Most successful business owners agree that enforcing process is critical to maximizing efficiency in other departments; but why are so many slow to implement a formal sales process? Perhaps the sheer number of potential sales methodologies is intimidating, or perhaps their cost is a hindrance. In this four-part series, Understanding the MSP Sales Process, I’ll provide a proven framework based on common threads shared by the most popular sales methodologies. We’ll take a close look at how these steps are pertinent in the MSP industry and how to best leverage each to increase your bottom line.
In their purest forms, the most prevalent sales processes follow four chronological stages: prospecting, information gathering, proposal, and closing the deal. Each of these steps is as important as the others and will be covered in separate monthly entries. Today, we’ll focus on the first step, prospecting, which is defined as a systematic method of developing relationships that can potentially be fostered into new clients.
How to Tackle MSP Prospecting
While the first prospecting method that comes to mind is usually emails and phone calls, there are a myriad of effective strategies to uncover new relationships. For instance, offering free workshops such as a, “Protect Yourself from Ransomware,” seminar can be a great way to get prospects to approach you. The best leads are those who already have a reason to trust you, whether that be due to your reputations as an expert in your field or being recommended by a mutual acquaintance.
Look for opportunities to widen your circle of influence in your everyday life. Referrals are about relationships, and leveraging established contacts for new introductions is one of the most affective (yet underutilized) tactics. If you’re making your clients a priority and positioning yourself as their trusted advisor, you should never be afraid to ask who else they know who may value your services.
Understanding the Evolution of Prospecting
The last decade has seen countless technological developments that have significantly impacted prospecting best practices. It used to be as simple as supplementing your inbound marketing efforts with a cold calling team armed with a list of potential prospects. However, LinkedIn and other social media platforms are now littered with debates as to whether cold calling is dead. While it’s true that potential buyers are smarter and have access to more information than ever, there is still (and always will be) a human element to business relationships.
Before the advent of the internet, cold calling was generally accepted as a necessary annoyance to connect consumers with beneficial products. The access to information we have at our fingertips today is shifting buyers’ behavior and attitude toward self-education. Several studies have confirmed that at some point in the sales process almost 80 percent of prospects will use the internet to fact check your interactions and compare your offerings to your competition. Thus, the real question is how do we leverage buyers’ shift in behavior to our advantage?
Putting MSP Prospecting to Practice
If you’ve been through any formal sales training in the past decade you’ve heard people talk about consultative selling, but what does that mean? Well, it starts to make a lot more sense when we examine how it fits into modern buying habits. People no longer value your phone call to inform them of an exciting new product or service, what they need is buying guidance. While at first it may seem counterintuitive to what you’re trying to accomplish when “selling,” consultation is the differentiator that creates value in having a relationship with you.
Prospecting should never be a “cold” call. We can also use technology to our advantage in ensuring preparedness before making a call. People are much more likely to give you some time when you demonstrate you’ve researched them and understand their organizational goals or pain points. Habit number five of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In addition to reviewing your prospect’s LinkedIn page for common contacts who can introduce you, take the time to review their website and understand their organizational history.
“You can make more friends in two months being interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
Prospecting isn’t easy. In fact, it requires hard work, preparation and persistence. Get organized and use your time strategically. Keep detailed track of your activity success rates so you can establish your own law of averages. Once you have several months’ worth of data, you can begin to predict the success rate of your activities and fine-tune your process. You’ll want to know how many phone calls/emails lead to an appointment, how many prospect meeting requests are usually gained from webinars, what types of associations have been the most fruitful, and most importantly, how much time you’ll need to invest in each step to reach specific revenue milestones.
Remember, the goal while prospecting is to find a potential fit and schedule a meaningful meeting for the next milestone in the sales process, information gathering, which we’ll discuss next month.