Just a few years ago, selling managed services used to be a whole different ballgame. Selling was much more of a “shotgun” game. Companies would send out thousands of emails, cold calls, direct mail (aka snail mail) and hope that they’d hit someone who might be interested. Today, this method does not work nearly as well as it did. People have changed the way they find information, connect with each other and conduct business. However, many MSPs are stuck using outdated sales methods and struggle to find new clients with the changing buyer dynamic.
Why don’t sales work quite the way they used to, and how can you modify your efforts to pack a bigger punch? In order to find new clients, you need to change your sales and marketing tactics in a way that appeals to this new buyer dynamic.
Adopt Modern Marketing Tactics
One major change in buyers’ perspectives is reflected in the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing tactics.
Outbound marketing is the traditional ad campaign, which spent a lot of money to cast huge nets and hoped that a few fish would fall into them. In order for outbound marketing to be effective, you need to reach the right customer at right moment, whether that be them turning to a certain TV channel at just the right time or driving past a particular billboard.
Inbound marketing helps customers find you. There’s this really cool company called Google, and millions of people use it every day to find what they’re looking for. Prospects that need a MSP turn to the web when they need answers and are looking for a solution. Building appropriate inbound marketing channels (like blogging, social media, SEO/SEM, content circulation etc.) will make it much easier for people to find you. Dollar for dollar, inbound marketing efforts are far more successful than outbound, for one basic reason: you’re targeting a market that’s already looking to buy.
The success of inbound vs. outbound marketing is a prime example of how buyers themselves have changed. They’re no longer willing to put up with irritating commercials that interrupt their leisure time. Instead, they look for the companies and services they want (usually by searching online) when they’re ready to commit, so you’d better use the right MSP marketing strategies to make sure you’re there when they come knocking.
Tap Into the New Game
Your sales department is no longer the reason that potential clients hear about your business. Instead, it’s online research, word of mouth and social media, all of which tie into establishing an active and responsive online presence through inbound marketing efforts. Examples of this include maintaining a regular blog and writing guest blogs for industry peers, increasing your MSP’s social media following, and putting plenty of effort in keeping your existing customers happy.
Another great strategy for generating leads online is to write white papers and ebooks, and make them available for download. If a prospect is interested in the topic, they will fill out their contact info and download the content. This flags someone who might be interested in your services and you sales team can follow up with them accordingly. As you build out a variety of content resources, make sure to identify which ones mark a prospect as low interest, medium interest and high interest so that your sales team can follow up in an appropriate manner. You don’t want to bombard prospects with emails and sales calls, but rather, slowly nurture their interest and build trust with them.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of referrals and testimonials in establishing a robust online presence.
Re-define Your Sales Funnel
The sales funnel is an important part of any organization. It’s how companies track key metrics and performance indicators of their sales team. However, due to the changing buyer dynamic, companies must re-define their sales funnels to fit new marketing models and new buying trends. Rather than focusing on how many calls were made per rep, focus on what actions the buyer is taking and how likely those actions lead to end sales. This will allow you to target your prospects much more effectively and provide them with the information they need to make a decision.
Instead of viewing the sales process from your sales team’s point of view, you look through the buyer’s eyes instead. This journey starts with the buyer’s pain point: he or she has a problem that needs solving, and starts looking for a solution. Thanks to your awesome inbound marketing efforts, your company comes up as a primary option during that search. By looking through your website, social media pages and other resources you’ve made readily available, the prospective client has all the data needed right at his or her fingertips. Your sales team can help make sure it’s you that they choose as their solution provider.
Changing How You Sell
It’s still important to move prospects through a sales funnel, but the way you do that is changing, and it’s crucial to re-define how you move these prospects through your funnel. For example, if someone fills out a “contact us” form on your website, that’s a good indicator that they’re highly interested. However, if they simply followed your company’s Twitter account, it’s probably not worth tracking them down and starting to call them. However, this gives you a “top-of-funnel” prospect, and through appropriate nurturing and social media interaction, you have the potential to engage this person further in the hopes that they take additional actions on your website.
It’s important to understand which actions correspond to which stage in your sales funnel, and establish the appropriate follow up steps your sales people must take. 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.
Building Relationships, Not Just Closing Deals
While closing the sale would be the end point of the old sales funnel model, it’s only about halfway through the buyer’s journey. Just as critical as nailing the initial sale is maintaining a good client relationship going forward. Rather than concentrating on a single sale, focus also on building customer loyalty, rewarding retention and establishing long-term satisfaction among your clients. This will make it easier for you to add additional revenue from your clients as you move forward, and also makes them more likely to refer their friends to you.
The buyer’s journey and inbound marketing neatly summarize the new buyer’s dynamic: one of making intelligent choices that are based on independent research and informed decision-making rather than shotgun sales tactics. It’s up to you to educate your potential buyers about why you’re the best for their needs, and adapting your marketing and sales strategies to the new buyer’s dynamic is the move you need to make to find new customers and grow your business.
What's the state of sales two years later? Learn how to sell managed services in 2016!
By Brandon Garcin
By Gretchen Hoffman