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    How to sell when you're not a salesperson

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    One of my relatives is a lawyer. He recently joined a new firm and had an interesting story to tell. He’s a compliance expert, and not too long ago, a potential client called asking for help with a tax issue.

    My relative, realizing that he, as a compliance expert, was not the right person to handle a tax case, called over to the tax department at his new firm, and said, “Hey, there’s a case here that I think you can handle better than I can, I’m sending them your way.”

    The person on the other end of the phone was shocked.

    “Don’t you want the billable hours?” he asked. “Why would you send them to me? That’s awfully nice of you.”

    This reaction highlighted a problem in the way the firm handles sales that is sadly common among professional firms that do not have dedicated sales teams. And it’s only one of many problems with the way sales are handled in companies where the “salespeople” are professionals whose primary job is not sales.

    What it means to be a non-sales salesperson

    It’s very common for attorneys, accountants, bankers, architects, therapists, and other non-sales salespeople to be expected to find, win, service, and keep their own clients.

    In these professions, “sales” is often a dirty word, and yet it’s an expectation of the job. Due to lack of training, lack of interest, and a general feeling of “ick” around sales activities, many professionals treat it like something unpleasant they are forced into–or they treat it as a social activity with no end goal in mind beyond “make more money.”

    The result is that most non-sales professionals’ “sales process” looks like this:

    1. Take someone to lunch
    2. Socialize
    3. Tell them what you do
    4. Leave them a business card
    5. Hope they'll call you when in need

    Notice the distinct lack of follow-up, action items, or genuine process. Additionally, when the professional’s sales pipeline is full and their billable hours are high, they slack off on the lunches while they try to catch up on billable work. This creates a feast-or-famine cycle that is all too familiar to many professionals.

    Why learning to sell is a huge opportunity for non-sales professionals (and sales consultants)

    The very fact that most professionals are so bad at sales is a very good reason why learning to sell presents a huge opportunity to those willing to do it. Imagine an accountant who knew your needs and your industry, who took the time to understand your situation and offer expert advice on how to save more money and more profitably manage your revenues. Who followed up with additional value-added conversations. Who made it easy to work with, who was always on top of what you needed next.

    Imagine if the accountant were this way with every prospect and every client. Can you imagine how in-demand they would be?

    But a full book of clients is not the only reason why an effective sales process and approach is a huge opportunity for non-sales professionals. An effective process also results in less time spent on inefficient selling–and more time doing the work the professional originally set out to do.

    Most non-salespeople lack an effective sales process and sales training - a huge opportunity!

    Instead of being a salesperson and doing accounting, or banking, or architecture on the back end: They spend most of their time and energy on accounting, banking, or architecture with a well-organized sales process executed simply and easily on the backend, consuming very little of their time or energy.

    For sales consultants, likewise, this presents an excellent opportunity. Many law firms, accounting firms, architects, and others have the size and budget to support bringing in external consultants. Once they understand the value of having their people well trained and supported in sales process and approach, they are quite able to invest in it.

    And once they see the results - that how they sell is helping them differentiate and grow faster and with more profits - they’re likely to become happy, long-term clients.

    Four keys to success for non-sales salespeople

    When working with non-sales salespeople, one of the first keys to success is to change the mindset. Here’s why, and three other keys to keep in mind.

    1. Mindset
      Most non-sales salespeople don’t want to be salespeople. But they have to be, in order to be successful. So the consultant’s first job is to help them change their mindset. Help them see how by selling more, they help more. Help them experience the sales process as a means of guiding potential clients to make good decisions that benefit them long-term.
    2. Simple process
      Sales process for a non-sales salesperson should be effective, customer-focused, and simple. It should focus on those clients who are the best fit, and it should be tailored to address them in as efficient and helpful a manner as possible. And prevent prospects and clients from falling through the cracks.
    3. Effective sales technology
      Even more so than professional salespeople, non-sales salespeople must be supported by sales technology. If it’s complex or doesn’t provide tangible benefit, they won’t use it. But if it effectively guides them through each step of the sales process in a way that makes it simple and effective for them, it can become their professional best friend.
    4. Reconfigure compensation
      In the story I told at the start of this article, my relative’s colleague was shocked that he was referring the customer to someone else, and I can’t really blame him. The compensation structure in the firm works against collaboration, by encouraging everyone to take billable hours where they can find them, even if someone else could do a better job for the client, and providing no benefit for bringing new clients to another business unit. It is worthwhile for decision makers at these companies and firms to review their compensation structure and work with their consultant to revise it. A more effective structure might include referral fees for those bringing in the business, in combination with tracking customer satisfaction, so that they benefit without having to deliver the hours.

    At Membrain, we have a number of partnerships with consultants and trainers with pre-designed sales processes built into our technology, that can be customized to fit the needs of non-sales salespeople. We would love to connect you with just the right professionals to help you transform your company and firm into a world-class leader in sales and customer success.

    George Brontén
    Published August 12, 2020
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn