By Rashaad Bajwa, Domain Computer Services, Inc.
It was 2012 and I had been building my MSP, Domain Computer Services, in central New Jersey and Manhattan for 15 years. I started Domain during my senior year at Rutgers University in 1997 with my partner and now wife Michelle, so I really hadn’t had any other job in my professional career.
Even though I was only 37, I was getting bored. We had a staff of about 12 and were making good money. However, we were firmly a lifestyle business — the cash flow was supporting a comfortable lifestyle but we definitely were not growing like gangbusters. To that point Domain had never had a sales person other than me and, outside of a random yellow pages ad (pre-2005) or Google ad (post-2005), we didn’t do any sales or marketing.
I was restless and wanted to get things moving and decided it was time to either sell Domain or grow it and I chose the latter option. So, as most other business owners do when they who want to grow their business, I hired my first salesperson. I had always had a great close ratio and assumed training him would be simple — shadow me and do what I do.
After the first couple of appointments I realized shadowing wasn’t going to work. My new sales guy was a bundle of nerves, overwhelmed by the technology and insisting he wanted to study for technical certificates after hours as this was the only way he would not sound stupid. I told him not to sweat it because every MSP sales pundit I had read told me sales people don’t need to be technical. If anything, being technical would work against them.
My new sales person was a good guy and accepted what I told him. The problem was I had set him up for failure; not by keeping him from getting technical, but by never teaching him a sales system that didn’t require being technical.
My big mistake was a lack of self-awareness as to how I sold our services and never realizing a sales person could never sell the same way. My sales strategy was to walk into a room and be the smartest technical person the prospect had ever seen. With one quick glance I could diagnose problems and provide thoughtful solutions to longstanding worries.
I was the product the prospect was buying. I reeked of authenticity and, since most of our clients came by referral, my reputation preceded me. There is no way a new sales guy or gal could ever parrot that sort of technical acumen and reputation swag of a technical owner. The problem wasn’t the new sales guy, it was me not providing him with a process and strategy allowing him even the slimmest chance of executing. Since I had successfully trained plenty of staff over the years I assumed if I could sell Managed Services, I could train someone else to do it too. Boy was I wrong — I just didn’t know it at the time.
Since I didn’t know of a sales system that could sell Managed Services without being the smartest technical guy in the room, I realized I had to find a something else. This was new to me: As an entrepreneur I was used to tackling challenges by simply putting my head down and figuring it out.
However, in this instance, I was in over my head. I knew if I couldn’t figure out a non-technical, non-principal led sales system I’d have to find someone who could. So, for the first time ever I went looking for help and joined a peer group called HTG and remain a member to this day.
That first year in particular was a firehose of information, knowledge, and swallowing of ego. I was introduced to the sales system we are still using to this day within my first month of joining but was too clueless and cocky to realize it was what I was looking for almost a year.
During that time my first official sales guy turned out to be a flop — definitely more my fault than his. By the second sales person I was desperate and/or open-minded enough to listen to others and implemented Gary Pica’s Trumethods FormulaWon program and haven’t looked back since.
One key takeaway from all this is you need to understand what you don’t know as quickly possible — don’t take the long road like I did and accept help from others if you aren’t a sales person by trade. You need a sales system and methodology designed for sales people, not technical owners.
My batting average on hiring sales people went through the roof and now our sales staff is currently made of six people: two inside, two outside, and a marketing coordinator and account manager. Domain’s total staff consists of more than 40 people and we are growing rapidly.
The biggest takeaway is to remember: sales people are not tech people. If you hold onto the belief a salesperson must have technical chops, your company will suffer turnover and lose far more than you keep. This was the hardest truth to learn coming from the tech world. Find a sales system from someone smarter than you, make it your own, and even a tech guy can build a sales team.
About The Author
Rashaad Bajwa is president of Domain Computer Services, Inc., a Cybersecurity and technology solutions provider serving the NJ and greater New York metro area since 1997.