The Secret to Selling Your Professional Services Like a Pro

Unless you’re a sales trainer or coach by trade, it’s likely you didn’t set out on your professional services journey to spend hours of your time selling. Your intent was probably more aligned with spending time being a strategic advisor, trusted coach and inspiration to those in need of your guidance. But to advance your career as a profi (what we call professional service pros), you have to succeed in the art of sales. And that means you have to transition from professional guide to professional rainmaker.

"Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Ginni Rometty

Sales is a skill that every professional service provider must nurture. There’s no way around it. Even if every fiber in your being screams, “I can’t do sales!”

As Ginni Rometty, former chairman, president and CEO of IBM, said, "Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

And to help get you out of your comfort zone and into the growth zone, we turned to sales professional extraordinaire John “JT” Tran, Profi’s chief sales officer, for some inspiration and advice. And even if your work isn’t about the money, developing a sales state of mind will help you in your day-to-day interactions as a coach, consultant or trainer.

JT’s Leap From Software Development Into Sales

Quote from Profi Chief Sales Officer John Tran | Expert advice on sales for the professional services industry

At Profi, JT leads sales and helps his team meet company revenue and sales growth targets. His responsibilities include everything from assessing the market and implementing sales strategies to guiding and aligning the product, marketing and sales teams. And these are all things that he’s extremely passionate about.

But nothing drives JT’s passion more than Profi’s clients.

“Each day at Profi, I get to meet clients who do incredible work to nurture and unlock potential in others,” shares JT excitedly.  “I’m inspired to offer a solution that helps our clients unlock even more potential. We help the helpers maximize their impact — knowing that makes our hard work worthwhile.”

When it comes to hard work, the second-generation Vietnamese-American is a great example for others to follow.  

“My family came to this country — leaving everything behind — in search of more opportunities for my brother and sister,” explains JT.  “So I'm the youngest of five and the only one born in America. I worked hard to put myself through school, working full-time while studying computer science at UCLA.”

When JT graduated from UCLA, his first job was working as a software developer. And this is what makes his journey into sales so unique. A career in sales isn’t the typical path that a computer science major follows. But it was the perfect path for JT.

“Although I have tremendous respect for developers, I quickly realized it wasn't for me,” added JT. “So I transitioned into IT consulting, then employee benefits consulting  once I discovered how much I liked interacting with customers and negotiating.”

His exposure to negotiating with clients is what fueled JT’s drive to sales superstardom.  

“I found that I thrive at the intersection of technology and business,” admits JT. “With sales, I get to think about strategy and scaling relationships that can unlock exponential growth for people and companies. I also get a lot of fulfillment out of developing people and seeing their success.”

A Willingness to Learn Helped JT Succeed in Sales

Although he makes it looks easy today, JT admits that transitioning from software development to sales took a lot of work. It wasn’t something that came naturally.  

“I was coming from a computer science background and my first job in direct sales wasn’t going well,” explained JT.  “After a few weeks of failing, I went to the head of sales to find out who the best at getting meetings was. I then offered my first five meetings to that person to let me shadow their prospecting calls and sessions. Soon after that, I became the one that was getting the most meetings in the office.”

But even though he became the best at getting his foot in the door, JT soon learned that he needed to develop additional skills before he could truly succeed in sales.

Securing meetings was one thing, but closing deals was something completely different.  

“I was getting meetings but struggling to close deals,” said JT.  “So I went back to the head of sales to find out who the best closer was. I then went to that rep and offered my first five commissions to shadow them. After that, I became the top producer in the office and new reps started to make the same offers to me.”

The moral of his story is that anyone with the right mindset and guidance can succeed in sales. And as JT puts it, “Everybody can benefit from a good coach.”

Great Sales Techniques and Philosophies for Professional Service Providers

In alignment with Profi’s mission of helping the helpers to maximize their impact, JT shared the sales techniques and philosophies he relies on for building successful relationships with his clients, prospects and colleagues. And because sales is less about selling and more about helping others succeed, the wisdom contained in JT’s go-to resources will help you improve your impact too. Whether it’s in how you mentor, coach and counsel others to succeed, or in how you communicate with those around you, the following are great guides for improving all your human-to-human connections.

The SPIN® selling methodology provides a framework for asking questions that will help you close more deals. The acronym SPIN represents the categories for different types of questions: situation, problem, implication and need payoff.

The Sandler Selling System is great because it encourages you to be a consultant rather than a pushy salesperson. This strategy concentrates on asking the right questions during the qualifying process instead of pushing a product on someone who doesn't need it.

The Challenger Sales model is a sales methodology that encourages you to use your understanding of the client’s businesses to deliver new insights and drive their thinking in new ways. The goal is to bring new ideas, like how to save money or avoid risk, that the client hasn’t previously considered or fully appreciated on their own.

Much like the name implies, solution selling is a sales process where you help the client or prospect understand their own needs while providing a solution to help them solve their problem. The goal is to not only help your client or prospect deal with the problems they are facing but also help them understand the different options they have when it comes to solutions.

BANT is a sales qualification framework that will help you to determine how good of a fit each prospect is based on their budget, authority to make a purchasing decision, need for the product or service and purchase timeline. It is a great framework to follow when you need help identifying who your best sales prospects are.

Over time, JT has synthesized the key pieces of his favorite systems, models and frameworks into his own sales philosophy. They serve as his true north, and they’re what keep him focused on his mission of helping others succeed.

  • Always provide value

Ultimately, sales success starts with believing in the value you're providing. The products and services you’re selling must offer value to the client. And you have to be able to communicate what that value is. If you aren’t making your client’s life better somehow, you’re going to have a hard time selling to them.  

  • Invest in your sales team

Building a culture of success throughout your team is extremely important for sales leadership. You have to be invested in the people who help you sell your service, product, business or run your sales department. So understanding your team’s goals and providing opportunities for them to reach those goals is extremely important. If your people love your organization, your clients will feel that and so will everyone else.

  • Become a trusted resource, not a nuisance

Success in sales boils down to helping clients make educated decisions to manage and grow their business and improve their quality of life. But being a trusted resource for your clients is a balance of art and science. This always starts with listening to the client’s needs and wants and then offering solutions that can help them overcome their challenges. You’ll get further if you offer solutions rather than asking for sales.

Five Quick Sales Tips Anyone Can Master

If you’re still not convinced that the art of sales is something you can master, look again at JT’s story. He went from having zero sales skills to leading sales teams. So, there’s hope for even the toughest of cases. The important part is: don’t get discouraged!  

“I think anyone can learn how to sell, we all naturally do a little bit of positioning in our everyday lives,” highlights JT. “There are certain innate traits that some people learned earlier in life than others. But with a little help, anyone can develop those traits.”

Some of the most successful salespeople think and act differently than your average sales rep. But what traits do those people have? According to JT, they include things like empathy, introspection and more. Following are his top five:

1. Empathic

One of the best traits for a salesperson is empathy — asking the right questions and listening. It’s a critical part of any sales process because you have to understand what your client’s challenges are and where they’re coming from. Listening is the only way you’ll understand how you can help clients overcome the obstacles they face. And while some are born with a high degree of it, empathy can also be developed over time.

2. Process-oriented

Building a clearly defined sales process will help you develop a more efficient and effective sales strategy. And it all comes back to the client and their needs. Identifying your ideal client and aligning your services with that client’s pain points is the first thing you should do. That, in turn, will inform the services you provide — which will ultimately drive sales and marketing messaging.

3. Data-driven

Capturing the right sales metrics helps you analyze the impact of your sales efforts. Whether it's the number of calls, emails, meetings, contract negotiations, sales closed or all the above: you’ll want to make sure you’re measuring the proper metrics. Additionally, it’s important to review your sales metrics frequently so that you don’t miss important trends. For example, if your direct outreach to prospects remains the same but sales meetings are slowing, it could indicate that your sales pitch needs a refresh.  

4. Reflective

Take time to ask yourself questions and reflect on your progress. It can help you iterate on your sales process, even if you’ve found success. You have to understand what’s bringing you sales success, and then replicate it. And part of that is reflecting on your processes, metrics and results — and being open to improving on each of them.

5. Consistent

Once you’ve created a sales process and understand what’s working for you, the next step is to refine your process and repeat it. The data you’ve collected will help you identify the levers you’ll need to pull and show you how hard you need to pull them — and when. This brings more consistency into your sales process. And consistency will keep your sales pipeline running more efficiently.  

Good Habits Sales Leaders Form

If you’ve read Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ll know that developing good habits is essential. For professional service providers looking to gain an edge, JT recommends focusing on the following.

  • Practice self-care

Taking time to take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually is priority number one. If you aren’t showing up each day fully prepared, it can be hard to face what’s ahead. Practicing self-care will help prepare you for any challenges that might come your way.    

  • Prioritize you time

You’ll need to build skill at identifying what's urgent versus important versus nice to have. Everything can be important, but what are the things you need to focus on first? Putting the most important things first will help you achieve better results.

  • Focus in on primary objectives

A big part of prioritization is sitting back and identifying your main objective. What outcomes do you want from the next interaction with your client or prospect? If you go in with a game plan and stick to your main objective, you will get further ahead.

  • Practice reframing from an abundance mindset

Approaching any relationship or partnership with the mindset of abundance can completely transform it. You don't have to win the deal at the expense of others because there's always plenty of room for everyone to be successful. The Trance of Scarcity by Victoria Castle is a great resource for anyone looking to reframe their outlook from that of scarcity to one of abundance.  

  • Practice active listening

Go into conversations with empathy, and practice active listening. You want to be genuinely interested in what your prospect or client tells you. This helps build better relationships, and it will also help you understand what the person’s needs are.

  • Let go of control

Understanding your circle of influence versus your circle of control is key to bringing greater peace of mind. That means you have to detach yourself from the final outcome because you can't force a prospect or client to take a meeting or sign a deal. If you attach yourself to that specific outcome, and it doesn’t come to fruition, it’s going to be really hard to get past. The only variable you can control is how you choose to show up to the conversation.

5 Steps for Going From Good to Grrreat! (in Sales)

Quote from Profi Chief Sales Officer John Tran | Expert advice on sales for the professional services industry

For those looking to go from good to great, JT lays out five steps to get you there.

“If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind,” explains JT from his 15 years of experience. “All of us, no matter how long we’ve been doing sales, have room for improvement. So it’s important to always be learning, growing and refining your process.”

Future-proof your sales pipeline

A lot of salespeople who have initial success forget to set themselves up for future success. They're so busy closing deals that they don't put the time and effort into continuing to build their pipeline. Taking your foot off the gas, even a little bit, will kill your forward momentum. So you have to make sure that you consistently put time and effort into growing your sales pipeline.

Focus on partnerships

Winning the sales for your own gain may feel good now,  but creating win-win partnerships has exponential payoffs well into the future. With a win-win partner solution, all parties can feel good about the decision and commit to the action plan. That means you have to change your mindset and how you approach conversations with prospects and clients. How you approach and structure the deal today could have benefits or consequences down the road.

Don’t chase bad deals

Don’t chase prospects that aren’t responsive to your message. If you spend too much time chasing leads that never pan out, you have less time to follow up on leads that you can close. Instead, focus on those who genuinely see the value of your solution. Ever heard of the 80/20 rule?

Ask questions

A lot of successful salespeople are good at asking questions. You need to truly understand the client and where they're coming from. So instead of forcing a product or service onto them, take that time to learn more about their needs. Start by asking them about the obstacles they face, or where they want to be in their lives a year from now.

Practice

You can't control a prospect or client, but you can manage your attitude and effort. That means taking time to practice the delivery of your sales pitch and your craft. It also means taking time to learn new things and ways of working your craft.

A final pointer from JT is that all good sales leaders should try to lead by example. And leading by example, JT plans to carry his own advice into next year. With the following words, he sums it up nicely.

“It's a good time of year to pause for reflection,” added JT. “What this past year has reminded me to do is to live in the moment. With all the change that's been happening, I'm setting the intention to take the time to be more present. So instead of worrying about things that are out of my control, focus on what I can control — which is my attitude and effort and how I react to things. I think that's a pretty good mindset to have going into the new year.”

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