RSPA Recommended Read: The Serving Mindset

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

Faithful readers of the RSPA Blog know earlier this year I was named President & CEO of the RSPA, a switch from my position as VP of Marketing and VAR/ISV Business Advisor. Faithful readers with a photographic memory will recall an RSPA Blog post from 12 months ago (RSPA Recommended Read: Turning the Flywheel) showing the key to the RSPA’s business model is attracting and retaining growth-oriented retail IT solution providers.

Recruiting new members involves selling. And I hate selling.

I’ve never been comfortable asking people for their money, and there’s a long list of business-related activities I prefer compared to selling. Recording a podcast? Fire up the microphone! Budget meeting? Let’s dig into those spreadsheets! Interrupting a stranger to pitch them my product or service? Gag me with a spoon.

With that background, you can understand why I was excited to learn about the book The Serving Mindset: Stop Selling and Grow Your Business during author Farnoosh Brock’s guest appearance on the Read To Lead podcast. Let’s dive into key passages from her book before I offer a few more thoughts:

  1. The right clients are happy and willing to pay a premium for the services of a professional, and that is the smartest way to build a sustainable and fulfilling professional services business.
  2. You are not selling. You are serving. You won’t need a selling strategy anymore because you’ll have a serving strategy.
  3. This simple and subtle shift will set you free. Free of the need to close, the need to get a client, the need to sell or get a signed contract.
  4. Why risk coming across as needy when we can come across as professionals in the act of serving?
  5. Selling is self-serving. Serving is all-serving.
  6. When you set aside your latest-and-greatest sales tactics to trick a customer or client, you are left with your honest self, with a product or service that you completely believe in, and with your innate desire to be of service.
  7. It is impossible for sales to feel sleazy when you are serving.

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  1. Care about your prospects and show it. Our job with serving is to tell the truth. Our job is not to impress potential clients and customers.
  2. Tell the truth gently but firmly, clearly and confidently, with permission but without apology.
  3. Charge appropriately for your services. You alone are in charge of your prices.
  4. Your prices are a direct correlation between what you intend to charge and what value you see in your offer.
  5. You are charging prices that only a pro would charge, and you are promising results that only a pro would promise. Your commitment to success is higher than ever before.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.25/10

How can VARs and ISVs apply The Serving Mindset? Here’s my suggested step-by-step framework for a conversation with a prospect:

  • Make the first half of your meeting all about the prospect. Ask questions about their business, their challenges, their successes, their goals, their technology, and more.
  • Offer a 60-second overview of your organization – who you serve and why.
  • Share an honest initial assessment where you see a fit with the prospect and where there might not be a fit between your offering and their needs.

Let’s pause here. You might be thinking, “Say out loud there might not be a fit? Are you joking? It was hard enough to get this appointment already, and I need to make sales. I’ve got bills to pay, man!”

I’m not joking. I’m dead serious because, as Brock writes, you need to serve prospects. In channel lingo, if you want to become a merchant’s trusted advisor, you better act like it during their assessment process. (Side note: Yes – it’s their assessment process, not your sales process.) Back to our conversation with a prospect:

  • Next, engage in a deep dialogue with the prospect over the fit/not fit specifics to help them conclude on the action plan that works best for their business. Instead of twisting their arm or using smoke and mirrors, collaborate with one another to reach the appropriate conclusion.
  • Close by offering your professional assessment of the situation and then detailing next steps.

Of course there are oodles of communication tactics not included in this framework, but the gist is that your goal isn’t to make a sale; it’s to serve the prospect by helping them reach the best decision. If you’re the right company for the job, be confident and assertive. If you’re not suited to serve their needs, point them in a better direction.

The Serving Mindset reminded me of the keynote panel discussion I moderated for the RSPA Academy Education Symposium, hosted online during the 2020 pandemic. Dan Jablons of Retail Smart Guys and Jeremy Julian of CBS NorthStar talked at length about the business they don’t pursue as VARs. Jablons doesn’t take business from restaurants (RSG works only with independent retailers) and Julian doesn’t work with retailers (CBS caters only to restaurants).

Before you talk with your next prospect, change your mindset from selling to serving.  

To learn more, purchase your copy of The Serving Mindset here.

Don’t forget to register for RetailNOW 2022, July 24-26 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando. It’s Where The Industry Meets!

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by 420MSP, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact