Selling IT Services: Does IT Work?

Selling technology successfully doesn’t happen by accident. There are a lot of philosophies out there on how to get it done. Before designing an effective go-to market strategy, you must consider the type of organization you are, what technological capabilities you possess, and what you want to be in the future. The IT space is an extremely competitive environment, not to mention the enormous responsibility you take on when you’re responsible for the successful execution and uptime of one’s infrastructure.

Building a plan to sell IT services can be as challenging as IT itself. Just think for a moment of all of the possible entry points and products/services you could offer, not to mention the many intense situations you could throw your company into. You must be prepared. As an MFP dealer, if a copier goes down, it might be an interruption for the client, but it’s seldom catastrophic. As an IT dealer, though not every infrastructure problem is a down situation, you do have to be ready for everything!

Selling IT services isn’t just another item thrown in the sales bag, either. Although MPS and MFP providers work around the network, they don’t carry the same “mission critical” burden as the IT services dealer. Your plan must define HOW you’re going to go to market, and what execution and implementation look like, in detail.

Here is the greatest value proposition you can deliver: educating a strategic leader into making the right decisions, to improve their current position or direction, using you and your company.

New clients often ask me to evaluate their sales processes, especially when they want to add new service offerings. In many cases, they’re doing this because sales results are lacking and they think more products or services will help. To get a handle on the skillset of the sales organization, I’ll start by asking their sales reps a series of questions. One such question is, “What do you sell, exactly?” If I get clean, concise answers, I can focus more on the product development vs. the sales team. If I get less concise answers, then it’s a full court press to improve both.

In a recent IT project with a manufacturer, I was tasked with developing a first appointment presentation for their dealers and resellers. To get a handle on the project, I asked them to set up some interviews with rock solid, tenured sales reps who were able to present their company’s products or services well. They provided 12 reps and each were asked to give their best presentation. I gave each of them an entire day to prepare.

Value Before Solution

Because all of the presentations happened one right after another, I noticed a particular pattern I might not of otherwise. What I noticed was this: the sales reps had so many different capabilities within their solution set, they had a hard time zeroing in on a value proposition that would interest a strategic-minded C-Level. These sales reps were geek to a non-geek target.
Without a focused, appropriate value proposition, they were just throwing darts and hoping one would hit. They felt like they could handle any technology issue. That’s great, but here it actually worked against them, as they wandered all over the place.

The Right DNA

Second, if I hear “what’s your budget?” one more time, I’m going to be sick. You ask about the budget to an IT person who’s already diagnosed the situation and is simply looking for the parts they can’t do themselves. By asking that question, the sales reps put themselves in the position of a commodity vendor. Now, they have little action they can take, other than begging for the business. Instead, they should show what the value of a sale would be to a strategic leader.

Almost 5 out of the 12 sales reps had a network tech’s DNA, rather than a sales rep’s DNA. Even though their technical knowledge and skillsets were unquestionably superior, their sales skills were lacking, and in some cases frankly missing. I see few successful sales reps that possess both the technical and sales DNA. Which profile do you want building your sales pipeline?

The Right Target

On a recent first appointment, I accompanied a dealer’s sales rep to a law firm in California, where we met with the CFO and the Managing Partner. Both of them carried a strategic role in the firm, and neither one had an aptitude for technology.

When the conversation began, they said, “We trust our internal IT team and trust that everything is great, technology wise.”

Staying at a strategic level, I asked them “How do really know that everything is ok with your infrastructure?” They answered again, “We trust our IT team!”

Very courteously, I asked again: “But how do you really know?” They looked at each other, laughing just a bit, and said, “I guess we really don’t know that everything is OK!” Do you think if we were talking with their IT team they would have shared that information?

We continued asking about the firm’s strategic objectives and they opened up and shared their concerns about how far behind their IT team was.

Amazingly enough, we ultimately got clearance to assess their network, and I can’t tell you how many critical issues we found! Some say that 85 percent of the networks out there harbor serious issues that no one is discussing. Here is the greatest value proposition you can deliver: educating a strategic leader into making the right decisions, to improve their current position or direction, using you and your company.

Some say that managed IT is THE destination to drive your future. Some say it’s flex technology programs, where clients get what they need and the program grows or shrinks as the client’s needs change. Regardless, someone has to sell those services. Your sales organization needs to understand strategic concerns. If they don’t, they’ll not do as well as those who do.

Strategic Relationships

This is the key—help your sales team focus on a value proposition that ultimately sells strategic value to a strategic target. What do I mean? On an initial appointment, if you speak about a specific product or service, even if it’s the greatest available, you’re limited to the features and benefits of that solution and whether or not it’s a current need. But, if your value proposition and solutions drive a more “successful business” value, there are no limitations.

Your job is to educate business leaders on the poor and/or critical conditions your team finds 85 percent of the time when reviewing a new client’s infrastructure, regardless of whether their IT team is internal or outsourced.

Some say they prefer to use a features, advantages and benefits selling process. In IT sales, if you’re talking to the right target, my experience is that you have two significant thresholds to overcome. First, YOUR CREDIBILITY and EXPERTISE, especially when they don’t know you and you want to put your hands on their infrastructure.

Second, what they care about most is the success of the business. The strategic leaders likely aren’t geeks, so speak their language. They believe if they did have a pressing technology issue; their IT team would have already brought it to their attention. Wrong! One thing that works in your favor—that 85 percent statistic is real. If there is something lacking within their infrastructure, regardless of what it is, they’ll seldom hear about it in a proactive discussion. And that’s where you come in.

Getting into the IT services space can be hard work. But if you follow this approach—selling your strategic value to strategic leaders—you’ll find it a lot easier than it could be. IT works!

Charles Lamb
About the Author
Charles Lamb is the President and CEO of Mps&it Sales Consulting. His firm delivers proven methodologies and processes that assist dealer principals seeking the shortest path to a successful transformation into the managed services space. He's created complementary solutions including Funnelmaker, Gatekeeper, and Shield IT services. His bootcamps demonstrate immediate results in raising the skill set of those wanting a foundation for selling managed service deliverables. For information on bootcamps, training, or consulting engagements call 888.823.0006, e-mail him at, or visit