Blog / Guest Blog: Sales Just Doesn’t Understand – Wait – Maybe it’s Me!

Last Updated:April 21st, 2022

Guest Blog: Sales Just Doesn’t Understand – Wait – Maybe it’s Me!

Written in partnership with Mark Sloan at Asaph Advisors

Asaph Advisors works with Consulting and Technology Professional Services organizations to optimize performance and profitability.  We assist clients improve Revenue, Utilization, and Consistency of Delivery.  Learn more at www.AsaphAdvisors.com 

I started my career with a dozen years at a Big 6 consulting firm. Our job was to help our client with the opportunity de jour. This could be: software selection, implementation, process re-engineering, and then pure management and strategic advice. In short, we became the “pros from Dover” that could dig into the As-Is, define a To-Be, and layout the plan to close the gaps.

It was fun, engaging, and allowed our creativity to flow.

As I evolved my career at a pure consulting firm, I saw that my peers and I were generally good with complexity.  We often get dropped into a new situation, had to dig into the weeds, and then make sense of it all.

In the end, our clients appreciate the assistance and the end result.

The challenge: within a Consulting and Professional Services organization inside a software company, we often add a layer of complexity to the sales process that our sales colleagues (and prospective clients!) do not appreciate.

As I began running a PS organization inside a software company, I began to see the challenge.  I am guessing that this exchange may be familiar to many of you:

SALES REP: “I’ve got a prospect who really wants to implement our software.”

PS RESOURCE: “Awesome.  I’d love to work with them.”

SALES REP: “I want to get the prospect on the hook by giving them an estimate of what it would take to [implement our software / define the technical architecture requirements / etc.].  

What will it take?”

PS RESOURCE: “It depends.”

SALES REP: “[Content unprintable]”

Prospective customers do not want uncertainty.  They need to plug a number (or at least a “range”) into a spreadsheet somewhere to go get approval.  The Sales Rep wants to close a deal – and knows that their job is to make the process as easy as possible for the prospective client.

This is not to say the PS Resource is doing anything wrong.  To the contrary, the PS Resource is the one that will bear the brunt of any cost overruns down the line, long after the Sales Rep has moved on to the next opportunity.  So, details are wanted / needed.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this conundrum.

Start Selling Services as a Product

In today’s “as a Service” world, this may sound a bit oxymoronic.  But hear me out.

When I was in college, I began painting houses with a buddy of mine to make money over the summers.  When we first started, we’d walk up to a prospective customer’s house, look at it, think about it, think about past painting jobs we’d done, and finally give them an estimate.

I was studying engineering and kept thinking there had to be a more repeatable process than our “finger in the air approach.”

So, we started tracking our actual hours on each job:

  • Scraping and Painting: x Hours / sq ft
  • Priming: y Hours / sq ft
  • First Coat Paint: z Hours / sq ft
  • Second Coat Paint: a Hours / sq ft

With this data, we could walk up to a house, do a quick visual inspection, take a few measurements – and turn around a fact-based estimate in a matter of less than an hour.

We transformed the estimating process from an art to a science.

When you break down the delivery of your service offerings to their piece parts (i.e., the “Lego blocks”) you can more easily:

  • Track information; 
  • Assemble new proposals; and
  • Quote to the customer and move on to the Close phase.

How Does This “Lego Block” Approach Apply to Professional Services Sales?

The same concept applies to your Professional Services work.

You have different types of Projects / Offerings:

  • Each of those Projects / Offerings break down into repeatable steps and tasks (just ask the Project Manager)
    • Think of these steps / task as your “Lego Blocks”
    • Some of those steps/tasks are likely common across different projects
  • For each Project / Offering you have delivered, you can pull historical data to tell you how it breaks down by level of effort / hours
  • This provides you the baseline to build your services catalog and set pricing
    • If you’re worried at the start, add some contingency hours

The reasons to do this include:

  • Accelerating the sales process
  • Make your Product Sales team your partner (not your adversary)
  • Shorten time from discussion to quote
  • Financial benefits
  • Revenue growth
  • Consistency of profits per project
  • Use actual / historical data to develop your “Lego blocks”
  • Scaling the PS org
  • By creating repeatability, you can train and then leverage more junior resources to do work (and get out of the “I need Susie the SME” mentality)

Getting Started

To get out of this “sell the SME” approach and into a more repeatable – and growth-oriented model – Services organizations need to define and package repeatable service offerings – thus enabling Products Sales to sell “Services as a Product” (oh yes, the irony here!).

What I mean by “Services as a Product” is the:

Definition of the Services Offerings offered by the organizationPitch Deck and other collateral that lays out the offering and deliverables
Standardized Pricing by offeringAs consultants we may be used to “it depends” when it comes to pricing, but to get Product Sales more acclimated to selling Services, define a “list price” for each offering (sure, there can be a range of prices, but keep it simple)
Package up past / sample DeliverablesNothing helps your Sales Team (and your Clients) understand what you do better than seeing examples

The packaging of Services Offerings gives the Product Sales Team the confidence that: 1) the Services organization knows what they are doing; 2) they (the Sales Team) can walk in and have a conversation about Services (in much the same way they do about the software product).

Similarly, I believe prospective Clients have increased confidence in the Services organizations ability to deliver when you come in and speak confidently about what you will do and what it will take to do it.

—————————————-

Enabling The Transformation

And I found a platform that helps solve this problem…

Once you have taken all of the steps involved in scoping your services and created “Lego Blocks”, what do you do with them?

Hello WorkRails, goodbye complexity……

WorkRails champions the professional service industry, believing that services are the underdog—the unsung hero at thousands of SaaS companies. They feel services should be viewed as a part of the revenue function, not a support function. Services teams work incredibly hard for their clients and are responsible for a large part of a company’s success and co-workers & management teams deserve to understand the true value of their Professional Services.

The selling of services in most organizations is unnecessarily complicated, time consuming, and labor-intensive. In short, selling service sucks. It doesn’t have to.

The WorkRails vision is that buying and selling professional services will be as easy as shopping on Amazon, standardizing the service sales process allowing for repeatability and scale.

WorkRails provides Professional Services teams a platform to digitize their “Lego blocks” of complex rules and content and then build a simple interface for sellers and often end clients to easily purchase services. That interface is usually a “catalog” of services paired with guided selling tools that allow users to pull from the pre-configured set of rules and content to quickly build accurate pricing and approved selling documents and then push the relevant data to their technology ecosystem. 

At the end of the day, by building the “Lego Blocks” into the WorkRails platform, the PS team empowers sellers or buyers of services to generate their own selling documents without ever understanding the complexity involved. Discounting, approvals, notifications, and so much more is built into the workflow where needed. 

*The Results:

Clients get their quotes quickly

Sales Reps shorten their sales cycle

PS teams get properly scoped projects and add automation to the end to end process

WorkRails helps companies like UiPath, Veeva and Gainsight fix this broken process by standardizing their service offerings and streamlining the services sale, while helping to scale revenue and customer satisfaction–reducing churn. 

For more information on WorkRails or to schedule a demo visit www.workrails.com

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