How To Read An Industry Publication
Odd title for an article huh? You may be wondering, “How exactly does this tie into sales and more specifically, selling IT professional services?” You’d be surprised just how much it can not only help you sell but help you differentiate. If you are like most professionals in any industry, you read industry publications to stay on top of the trends, challenges and news taking place within your given industry. And if you are a top performing sales professional you read what your customers read to stay connected with the events taking place in their world. If you are not currently doing this than I strongly encourage you to quickly adopt this exercise into your daily or weekly routine. The ability to talk intelligently about the events, challenges and industry drivers taking place in your customer’s industry and/or product space is one sure way to help you build credibility. And we all need credibility in order to sell value. Let’s talk for a moment about reading the industry publications that your customer’s are reading and how to leverage that information to differentiate yourself from the competition and create sales opportunities.
For sales and recruiting professionals in the IT staffing and consulting space, industry publications could include Computer World, NetworkWorld, CIO Magazine or eWeek among many others. When reading these publications keep in mind that not every article is going to blow you away with mind-numbing excitement as if you are about to hang glide off an ocean side cliff. In fact, you may find some of the articles down right boring. And you may not even fully understand what the article is talking about. But trust me on this, read them and keep reading them because over time it will start to make sense. You will eventually be able to connect all of the dots and make sense out of both the business issues your clients are trying to solve and the complex technology solutions they are trying to deploy as the solution. Why is that so important? As a sales person in the IT professionals services industry you want your customer’s to seek you out as a knowledge expert and someone who understands their critical business issues. As an IT Recruiter you need credibility to attract the top consultants to you and your organization. “Best-in-class” consultants don’t work with rookie recruiters and they can spot them a mile away. As an IT Recruiter you will be able to take your conversations with your consultants to a whole new level because you will understand the challenges they are solving for your customer’s. You will also understand the technologies and methodologies organizations are utilizing to address these challenges. This will enable you to do a much more effective screening and interviewing process of your consultants, not to mention building long term relationships.
Take Advantage of Information Available to You
Let’s take the January 15th, 2009 issue of CIO Magazine as an example. I will explain how you can leverage the information found in the article they highlight on the cover of this issue (and apply this same method to any article you read) to differentiate from the competition, position yourself as knowledge expert and create a sales opportunity that you didn’t even know existed. On the cover of the magazine in big bold letters it reads:
YOUR M & A SURVIVAL PLAYBOOK: Whether it’s a shotgun merger or a planned acquisition, IT can help make it work. Here’s how.
How many of you are calling on accounts today (prospects or customers) who have gone through an acquisition, are currently going through an acquisition or have an account that is about to go through one? We’ve all called on these prospects and heard “I’m really tied up with the acquisition, please call me back in six months.” Haven’t you always wondered exactly what work keeps IT people so busy during an acquisition? And we’ve all felt in this situation that there is a sales opportunity there for us but we just didn’t know how to develop it. Frustrating to say the least! Now you may understand at a high level the work that gets completed during an acquisition but I am talking about the nitty-gritty systems integration work involved in integrating two organizations and the specific challenges and “pain points” that customers encounter during these acquisitions. The difference between understanding the “high-level” work and the “nitty-gritty” work is a missed sales opportunity. Let me explain. First, this article and all the articles published in these industry publications are written and designed for your customers to read and learn from mistakes made by other organizations implementing similar solutions. In this case the article chronicles the “best in class practices” for going through a merger and acquisition and the common pitfalls to avoid. CIO Magazine interviewed several IT executives for their input on how to successfully navigate a merger. They explained the challenges that they had to overcome to complete their own mergers and acquisitions and how they accomplished it. I’m not an M & A expert but after reading this article I discovered a half dozen common challenges or mistakes that IT organizations typically make when they go through an acquisition. The article explains in detail what some of these issues are. After reading the article I wrote down those half-dozen challenges in the form of open-ended sales questions for me to ask of all my prospects going through an acquisition. I want to understand how they are addressing the challenges that I just read about in the article. Now when I call on that prospect who says “call me back in six months, I’m really busy with the acquisition,” I am prepared to counter that objection with some thought provoking questions of my own. Questions that will most likely speak to the specific issues my prospect is currently struggling with. This level of questioning gives me credibility and differentiates me from all of my competitors because I can both empathize with my customer’s current situation and I have demonstrated that I understand their critical business issues and why it’s important to them. Combining that with my own sales ability, this line of questioning opens up sales opportunities for me to explore. It allows me to get the customer to open up and share with me what their challenges are. I have now uncovered a problem that my customer is trying to solve and if I play my cards right I can position myself as the solution provider to solve that problem. And it was all made possible by reading this article. Not bad for someone who doesn’t know a whole heck of a lot about mergers and acquisitions.
How Do I Do It?
Suppose you are calling into “ABC Company” and you know they are implementing Microsoft SharePoint Server. Do some searches on Google for articles or blogs that discuss implementations of SharePoint. You can even do a search at http://www.cio.com/ to search their articles and case studies. Highlight the sentences that explain or detail the issues that the customers had to overcome to implement SharePoint and translate them into open-ended questions such as this. Here is an example:
“It might not be the case with you but we are seeing many customers who are implementing SharePoint struggle with….insert your issue from article…..how are you addressing this challenge?”
As you can see, you can easily duplicate this method across multiple disciplines. And you can do many variations. Remember, you can’t make a placement unless you first uncover a problem for your consultant to solve. Our job is to uncover our client’s challenges and then present consultants who can solve those challenges. I’ve found this to be a wonderful way of doing just that.
If you have any questions regarding this article feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.