A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called How to Sell Managed Services: Understanding the New Buyer Dynamic, a topic that's still top-of-mind for most MSPs today. In it I stressed that purchasing behavior has changed, rendering once popular sales strategies outdated and ineffective. Need proof on this? According to HubSpot, a mere two percent of cold calls result in an appointment. Clearly, there must be another way!
So let's say you're still struggling to fill your sales pipeline. You know what NOT to do because you've done it, and it isn't working. What then is the solution, how has it changed over time and what's driving that change?
Selling Starts with (Inbound) Marketing
Research Begins on the World Wide Web
People are looking into and forming opinions about your managed IT services company before ever speaking with one of your sales representatives. Will they like what they see? On a sales call, you can control the conversation. You can ask discovery questions, like "what would you do if you showed up to work tomorrow and discovered all of your files had been locked?" Depending on how they answer, you can then start to build a prospect profile to see if your services are a good fit for that company.
But how do you control the dialogue when a prospect seeks you out and conducts their own research on the IT support you offer? Marketing. And more specifically, inbound marketing. You may recall that this methodology involves targeting, attracting and nurturing quality prospects over a series of touch points and online channels rather than chasing and blasting companies all at once. Such channels and content strategies you can leverage in your inbound marketing plan include:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Video marketing
- Case studies
- Downloadable content
Google is Your New Business Card
Let's focus on the first bullet above. Your website determines the first impression potential prospects have of your company. Today, Google is your new business card. People no longer consult the yellow pages for IT support companies in their local area, calling to inquire about services provided. Instead, you have to win them over via your online presence. While the other digital marketing channels and content listed above are sales influencers in their own right, your website is the ultimate way to set yourself up for success. If a prospect can't find you in their local search results simply by typing a query like "IT service provider New York City," chances are they'll click on the company ranking higher...your competitor. Similarly, if they do stumble upon your website but don't find the information valuable enough or don't know where to go to get the information they need, what makes you think they're likely to stay engaged and eventually schedule a consultation?
Some things to keep in mind when creating web content:
- Your prospects want answers to their questions. Don't write content directed at the questions you'd like them to ask. Take their interests and needs into consideration!
- Your prospects want answers to their problems. They may not always know you have the solution they need, but targeting content at those needs can help you capture them as leads.
- Your prospects need convincing. Often, one blog post or services description web page is not enough to earn their trust. Think about how you can combine the multiple channels we listed to form one unified lead generation strategy.
All MSPs Can Become Inbound Marketers
There’s no shortage of communication channels and delivery mechanisms that MSPs today can utilize to reach potential customers, and knowing how and where to start isn’t easy. To help you out, we’ve created a new eBook collection: Getting Started with Content Marketing. This bundle provides MSPs quick, digestible introductions to blogging, content creation, social media and video production. Learn how to leverage proven tactics to be successful in your own marketing efforts!
New Buyer Behavior Demands a New Sales Approach
MSPs must adapt their sales funnel in response to the new buyer behavior. According to Salesforce, it takes roughly six to eight touches to generate a viable sales lead. Keep in mind this "viable" distinction. Not all leads were created equal. Which marketing action do you think carries more weight, downloading an eBook on best Microsoft Office hacks or signing up for a network assessment? Clearly, the more interest they show in content directly related to your services offering, the likelier they are to become a client. So then following this logic, it doesn't make sense to treat leads generated from both activities as equally likely to close. If you followed up and had a sales representative call the prospect who downloaded that eBook, it's going to be a more time-consuming process for that rep who then may be forced to answer questions your website or digital content could have otherwise addressed. Even then, you can't be sure that that prospect will close. Think about all of the other leads your rep could have worked in that same amount of time.
If this example indicates anything, it's that the time it takes to close a sale is costly, and you want to minimize that time expense by laying the groundwork prior. In my previous post, I had mentioned that the new buyer dynamic signaled a need to readdress the metrics we tie to sales. Specifically, you want to track the cost of customer acquisition among other key performance indicators. The less time it takes you to close a lead into a customer, the lower this number!
Now, just because you don't pass off a lead to your sales rep after they download a top-of-the-funnel piece of content doesn't mean you can leave that person hanging. If they're not ready to make a purchasing decision now, they may just need more education and time to trust your brand. Follow up by nurturing them with engagement marketing. When these prospects are eventually qualified and ready to be handed off to your sales reps, closing them will be much easier. What if those same leads never complete a marketing action that suggests they're ready for sales? That's the sales and marketing funnel staying true to form! You want to filter out low quality leads so you don't waste your sales team's time.
To sum it up nicely, recall this point from my original blog post which still holds true today:
Because you’re changing the way people are added to the funnel, you must change the way you pull people through your funnel as well.
Completing the Sale Once the Lead is Ready
By now you may be wondering where to go from here. Rest assured that we know selling managed IT services is an area you need assistance in. Unfortunately, I can't do it justice in one blog post. Instead, we've kicked off a whole MSP Sales Success series to help you out. Here are the first few posts:
- What Is the Sales Process for an MSP?
- Understanding Your Managed IT Services Competitive Landscape
- Who Filled Out My Form? Prospect Research 101
We will continue to add to this collection each month, so keep checking back on the blog for the latest!
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and embrace the inbound approach. You can have the best sales talent in the world, but that will amount to nothing if the contacts they work aren't interested in or ready to listen to them.
By Lily Teplow
By Courtney Swift