New Sales

  • B2B Sales vs. B2C sales
    • Fewer customers: You spend more time on every customer on average. Each customer is all the more important.
    • Decision making is made by a few people in a relatively structured way.
    • Organizations build boundaries more than people.
    • NOTE: Always remember that IT services (as a whole) is a commodity market. It’s not so much about finding someone who has a need for it (everyone needs it), but being at the right place at the right time. You really don’t buy a bar of soap because you really think it makes your skin glow (at least I don’t). I just buy it because it’s on the shop next to my house (accessibility). I am generalizing here a little since internet market places like iStore and rent-a-coders are making location rather irrelevant.
  • Sales (New Accounts): The main objective here is to get your foot in the door. Getting the first project from a customer. Usually when you do a good job, expanding the account happens a lot easier.
    • Basic terminology (mine):
      • Contacts: A name, title, phone number and email. See the other blog that categorizes these and talks about managing them.
      • MAN (Money, Authority, Need): Funky sales acronym that summarizes the three things you need to close a sale. When you meet a prospect, try to explore all three aspects. The person should have a perceived need for your product (sometimes the need is not real), a budget to scratch the itch and the authority to give you that budget (or significant influence on the budget’s allocation). You need a 3/3 to make things happen but various approaches described below will give you 1/3 or 2/3 while working/waiting on the remaining.
      • A prospect: Someone who can potentially give you business in the future. Usually a contact.
      • Leads: Usually a paid project of some sort of something leading up to it (like a POC).
      • Proposals: A verbal or written offer for in response to lead.
      • Customer/Account: Someone who doing one or several projects with you and is a source of current and future work for you.
    • Common techniques (points are not exclusive of each other)
      • Align with a product vendor: Where there is smoke, there is fire. Think of this like the little fish that leaches on the shark J. Most product vendors (whether its Microsoft, IBM, Oracle … ) focus largely on building things that are common across all customer implementations (the product part) and push customizations towards their own consulting divisions/external partners. Microsoft for e.g. has no significant consulting presence instead it builds a very strong partner network to do all the consulting work. IBM made more money with its consulting line than it did selling licenses (at least till a few years ago). If you know IBM very well, it goes without saying you should hang around IBM. Work closely with people who are selling licenses at IBM and try to build a strong reputation there.
        • Pros: Produces very high quality leads. Very aligned with your delivery capabilities (= higher margins)
        • Cons: You put all your eggs in this basket. Vendors want commitment and if you are not the marriage type, the vendors usually end up choosing someone else.
      • Networking: Pick a category of people, could be a business domain (e.g. banking), could be a technical domain (BizTalk for e.g.), could be a community (members of chambers of commerce). Try to build a feel-good and trusting relationship communicating your message. The idea is that if they are the right kind of people and you have the right offer, then they will think of you when they see work.
        • Referrals: many people hang around with people like themselves. People with similar preferences, similar professions, similar problems. Referrals from existing customers can be one of the best ways to network. It breaks a lot of the trust barriers you would otherwise face
          • Pros: You (usually) start with a high degree of trust. People will rarely recommend you if they don’t completely trust you…
          • Cons: There is only so many people you can know and you might be stuck with a certain group of people. E.g. if you are a developer, most of your friends are developers and you aren’t likely to run into a CIO with this route.
        • Events (Seminars, Conferences…): This used to be a very popular way in the past (not so much now), but this involves setting up a booth in a conference somewhere and come back with as many cards as possible (and give as many of yours out as possible). This usually works alright if you have no contacts whatsoever in a particular area but what you can do with it will flatten out at some point.
          • Pros: A fairly easy way to meet a large number of people (usually fairly relevant)
          • Cons: Fairly low conversion rate in most cases. Most people go to conferences with a “let’s have some fun” attitude rather than “let me find my IT partner”. All you end up networking with are other IT providers J and unless you are a little homosexual in your preferences, this isn’t really going to work out.
      • Buying leads and prospects
        • Yea. There are actually companies out there that will set you up with the right kind of people for your offer. The general rule of thumb is that the more accurate the list you are buying, the more expensive it will be. InfoUSA and sites similar to this will sell you a pre-defined list of 10,000 contacts or so for a 1000$ or so. All they guarantee is that the information they provide (title, name, phone, email…) is accurate. Then you have companies like Salesify that add a little more credibility to it and ‘guarantee’ a deeper connection. They offer something like 10 connects for a couple of thousand $. A connect being a person looking for you on the other end of the phone ready to listen to your offer. So you can choose for e.g.
          • Director level or higher, in a Healthcare firm, headquartered in CA, looking for offshore BizTalk consulting services.
        • You also have engines like Jigsaw that will give you 1 contact for every contact you give it (you can also buy separately).
        • We all probably know eLance and the few hundred look-alikes for it. These are free but that means there is usually stiff competition out there. To limit your competition somewhat you can aim for sites like Tijari or TendersInfo. I haven’t tried them in detail but they offer a very large pallet of RFPs and proposal requests from all over the world. Usually large government or public offering bids. I haven’t heard anyone swear by these but in theory its one worth trying.
      • Partnerships with others of your kind: There is a whole host of companies out there in the IT space and in order to differentiate themselves, they focus largely on a few areas. This increases their chances of succeeding when they bid for something but it also means there is only so much they can bid for. Many times though, customers will come to trusted vendors with all their problems (like you go to a grocery store expecting to find everything you need there). At times like this, partnerships with other companies with mutually exclusive focus areas can come in handy. For example an IBM vendor can have an Alliance with a Microsoft vendor for lead-exchange or a vendor with no-offshore office can partner up with an offshore setup without an onsite setup. Exclusivity is the key for success here.
        • Pros: The approach gives you access to geographical markets where you would otherwise not have access to. Remember you usually go to the shop near you for soap even though there are specialist soap shops in the world. This sort of work has a fairly low acquisition cost (essentially the cut they keep is the effort for sales). If you have a team that is on the bench a lot, this can be a great gap-filler.
        • Cons: The margin of work generated is low (since all intermediaries keep their cuts). The customer rarely recognizes you. Usually these are white-labeled assignments where partners use the branding of the primary company
      • Partnerships with others not of your kind: These can be really good partnerships if both parties appreciate the value of what the other does. For example, a Marketing firm will usually need IT partners for website development, Mobile development and business analytics of the traffic that their campaigns generate. The Marketing firm can, in essence act as a constant source of leads. So a marketing firm, that markets its marketing capability will end up marketing for you J.
    • Advice
      • Don’t try too hard: Remember:
        No one likes girls that try too hard J. Desperation is usually a sign that your offer is not differentiated enough. Beyond a certain limit, energy spent on chasing prospects is better redirected to refining your offer. If not enough of your prospects are changing into customers you definitely want to think about refining your offer. I pinged this one guy for about 3 years before he finally sent something my way. I ended up not getting it because this guy was just an influencer and the decision makers felt we were just like any other vendor and they ended up choosing the ones they knew better. Moral of the story: if you offer is undifferentiated, you might as well realize that sooner.


Muhammad Omer

Muhammad Omer is the founding partner at Allied Consultants. Areas of interest for him are entreprenuership in organizations, IT Management, Integration and Business Intelligence.