How I do sales as a solo consultant

Selling is a process, let’s see how we can hack it!
Whether you’re selling your services as a consultant, a SaaS platform or ice-cream, this can help you.

The most important thing to remember when selling anything, is to understand whether or not the person you’re facing wants to buy it.
The word sales people use is “qualification”.

If a person is qualified to purchase, selling them your product is a no brainer.
When you qualify a person wrongly, you’re going to regret it. Waste of time (yours and theirs) and money (mostly yours).

The sales process explained for people who don’t do sales

To qualify a person you need to have a solid understanding of your product and their needs.

Now that you’ve understood what qualification is, you can follow this mini-guide - these are the topics we’re going to go over:

  • How does qualification work?
  • How to ask the right questions?
  • Great but who do I ask these questions to - introducing the concept of leads?
  • How do I qualify a lead?

How do you qualify for a smooth sale process?

Simply put, you have to ask the right questions.

You might have a list of contacts, we call these leads, but have you got the questions to qualify them?

These questions are discovered as you learn more about what you’re selling and who is buying it.

This usually is called find better fit between your product and your audience. Product market fit in short, and this is a whole different topic!

How to find the perfect questions to ask?

You need to ask questions that help you understand:

  • How your leads see themselves (and feel) when using your solution. Your solution, to solve the problem(s) they need fixing.
  • How much “pain” are you removing with the implementation of your solution: this means how can you gauge the impact of applying your solution to help the pain go away - for your lead.

Don’t talk, listen.

In life you’re, overall, you’re better off listening to someone who has something to say, than to force them to listen to you.

Be quiet, listen. Adopt the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time listen to what your leads are saying and then give them the answers they want.
Just like on networking apps, when you find matches, in the world of sales you’re trying to match your product with the lead and their business pains.

Getting an overview of the cycle

I usually talk about digital things, so we’re going to take a look at a typical digital sales approach.
You’ve gotta get leads somewhere right?

In most businesses it goes something like this:

  1. Lead sees some ads, twitter, blog posts and they’re curious or they think it’s interesting, so they click…
  2. Lead arrives on landing page
  3. Lead learns about your solution solving a pain point they have.
  4. Leads understands your solution and thinks that using your solution to solve their issue(s).
  5. Lead gives you a way for you to contact them and leaves the page.

at this point if you have leads contacting you.
You’ve already done a ton of work because this means that your marketing has worked.

Look back at this list, pay attention at the 3rd step.
This is when the lead goes through that A-HA moment.
Take a breath, congratulate yourself.
You have a hot lead.

This is important. So many people don’t understand how to create a sales page, unfortunately they don’t teach this in school.

As any person reading your sales page, you have to structure them in a way to answer their questions.
Additionally, you identify the pain and provide a solution by answering their objections.
Show them you thought of everything.
They must know, you’ve got a winning solution.

So at this point you hook them, create a great call to action.
Get their details and try to arrange a meeting (call, video or anything that works for both).

During the meeting, let them talk (remember we discussed this at the start, the 80/20 rule).
Tell them how YOUR “cure” is right for THEIR “pain”, remembering to put them in the spotlight every time you can.
That is because people like to be reminded that this is THEIR story, they’re under the spotlight.

  • N.B. I use the word pain a lot from now on. It’s business pain we’re talking about, the pain of doing something that causes stress to employees, reduces productivity…or anything that makes a business slow down.

Most people will have no idea how much pain, a pain is really causing.
As a sales person you will have to remind them.
Due to different perspectives, they might be used to dealing with it, like a chronic pain, that is always there.

That is, until you remind them.

Then show them how easy it is to fix with your solution

How to run a meeting with the objective of qualifying leads

This is the homerun situation for you, you’ve managed to arrange a meeting to discuss a possible sale!

To structure meetings to minimize your waste of time you need a structure, a secret agenda.

Qualification of leads into customers requires a script.
You should follow one similar to this.

  • Hello & Greetings
  • Ask about the current process
  • Ask about pain points & what an ideal solution / requirements would look like
  • Provide Your solution
  • Shake hands over the fact your solution is the best and next action.

This structure is better detailed below.

If you use a CRM, or an Excel spreadsheet, you can use that to gather learnings: if you make tons of calls following this structure and capture the details, you’ll learn a lot from these meetings to reach product/market fit.

Other things to do PRIOR to a meeting when doing lead qualification to guarantee success:
1) Spend time learning about the person you’re meeting, who they report to, who they work with. Learn if they’re the ones signing or someone’s report
2) Try to identify who is the highest and most relevant position at the company you’re targeting. You should try to talk to founders and C-levels preferably.

When doing a meeting try to follow this structured approach:

  • Introduce yourself and find out if it’s a good time to talk.
  • Introduce your company
  • Provide timeline/agenda of meeting
  • Ask about the current process for doing “ABC”
  • Ask about the annoyances/high efforts needed to do ABC
  • Ask about what the perfect solution in an ideal world would look like
  • Provide them with a solution: that’s your product, obviously, and how it would fit for them.
  • Show them or explain to them why they need this

Qualification is hard, the hardest.

Qualification is the toughest part to get right.

Remember the part where I said qualifying a lead is the most important part of your call?
To understand if someone’s going to be a good customer for your solution, you need to qualify them.
A good-fit doesn’t just happen. You have to dig and listen.

To dig you need to ask questions that aren’t answered with YES/NO. You’re hunting for explanations: these are the Why, What and How.

“How do you currently do ABC”
“How does an employee at your company do ABC”
Dig further.
“Can you tell me more about your issues when doing ABC”
“Tell me about what usually triggers a situation that leads to ABC”

Once you’ve elicited enough information - to the point where they’re just non-stop talking about it - you know you’ve hit the right lead. They’re definitely qualified to buy.

At this point you will ask follow up questions about the issues they’re facing.
Restate their issue and their steps and then ask:

“What happens afterwards?”
This is when they tell you about the pain “cause and effect“.

As the seller, you need to be able to draw a flow diagram of everything you’ve been told: highlighting the areas where the most attrition happens. Actually draw it on your notepad if you can, it will help.

Meanwhile you know that in your leads’s mind, they’ve replayed their painful memories and they’re not dreading having to experience that again.
This is when you have to hit them with your potential solution.

Alternatively you hang up (kiddin’..): they might not be a fit for your solution, no point lying and wasting anyone’s time. Politely exit the meeting if the meeting didn’t proceed as you expected.

When trying to hitting a home-run, you need to remember to ask first and foremost:

“What’s the perfect solution looking like in your head?”
“What’s the one thing that would make you sleep better at night if you could fix it right away”

They might not be able to answer, so you can nudge them into the right direction - but usually this is where they spill the beans.

Hold on: what happens if they don’t answer?

You re-state the issues they were facing, the pain they’re living - ask them if that’s something they’d want to be gone, painwise.

At this point, you start writing down or take mental notes of the solution you’re going to provide them with.
That happens because you’ve already decided they’re qualified for a sale.
1) the most important…
2) the second most important…
3) and the third most important features of your solution they might care most about…

If you can provide them with a version of any of these three things, bingo.

Now, you’ve got to tell them that you’ve understood everything.
“This looks like we could really be helpful to you…”
You’ve gotta give them a little summary of everything you’ve gathered, mention their pain points, their ideal scenario, the things they care most about when solving the problems and how your solution can do this.
It’s important that you HIT THEM WITH THE FACTS. A good sale happens because the facts are relevant to the solution.
Finally, you can ask them if they want to ask you questions - if they do, answer them - don’t drop the ball just yet.

Don’t make your time go to waste and always follow up, now you know what the issue is, what they care about and potentially you even know who’s the person in charge of buying your solution.

If you don’t know, make sure to ask during the last part of the meeting, you can be very upfront about it.
Finally you create your solution plan on paper and email it to them. The next part is easy, this is where you will go read up about sales email templates. Find one that suits you and wait for them to sign the statement of work/letter of intent/contract.

Congrats on learning how to sell stuff. It was worth reading it till here I hope