Good afternoon gentlemen. I am a 10 year veteran of IT with 3 solid years in VOIP consulting. The last company I worked for was a partner with ATT which provided them with a steady stream of IPT projects which kept buried as a solutions engineer. I decided to break free of this model and decided to go off on my own. I have been in contact with companies such as ATT, Global Crossing, Berbee, etc, but have been running into the same issue, you have great skills and bring lots of promise, but, you are too small. Can anyone provide any pointers on how to break the sales barrier to start a relationship with a high-end vendor or direct marketing techniques to let people know who I am, what I offer and how I can improve their bottom line? By far, engineering is easy to me but sales is kicking my butt.
For the sake of staying active and getting word-of-mouth promotion, I'd suggest finding some charity or not-for-profit group and offer them "as-available" or discount support / work.
Frequently there are corporate mucky mucks affiliated with the charities and it gives them a view of your working abilities. At the least, you have some references from a (hopefully) trustworthy source.
Be advised that while "no work" is the worse case, a close second (for a single person shop) is "too much work." You will run yourself into the ground, and, as Murphey would have it, they will all be absolutely critical projects.
In that light, I'd also suggest that in your discussions with the other shops, you try to establish a partnership with them to handle your "overflow" business.
The fact that you are presenting them with the possibility, and that you are working to cover your butt for that eventuality may promote you in their view.
Most small shops choke at the possibility of laying business off to a another provider, but it will become necessary someday, you should address it now and save yourself the panic and dance by planning for it now.
Find a salesperson you trust (hahahaha yeah, I know) and that knows you and get some specific pointers from them .... given that they know your work and how you like to do business.
The final pointer is "Don't do anything for free (except charity work, which is deductable), and get EVERY JOB SCOPED IN WRITING, INCLUDING TERMS FOR PAYMENT.
... and that's no sh*t. Business is business. If the customer won't agree to terms and rates, or sign a scope, don't start the work ... or it'll become a black hole of "scope creep" and anything that goes wrong after you touched their network, related or not, is your fault and you'll have to fix it, probably for free.
Hey Scott, great pointers. I did forget to mention that the first steps I took was talking to larger integrators (friends of mine ahead of me) who can help with the over-flow (which is what I want ;-)). Right there with ya on the SOW. I actually re-crafted what is considered SOP and made one according to how I thought it should be considering I was the butt of scope creep with terribly written SOWs. Fortunately, I have not been affected by no work as I am currently doing some PCI work for a large retailer for the "day job" and working the pavement and smaller engagements as time permits. I have spoken to head-hunters who are looking for me to do work for them such as Matrix, Oxford International, etc, but their CCNA types are going for 90+ per hour for folks who are not quite project engineers who see the big picture. Absolutely do not do free work, but for those who stayed loyal to me that last couple of years, I cut some slack as one of them is a Network Design firm who bids out RFPs for mid-size and large projects.
Sales person, yeah, ok, I guess I will have to succumb to this idea as I am an engineer through and through where honesty is the best policy (at least I think so).
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