Modern Selling: Avoid This Mistake When Selling as-a-Service

May 10, 2023
Many salespeople neglect two critical factors when trying to convince a customer to make a change

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

It seems that “X-as-a-Service” has finally become a mainstream request by end-user customers. Whether access control, visitor management or video hosted in the cloud, they are curious and asking for options.

Unfortunately, sales of these services have not kept up with the curiosity of the marketplace. There are several reasons for this lag, but one of the main obstacles to selling as-a-Service options has been the conversation between salespeople and potential customers.

In most of the hundreds of selling scenarios I have observed – whether real or during initial role-playing exercises in training classes – consist of salespeople listing the benefit statements of the service. There seems to be a sense of urgency to tell customers why they should be using their X-as-a-Service.

For example, here’s a common refrain: “With our cloud access control, you don’t have to worry about doing backups or updates, you can check the system from anywhere on your mobile device, and you can shift an up-front capital expense to a recurring operating expense.”

All these benefit statements are valuable – if the salesperson was selling a new widget to replace an old widget. But they are not selling widgets; in fact, the most critical thing salespeople do when selling X-as-a-Service is not selling. The most effective thing they can do to win the sale is to manage and influence change: Change in the way the customer stores data; change in the way they budget for security; change in the way they manage the system; and a million others.

If you want to be successful growing as-a-Service offerings, then stop selling benefits and start managing change.

What Salespeople are Missing

By jumping into benefit statements, two critical pieces to influencing change have been skipped:

1. The customer must understand their problems. For decades, it has been stated correctly that people base their purchasing decisions on emotions and justify them with logic. This concept is especially true when influencing change. In general, people and organizations do not change to go from good to better. They will not go through the hassle and risk that change brings unless they feel pain associated with not changing.

Before a salesperson can lead the conversation about the pain associated with not changing, they need to know their customer’s problems – and more importantly, make sure the customer knows their problem.

The best way for a salesperson to find problems is by using the “anticipate-identify-ask” technique. Assuming a salesperson fully understands their services and the problems they solve, the salesperson must first anticipate problems that their customer is experiencing. This anticipation will open the customer’s eyes to spot problems they would not have seen previously. Once they start the encounter with the customer, whether by phone, email, or in person, they must identify clues to problems. Finally, salespeople can verify their predictions and investigation by asking direct questions of the customer.

Once the problems are identified, then we move to the most critical part of the conversation.

2. The customer must feel the pain associated with their problems. Knowing problems and feeling the associated pain are two different things. For example, many people know they have a problem of not leading the healthiest lifestyle, but they don’t change their behavior until their doctor gives them bad news. It is a similar pattern with changing to an as-a-Service offering.

The best way for a salesperson to lead a customer to feel the pain is by asking questions – not application or technical questions, but questions about how their current situation impacts the business, and how it impacts them personally. If a salesperson can get their customer to talk about how they have to regularly leave home during evenings and weekends to manage certain tasks, then they are in a position to influence change, assuming their as-a-Service offering will solve that problem.

Getting to this level of discussion is not hard, but it is also not natural for most salespeople in the security industry. It requires practice and repetition, so plan to run through scenarios with your sales team or boss on a weekly basis.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at To request more info about the company, visit