

Chances are you’ll do better at sales by not trying to make sales.
Thank you for sharing this Andy. I feel like again "provide value" is an important reminder in those sales calls. Most salesmen provide zero value, but concentrate on closing deals... while drowning the other person in value right off the bat by getting carried away with your passionate talk shows them: You master what you sell, you're dedicated and you love doing it... and also: You want it to work for them, you keep pushing up solutions and alternatives.
 

astr0

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I think everything falls into place if we focus on helping people.
YES and this is what differentiates successful & growing service businesses from stagnating ones.

People, especially those who were highly-specialized employees before, focus more on doing their thing instead of helping the client to achieve what he wants. Most freelancers and probably 80%+ of IT companies here do this task-based, only what the client asked. Yes, some can do other tasks and provide more than one service, but only on request.

An important thing to realize is that you're not building an app, you're optimizing their process; not bringing them more calls but bringing them more deals; not writing an article but building their brand. And if you do your best to help them with their goals it really differentiates you from the competition. Your employees should also realize that if you want to scale.

Don't try to "close the deal" just for money. Try to make your service almost like an irreplaceable part of their business so you both would grow, they would get an incredible ROI and you get more cash in the long-run from that type of clients. Being passionate techy will help with a deal cause you can show them something that they've might miss as they're not techies and builds some credibility if they can understand what you're talking about. Make them feel you care and able to help them an actually do this afterward. Some local companies have really good salespeople, but after the contract gets signed... well the owners think that it's only sales that make them money.
 

diegorueda

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I think everything falls into place if we focus on helping people.
Totally agree. This is the #1 topic of TMF and this forum. One of those lessons that are really easy to apply, but that can be very hard at the same time, depending on your ego.

“Learning sales” is not *critical*.
Probably "critical" wasn't the best choice of words lol.

People, especially those who were highly-specialized employees before, focus more on doing their thing instead of helping the client to achieve what he wants. Most freelancers and probably 80%+ of IT companies here do this task-based, only what the client asked. Yes, some can do other tasks and provide more than one service, but only on request.

An important thing to realize is that you're not building an app, you're optimizing their process; not bringing them more calls but bringing them more deals; not writing an article but building their brand. And if you do your best to help them with their goals it really differentiates you from the competition. Your employees should also realize that if you want to scale.
That one is a great insight. Very real! Thanks.

They want your skill. They likely don’t want an amateur at the skillset.
If they can get you for a fee well below market value then they’re not going to say no. So they’d likely love you to be an amateur at business and sales.
Lol. Funny, and a great thing to take pressure off of the sales process.
 

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