MSP sales 101
Many IT services businesses are started by engineers. They’re good at fixing problems and have a way with clients. This leads to growth by referral and word of mouth. The problem with this is that it’s not a scalable or repeatable solution. If you want the business to continue to grow you need to start selling.
Illustration: Karthikeyan Ganesh
Selling their services is the hardest thing for many owners that come from an engineering background. Here are a few tips for MSP Sales from a 12+ year industry veteran that has grown his MSP to over 7.5 Million in revenue.
Start with the problem
When speaking to a new prospect for the first time, you want to start with the problem. If you have an engineering background, this approach may seem akin to troubleshooting a technical issue. You ask what the problem is and start to uncover their pain with their current solution. Ask questions to understand while being laser-focused on the problems they’re trying to solve. These problems will serve as building blocks of your proposal later.
Ask probing questions
Typically, a client has a specific problem they called you about. They’ll likely have 10 other problems they are unaware of. One of your goals should be to ask enough questions to understand not only the details of the immediate problem that prompted the conversation but also other problems that the client may not be as aware of.
Ask them about network security, backups, about regular maintenance items such as patches and updates. Ask them what downtime costs their business when they can’t work and seek to understand the impact of some of the identified problems. It would be best if you also took this opportunity to make sure you know who the decision-maker is and get information on what their internal buying process looks like.
The end goal of the conversation should be to have identified several areas of pain and understand the business impact these problems have. You should also understand what individuals are involved in, their motivations, and their buying process as a company.
Listen more than you talk
One trap that many new salespeople fall into is talking too much. Clients don’t have any interest in listening to you go on about your certifications and qualifications. If you give your company background, keep it concise, and then refocus the conversation on the prospects' needs.
One of the goals in any sales meeting is to make the client like you. People by nature typically enjoy talking about themselves and their successes. Business owners especially. Let them. The simple act of listening more than you talk will make you likable. It will also give you a better chance of uncovering all their needs and understanding the impact technology problems have on their business.
Once you have a clear knowledge of the needs and pain of your prospect and how they impact their business, you’re ready to write a proposal. This is where you put all that good knowledge that you gained to use.
The core content of your proposal should be about how you will solve the pain the prospect presented to you. Not only the initial problem they called about, but also all the other problems you discovered in your conversation. It’s helpful sometimes to structure it in that format.
Prospect pain and business impact – then your proposed solution and the business benefit it provides. The proposal will be much more compelling if you have multiple pain points being solved by your proposal and can help the business owner or executive understand the positive business impact your solution will provide.
Your proposal should also be aesthetically pleasing. Don’t clutter it with too much text. Break up key points and services information into short paragraphs. Don’t use any technical jargon.
Related reading: 6 Steps to a winning managed services proposal (with examples)
How to present
I recommend never to cold email a proposal over to a prospect. Set a meeting to review your solution every time if possible and get feedback from the client. This allows you to judge their interest and reaction and pivot, and provide alternate ideas if needed. 95% of proposals that are simply emailed are rejected even if they were well written and solved their client’s problems. Take the time to present in person or over video conference.
The conversation is typically structured with a review of the pain discovered and problems that you’re trying to solve, along with business impact. Then move into each solution you’re recommending and how it solves the client's pain. Ask for feedback on your approach and if the client thinks any adjustments would be necessary to make the solution most effective. Listen actively to their feedback and use it to make sure your proposal is a perfect fit. If there is more than one party involved in the decision, make sure that you speak to their individual motivations as they may differ.
Understand their buying process and engage
Hopefully,, during the discussion to this point, you’ve gained some information about how they operate as a company. Do they have a deadline to make this decision? Who are the parties involved in making the decision? Have they all been involved in the process to this point?
Typically, they will need to discuss this internally before deciding to move ahead with a new vendor. Have you ensured that all parties that will be involved in that discussion had a chance to express their pain, and hear how your solution will solve their problems?
Hopefully, this is the case. If so, make sure that you follow up. Most deals are closed on the 6-12th contact, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a little time. Managed services deals are a slower sales cycle. Be persistent and keep providing additional information as needed to reinforce how your solution will solve their pain.
Close the deal
Another thing that is difficult for some MSP owners that coming from an engineering background is simply asking for the sale. If you’ve done a good enough job with your proposal and presented compelling solutions, hopefully, it’s a no-brainer. If they have any objections, you can typically get them to the surface by asking in a straightforward manner for the business.
If the client presents objections over price or solution, work through those items. It’s a good thing because it means they’re seriously considering hiring you. Seek to understand their objections and overcome them. This will ultimately lead you to closed deals with happy clients.
We hope you’ve found these tips for MSP sales helpful. Keep digging for that pain and listening to clients, and you’ll be able to close with confidence.
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