In my Navigate 2015 session "Selling Reality," I outlined four principles to consider when selling your services. Your quest to keep your clients begins before they ever sign a contract. Changing your mindset and actions can make it much easier to avoid the traditional gap between sales and service and ensure clients are clients for life. I've recapped my session and outlined six more game-changing principles for MSPs. Enjoy!

Click here if you already attended my session and want the follow-up tips! 

Recap: Principles 1-4

If you're not at Navigate, you're missing out. If you went to another session, I'll forgive you. If you are still in bed because of the party last night, well…here's a less exciting version of what you missed in my session.

Hype is a dangerous drug. It's tempting to buy, it's easy to sell, it's addictive, and even if it's not fatal, the long term detriment outweighs the immediate high. IT service providers are notorious for selling one thing and delivering something entirely different and less… quality. This is natural. We need money to run and grow our companies. It's easy to separate the revenue generation from the delivery in both mindset and practice. There's a better way - a less traveled road - that helps avoid the temptation of over-promising and more quickly engages you in a trusting relationship with the prospect. Imagine selling the reality of who you are, letting go of the pressure on you and your team to do the impossible, and closing more deals at the same time.  

This reality can exist when you eliminate hype and follow these tips:

Principle 1: Answer the most important question

"If your business went away, what would be missing from the world?"

Answering this question is the deepest, most honest way to explore your market differentiators. If the answer to this question is "nothing" then you have a different problem. You need an identity. If you aren't used to answering this question it may take some time, but take the time. We're trained in many ways to do things "in vein" in our industry. Dig deep into why your company exists, the motivation for starting it, the personality of key team members, and the reasons your most satisfied clients need you. You'll answer the question and it may surprise you. Small businesses have some inherent advantages over large businesses.

Principle 2:  Be kind to your tomorrow self

Shift your mindset to be more selfish.  That's right the first thing to do is think more about yourself and less about your client.  Don't be selfish for today's version of yourself.  Today you're the person who wants nothing more than to land this big deal.  Be kind to your tomorrow self.  Tomorrow, or three months from now, you're the person who is struggling to justify everything you promised during the sale.  Give your future self a chance.  Set them up to crush it.

Principle 3: Remember that "gravity pulls everything."

"Gravity pulls everything" is the term I use with my team to remind us all that many of the sales and services challenges of our business are the sales and services challenges of every business. For instance: clients want to work with the same person or people from your company on a recurring basis. They also want fast response every time, overflow coverage, additional specialties, etc. This is not your problem. This is everyone's problem. It's still a challenge to be addressed, but it's a terrible reason to promise the impossible. Find these issues that are not unique to you and educate your clients about why they are issues. Then, present your innovative approach to lessen the negative impacts of these natural issues. You haven't solved them, but you've found the best possible way to address them head-on. Sure, a competitor could be over-promising and claiming to do the impossible, but when you explain the reality of the challenge, you'll expose their futile efforts and become the trusted hero. 

Principle 4: Sell who you are.

When you shift your mindset to consider your future self, define your honest identity, and let go of the pressure to solve the impossible, the next step is simple: Just relax. Buyers buy where they feel confident and that starts with your confidence in yourself.  When you avoid selling hype, people listen. Educate, engage, and connect them to who you really are. When they say "yes" (and they probably will), they'll be saying yes to the version of you who knows you can crush it, not the one they'll feel underwhelmed by in another few months.


Selling Reality: Principles 5-10

Here are some other specific details you can focus on to effectively sell reality.

Principle 5: Change how you feel before the meeting.

Life in business and in sales can be manic. The highs and lows come fast and change often. Being intentional about your feelings going into a meeting may seem silly, but it works. I'm not talking about psyching yourself up in front of the bathroom mirror. If you want to sell something real and meaningful, connect to something real and meaningful before you start. I try to leave fifteen minutes before a sales meeting to have a conversation with a colleague, read part of a book, listen to music that means something to me, or talk to my wife and kids. This grounds me. There's nothing worse for my sales focus than walking into a meeting with the feelings of financial pressure, personnel challenges, or client issues. 

Principle 6: Look great.

At our company we have a very simple dress policy: "Don't make your job harder by how you dress." This principle can be applied to other parts of the sales process. Your visual impression can set you apart, from your attire to your company branding to the design of your sales proposal. Look top notch, and you'll start above the pack rather than climb out of a hole.

Principle 7: Ditch the PowerPoint.

A sales presentation will almost always lose out to a sales conversation. Rather than pushing focus to a screen, keep people in the line of sight. We're technology companies but we don’t have to be afraid of paper. 

Principle 8: Be first.

Being shockingly fast in sales responses gets attention. If someone fills out our website contact form, we love to call them within seconds. It surprises them in the best possible way.The quicker we can begin making the client comfortable, the sooner they may cut off their search. Don't ask yourself "how fast do we need to respond?" Ask "how fast can we respond?" We strive to be aggressively fast and it makes a difference, especially when the person responding can answer their technical questions which leads to #9…

Principle 9: Involve your delivery team in the sale.

It's much harder to over-promise when you're also personally in charge of delivering on the promise. The simplest way to do this is to make sure someone sitting in front of the prospect can ensure proper expectations after the sale closes. Bring your technical people into the sales process.

Principle 10: Reframe your front-steps assessment.

Our team has a habit of convening in front of the prospective client's office after a sales meetings for a short recap of how they feel it went. We've slowly evolved the question from "what chance do we have?" to "how much of an impact can we make?" It's both a cause and effect of our changed mentality around selling reality. If we leave and we know we're the right choice, we are confident in our engagement and follow-up. If we feel we are not the right choice, we can avoid a future of frustration. 

Selling reality is hard but worth it. Selling hype is easy but temporary.

Selling Reality goes well beyond these ten principles. I'd love to hear your experiences and lessons learned. Reach me at or follow me on Twitter @PeterMelby, and tweet #SellReality #nav15!

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