How to Become an MSP Sales Leader

Managed IT services is something the average person could research all day and still not fully understand. Even in the age of the informed consumer, MSP sales teams are typically selling on a different level than other sales teams.

In my 20 years of sales management, I have learned that a structured management operating rhythm is critical to your success as a sales manager. For the average MSP, you’re wearing multiple hats—acting as the business owner, head of sales, client manager and so on. So, it can be easy to get caught up in deals, client issues and all types of other projects. However, you can’t forget that the key to success is driving the right inputs on a consistent basis. To do so, you need to put on that “sales manager” hat and start your journey of becoming a more knowledgeable, experienced sales leader. Here are some tips to get you there.

What Will You Expect?

First, you need to define what you expect from sales. Whether it be revenue growth, new customer acquisition, product line or solution mix, etc. This comes right from your annual business plan, and gets translated down to the sales person via their quota targets.

Note: It’s important that quotas are set properly, and that all sales reps have a fair and equitable opportunity to earn their compensation. Their sales compensation plan needs to be easy to understand and should be administered in a timely fashion.

What Will You Inspect?

Next, you need to figure out what you will inspect and continually check from sales. This section becomes a little more difficult because inspection requires you to challenge people and ask the hard questions. Most of us do not like this part of the job. However, when you’re leading a sales person or a team, there are few things that are more powerful. I would argue that proper inspection will drive sales behavior as effectively as compensation.

So, what should you inspect, exactly? These are typically the inputs; sales activity, new adds to the pipeline, pipeline velocity, stage process, deal progression, etc.

This bring us to an exercise I like to call, “inspect what you expect.” In order to become a great sales leader, you need to constantly assess your MSP sales process to ensure it is optimized. The objective here is two-fold: first, you want to shape the behavior of the sales person, then you need to drive pipeline velocity. Once your sales staff understand what you are looking for, you will see faster results and increased velocity. Let’s break down some tips on how you can inspect what you expect.

Consistency and Frequency

Consistency is the most important aspect here. When inspecting your sales process and activity, you need to be consistent in order to properly track trends and progress. The frequency of this exercise follows at a close second. At a minimum, I’d recommend a weekly cadence. Of course, you can figure out what best suits your business, but it’s critical to have the same agenda and inspection points every time.

Sales Team or Individual?

Let’s face it, it’s tough to do sales alone. Before you can succeed, sometimes you need to hire and train the right people. Managing a sales team—as opposed to an individual—is more effective because you can solve problems quicker, the team can learn from each other and become sharper so you scale more effectively as a leader. If you’re thinking of taking this approach, here are some tips on what sales roles you will need.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Review Meetings

Truthfully, you won’t know and understand the quality of your CRM data if you’re not routinely inspecting it. Therefore, you should conduct meetings with sales to go over this. You want these meetings to happen within your CRM—as opposed to Excel or PowerPoint—because it’ll drive better data quality for you. Also, encourage your salespeople to not just read over their reports live. Ask deeper questions about the reports that will yield faster pipeline velocity and improved sales. When you leave the meeting, you should aim to have added value to the sales person by helping them remove some barriers or by providing quality coaching advice. 

Uncomfortable Moments

Sometimes, you need to have these—and you need to have them in a group meeting. Ask the tough questions to your team. Avoid saying, “let’s take that off line” and solve the problem right there, and let the team see you solve it.

Important: Do not cancel these meetings. Plan around them. If you start cancelling, the team will view them as “optional” and they will become less prepared and the results will suffer.

Great sales leaders are great inspectors. They know how to ask the right questions at the right time. To gain the sales results you desire, you need to motivate your team and demonstrate your ability as a sales leader.

Remember: Inspect what you expect, and happy selling.

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