How to Grow Your Client Base – One Conversation at a Time

This is the first in a series of blog posts about how a variety of IT companies – from database management to support services – approach sales and marketing.

Waident CEO John Ahlberg“We Get It. IT Support Sucks. Waident makes it suck a whole lot less.”

That’s what a website visitor would find on Waident Technology Solutions’ What We Do page.

After speaking with founder and CEO John Ahlberg, you’ll see why. For starters, he is easy to talk to. He has a laid back, rolling cadence to his voice that puts you at ease as he schools you about how to run an IT support services company.

And he knows his business.

Whether you’re looking to replace your IT team to save money, or you want to hire a third-party IT support services firm because the one you’re using isn’t working out, Ahlberg wants to have a conversation with you. He wants to discover what your pain points are and address them from a people and business perspective, not an IT perspective.

“It’s funny, because when I go on a sales call I never talk about the technology,” he says. “You can show me the server room, but it doesn’t matter. Managing what goes on in the server room is easy. The hard part is making sure the user is happy and productive.”

It’s that philosophy that goes through his entire business systems – on purpose.

“I’m more of a business operations person,” Ahlberg says. “I make sure our leaders are ready and that the policies and processes are in place, so as we grow we can handle it.”

He says he has seen how other IT support companies are more about bringing in sales and then figuring out how to deliver their services later. “That makes no sense to me,” Ahlberg says, “because half the sales they bring in they can’t deliver.” He says the way Waident does business enables them to bring clients on board who stay with them for years.

It’s About Building Relationships

The company CEO is also listed as the sales manager on the Chicago-area company’s website. Ahlberg says he’s the only one.

“We’ve tried doing sales people in the past,” he says. “It’s never quite worked.”

It’s not transactional; there needs to be a relationship, Ahlberg says. “It’s not like we’re selling widgets.”

What they are selling is a good fit, he says. Therefore, Ahlberg thinks it’s important for a prospective client to deal directly with a client manager from the get-go. “I’ll get a referral and if I can’t do it, I’ll send Patrick [one of the client managers] and he goes and says, ‘I’m not a sales person. What do you need?’” He tells them what Waident does and “he basically treats them as a client and it just works.”

It’s been working for almost 14 years. Ahlberg says 99 percent, maybe 100 percent, of his new business is referral-based.

Before starting Waident, Ahlberg was chief information officer for Cohen Financial, he was a senior development consultant for Keno Kozie Associates and was manager of information systems for Schopf and Weiss. Including almost 14 years at Waident, he brings a grand total of 25 years of experience to his current role. Ahlberg says he had really good bosses who taught him how to be a leader, rather than a boss or manager. “I tell people I’m a lousy manager,” he says.

Bottom line, Ahlberg says, prospects don’t want to be sold to. They want to meet with somebody who understands their needs and who will be their contact person, which is why he gets a client manager on the job right away.

“I’ve heard so many stories [about how the salesperson they] interviewed was great, then two weeks later ‘Bob’ [the IT guy] comes in and they hated Bob, but they stuck with him for a year,” Ahlberg says. “He didn’t communicate, he was hard to get a hold of…it was just painful.”

Ahlberg calls the initial meeting with the prospect a culture fit – for client and vendor. “If we’re not a good culture fit why would you hire us anyway?” he reasons.

IT Stuff is the Easy Part

What makes Waident different? Ahlberg says although they are an IT support services company, they are people- and business-focused.

“Most of our sales interaction is with CEOs, COOs and office managers,” Ahlberg says – non-IT people whose expectations are not getting met.

“I have a business degree so the conversation isn’t really about technology,” Ahlberg emphasizes. “It’s about service, it’s about communication.”

He describes responding to a help ticket like a doctor helping a patient. A doctor isn’t going to go into the examination room, not talk to the patient, put a bandage on and leave, Ahlberg says. You’re helping a person. “It’s about communication, responsiveness,” he says.

He breaks the services Waident offers into three buckets: “One bucket is help desk: computer, tablet, phone, printer,” whatever Waident Technology is contracted for, Ahlberg says. Next is the technology bucket. “The technology bucket is whatever goes on in the server room; they have no idea what it does but they know they need it…. We just make sure all the IT stuff works,” he explains.

And the last bucket is what Ahlberg calls strategic guidance. “I tell prospective clients we’re guidance counselors. We’re not CIOs or any of that; we’re guidance counselors,” he says. “We want to hear your hopes and dreams. We want to hear what’s working for you, what’s not. And on our end we’re going to give you best practices, weigh out risks, make recommendations to make sure your business is using technology effectively…and has good oversight.”

In other words, Waident Technology Solutions works hard to understand their clients’ pain points and address them in ways that not only solve the problems, but also puts the clients at ease.

“Like I said, the IT stuff is the easy part,” Ahlberg says. “We’re more concerned about making sure we’re a good fit for your company and keeping the end users pleased and productive.”

Waident delivers integrated IT support with refreshing honesty and a shared commitment to your business. We provide an unexpected level of support for your people and their complete technology needs while making sure you have the right technology in place to help achieve your business goals.

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