How to Read an Industry Publication

Odd title for an article, huh? You may be wondering, “How exactly does this tie into sales and more specifically, selling IT professional services?” You would be surprised!

If you are like most recruiting professionals, you read industry publications like The Fordyce Letter to stay on top of trends, challenges, and news. And if you are a top-performing sales professional, you read what your customers read to stay connected with the events taking place in their world.

If you are not currently doing this, then I strongly encourage you to quickly adopt this exercise into your daily or weekly routine. The ability to talk intelligently about the events, pressing business issues, challenges, and industry drivers taking place in your customer’s industry and/or product space is one sure way to build credibility. And we all need credibility in order to sell value.

Let’s talk for a moment about reading the industry publications that your customers are reading and how to leverage that information to differentiate yourself from the competition and create sales opportunities.

For sales and recruiting professionals in the IT staffing and consulting space, industry publications could include ComputerWorld, NetworkWorld, CIO Magazine, or eWeek, among many others.

When reading these publications, keep in mind that not every article is going to blow you away with excitement as if you are about to hang-glide off an ocean-side cliff. In fact, you may find some of the articles boring. You may not even fully understand what the article is talking about.

But trust me on this, read them and keep reading them, because over time, it will start to make sense. You will eventually be able to connect all of the dots and make sense out of both the business issues your clients are trying to solve and the complex technology solutions they are trying to deploy as the solution.

Why is that so important? As an IT recruiter, you need credibility to attract the top consultants.

“Best-in-class” consultants don’t work with rookie recruiters and they can spot them a mile away.

As an IT recruiter, you will be able to take your conversations with your consultants to a whole new level because you will understand the challenges they are solving for your customers. You will also understand the technologies and methodologies organizations are utilizing to address these challenges. This will enable you to do a much more effective screening and interviewing process of your consultants, not to mention building long-term relationships.

How to Take Advantage of the Info

Let’s take the January 15, 2009, issue of CIO Magazine as an example. I will explain how you can leverage the information found in the article they highlight on the cover of this issue (and apply this same method to any article you read) to differentiate from the competition, position yourself as knowledge expert, and create a sales opportunity that you didn’t even know existed.

On the cover of the magazine, in big, bold letters, it reads:

YOUR M & A SURVIVAL PLAYBOOK: Whether it’s a shotgun merger or a planned acquisition, IT can help make it work. Here’s how.

How many of you are calling on accounts today (prospects or customers) who have gone through an acquisition, are currently going through an acquisition, or have an account that is about to go through one? We’ve all called on these prospects and heard, “I’m really tied up with the acquisition, please call me back in six months.”

Haven’t you always wondered exactly what work keeps IT people so busy during an acquisition? And we’ve all felt in this situation that there is a sales opportunity there for us but we just didn’t know how to develop it. Frustrating, to say the least!

Now you may understand at a high level the work that gets completed during an acquisition but I am talking about the nitty-gritty systems integration work involved in integrating two organizations and the specific challenges and “pain points” that customers encounter during these acquisitions.

The difference between understanding the “high-level” work and the “nitty-gritty” work is a missed sales opportunity. Let me explain.

First, this article and all the articles published in these industry publications are written and designed for your customers to read and learn from the mistakes made by other peer organizations who solved the same problems that your clients are trying to solve. In this case, the article chronicles the “best in class practices” for going through a merger and acquisition and the common pitfalls to avoid for IT professionals.

CIO Magazine interviewed several IT executives for their input on how to successfully navigate a merger. They explained the challenges that they had to overcome to complete their own mergers and acquisitions and how they accomplished it.

Article Continues Below

I’m not an M & A expert, but after reading this article I discovered a half-dozen common challenges or mistakes that IT organizations typically make when they go through an acquisition. After reading the article, I wrote down those half-dozen challenges in the form of open-ended sales questions to ask my prospects going through an acquisition. I want to understand how they are addressing the challenges that I just read about in the article.

Now when I call on that prospect who says, “Call me back in six months, I’m really busy with the acquisition,” I am prepared to counter that objection with some thought-provoking questions of my own. Questions that will most likely speak to the specific issues my prospect is currently struggling with. This level of questioning gives me credibility and differentiates me from all of my competitors because I can both empathize with my customer’s current situation and I have demonstrated that I understand their critical business issues and why it’s important to them.

Combining that with my own sales ability, this line of questioning opens up sales opportunities for me to explore. It allows me to get the customer to open up and share their challenges. I have now uncovered a problem that my customer is trying to solve, and if I play my cards right, I can position myself as a solution provider.

And it was all made possible by reading this article. Not bad for someone who doesn’t know a whole heck of a lot about mergers and acquisitions. Oh….and they didn’t have a “pre-defined, budget approved” job requirement to hire a consultant, either!

How Do I Do It?

Suppose you are calling into “ABC Company” and you know they are implementing Microsoft SharePoint Server. Do some searches on Google for articles or blogs that discuss implementations of SharePoint. You can even do a search at www.cio.com to search their articles and case studies. Highlight the sentences that explain or detail the issues that the customers had to overcome to implement SharePoint and translate them into open-ended questions.

Here is an example:

“It might not be the case with you but we are seeing many customers who are implementing SharePoint struggle with….insert your issue from article…..how are you addressing this challenge?”

Now that you have found the customer problem, let your sales ability take over to further diagnose the issue so that you can propose a solution.

As you can see, you can easily duplicate this method across multiple disciplines. And you can do many variations.

Remember, you can’t make a placement unless you first uncover a problem for your consultant to solve. Our job is to uncover our clients’ challenges and then present consultants who can solve those challenges. I’ve found reading articles and doing this exercise to be a wonderful way of doing just that.

If you have any questions regarding this article, feel free to email me at dan@menemshagroup.com

Happy Selling.

Dan Fisher is founder of the Menemsha Group and author of the MoshupMethodology, the only proprietary sales methodology designed exclusively for IT staffing sales professionals. Dan spent 13 years in sales and sales leadership roles within the IT services and software industry and now provides sales coaching and consulting. Dan can be reached at dan@menemshagroup.com

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1 Comment on “How to Read an Industry Publication

  1. Dan,
    I enjoyed this article. I have been trying to establish a job blog for Redmondmag since September of last year so your strategy of recruiters utilizing the trade pubs is very smart. Their content will cut down on the recruiter’s learning curve by five fold thus enabling themselves to become a much better resource for potential employers. Keep up the great work!

    JD Holzgrefe
    Associate Publisher
    Redmond Media Group

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