Monday, May 06, 2002

The Success Coach

Tips can help IT consultants close sale

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        QUESTION: As an IT consultant, I frequently make sales calls and visit various organizations. After assessing their IT infrastructure, I would offer my recommendations and pitch the benefits my firm can provide these companies. Instead of meeting with their IT departments, I find myself pitching directly to senior managers such as the CEO or COO. At times, it may be advantageous to sell directly to senior management because these officers are the ones who call the shots. However, not many of them are tech-savvy. During my presentation, I can see the confusion in their eyes as they become lost in the technical details. As a result, I lose the sale. Can you offer any advice?

        ANSWER: Selling consulting services can be difficult and frustrating at times, because the decision-makers do not fully understand their technological needs and parameters. In addition to preparing for your presentation, try the following tactics and improve your chances of closing the sale.

        1. Involve the senior managers. Most IT departments have the discretion to use their budgets as they see fit. However, in smaller companies, the CEO or COO might get involved, although it should be only to approve a purchase that the IT department has already recommended. Always make sure you have IT's complete support before you approach the senior managers.

        2. Don't meet alone. Arrange to meet with the IT department and senior managers. You want the managers to see their own IT department's enthusiasm and excitement as you present and explain your consulting benefits. In addition, their personnel's presence will also provide the managers the opportunity to clarify any confusion or questions immediately.

        3. Develop an industry timeline. Managers understand that technology changes rapidly. However, they may not necessarily realize how the changes can affect their operations. Show them your firm's awareness of the industry's technological progress with documents and diagrams. Illustrate the effect of technology on the industry and the types of technological advances you are anticipating.

        4. Use case studies. Most senior managers are bottom-line oriented. It is a good idea to develop case studies that show the CEO etc. how much savings and profits your consulting services have brought to your clients. Steer clear of technical details and focus on what happened with your clients. Did your consulting create a system that allowed data to be stored and backed up electronically, thus eliminating the need for paperwork? Have employees become more productive in less time, now that they are able to undertake and focus on new and more challenging activities? Have your consulting recommendations helped improve your clients' relationships with their vendors and customers? Talking about one or two case studies can help you get to the heart of a senior manager's concerns more than a book full of technical information.

        5. Simplify your technical data. Many of today's senior managers grew up before computers. Some don't even use them today. As a result, the jargon is meaningless to them. Assume the CEO etc. does not know anything about consulting services and explain the facts as though you're talking to someone who has never seen a computer. Also remember that technical terms such as milliseconds, gigabytes vs. megabytes are irrelevant to the senior managers. Use terms they can relate to such as “twice as much” of “half as much” as other products.

        Michael Crom is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training. For advice on work issues, visit or e-mail


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