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Qualifying and Selling in the IT-Business Realm

Qualifying and Selling in the IT-Business Realm

Many IT folks, from a variety of walks, query me about selling.  Whether it’s a salesperson looking to identify and corral prospects, with subsequent conversion to paying clients, or an IT staff person looking to sell an idea to higher management, selling involves something very fundamental at the outset:

You must qualify those to whom you are attempting to make a sale.  An example:

Attendees at a recent SharePoint Fest generated a log of visitors to a vendor’s trade booth.  “Leads” (individual visitors) were dutifully captured and input to Salesforce.  A sales crew subsequently made follow-up calls over the course of weeks and months, attempting to sell services and products.  It’s always tough going, but this particular effort was especially tough, and it turned out to be easy-enough to see why.

The overwhelming number of visitors to the booth were not key decision-makers (DM) – that is, they were not CIOs, CTOs, COOs, CFOs, IT Directors, or Managers.  Nor were they influencers – this would overlap to those IT Directors and Managers, and also comprise business-class Directors and Managers, as well as other key business people.  Rather, the visitors were almost wholly comprised of Developers, Programmers, Admins and various folks looking to maximize the associated SharePoint skills.

These people coming to the booth will not be in a position to consider or evaluate a “new vendor,” associated solutions, and any potential entrée to their organization.  Nor are any of them inclined to stick their neck out in pointing a sales caller to one of their high-ups; they don’t want to send a potential “bother” to them, plus, if the steered vendor turns out to be unsatisfactory, the person who steered them as an introduction will face potential embarrassment and perhaps other liability.  Therefore, these non-DMs wouldn’t seem to be any kind of a valid “lead.” 

Yet there is a way to punch through the liability of the large number of development-types/non-DMs.  (Note:  This article’s intention is not to be a sales-primer, with ideas for selling.  The assumption is that you already harbor this sales knowledge and ability).



-Ask people straight out if they have any decision-making role.  (If the answer is “yes” – you know what to do).  In the case of Developers, Admins, Network-types, etc., this will probably be a “no.”  You are likely to hear a variety of answers:  Both straight and sardonic:

  • No, my boss/supervisor/manager/director/CIO handles that.
  • Are you kidding? 
  • I’m not paid to think.
  • Etc. (based on what I’ve heard on sales calls)

-Subsequent, do they have any “influencing” type of role?  If “yes” have the appropriate conversation.  But in terms of acquiring DM contact info:  whether “yes” or “no” – solicit and pitch them thus: 

  • May we have your director’s (etc.) name?  (If you have a rapport going, try to get full contact info).
  • Give them confidence that you will make them look good for having exposed the decision-maker to you.
    • We’re low-key
    • We harbor best-practices, quality
    • Affordable
    • Efficient
    • Etc. (you know what to do)
  • Fully inform them that your contact with the DM that they’ve provided will be low-key/not “pushy”:
    • Upon contact with the DM, we will be soliciting some dates/times for a discovery call:
      • About their business
      • About their use of SP (or whatever you’re selling)
      • About their requirements, goals, future
      • Rejoinder by you regarding your background, and work in-kind to what they’re looking to do; examples; how you can help
  • During your discussion at the booth (or on a call), ask the non-DM if it would be ok to contact the DM and use the non-DM’s name; or, would they prefer you not use their name in contacting their DM – in other words, you can approach the DM in one of two ways:
    • If the non-DM prefers their name not be used – OR – if they are reticent about providing the DM’s name/contact info in the first place, indicate that you’ll make contact with the DM thus:
      • “Good morning/afternoon Mr./Ms. Smith; I’m David Strain of XYZ Software Company, and we’re just following up with some organizations that visited our booth at the recent SharePoint Fest in Seattle… we appreciate everyone’s visit [call proceeds as usual]… in this case, if the DM asks how you came upon their name, just tell them that as a matter of routine, you have a log of orgs that came by the booth, and upon this call, you asked the receptionist for the “IT Director”, etc. – but generally, the DM does not ask.
    • If the non-DM says it’s ok to use their name, call will be:
      • “Good morning/afternoon Mr./Ms. Smith; I’m David Strain of XYZ Software Company, and we enjoyed meeting one of your staff, Ms. Mary Alivia, at the recent SharePoint Fest in Seattle… she thought you may have interest in our services and background… (proceed…)

Often, sales personnel waste time making pitches to unqualified ears – those non-DMs – because those are the so-called Leads they are handed, or those who they have uncovered.  Therefore, it is imperative to do everything possible to turn these folks into “gateways” to the DMs in each respective organization – and you can.

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