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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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Understanding the MSP Sales Process Part 2: Information Gathering and Your Initial MSP Meeting

Posted June 20, 2017by Blake Loughran

Understanding the MSP Sales Process Part 2: Information Gathering and Your Initial MSP Meeting

Welcome back to my series, Understanding the MSP Sales Process, where you’ll learn all about the four key stages of the MSP sales process. In part one, I gave you actionable tips on how you can tackle the first stage—prospecting. Today, we’ll be discussing how you can use information gathering to schedule a meaningful first meeting with your prospects and build successful business relationships.

Almost every celebrated sales methodology compartmentalizes each stage of their strategy. Instead of going about it this way, MSPs need to focus on how each stage of their sales process flows into the next—all the way to the end. A well-planned prospecting strategy will inevitably produce initial meetings with new prospects. Just as the goal of prospecting is not to immediately sell a new contract, the goal of initial appointments is to gather the right information so your proposals ultimately align with your prospects’ priorities.

Set the Foundation for Your Relationship

Since it’s important for MSPs to establish long-term relationships with their clients, the first meeting provides a myriad of opportunities to do so. It’s no secret that first impressions have a crucial impact on the success of a business relationship. Many companies use the FORD method to teach conversational strategies that help break the ice and build rapport. This technique can be used to help others feel comfortable talking about themselves. The basic concept is to ask questions about the four subjects most people enjoy discussing: "Family," "Occupation," "Recreation" and "Dreams."

Once that ice is broken, you need to establish a relationship that goes beyond simply mapping their IT infrastructure. Of course, it’s imperative to have an accurate understanding of their number of machines, network endpoints, configurations, applications used, etc., but don’t lose site of the importance of advancing the buying process. Take this time to understand the company’s lifecycle, velocity, and risk tolerance. Businesses often have an apparent culture that define their buying process, and it’s your job to understand this so you can set yourself up for success from the onset.

Understand the Buying Process

Often overlooked is the emotional intelligence component of any important buying decision. Even CEOs are concerned with how a buying decision will impact their personal career. When quantifying the financial impact of a proposed solution, take the time to talk about how the potential changes affect each decision maker personally. This is where proper information gathering and prospect research will come into play. Avoid minimizing the cause of any issues but instead empathize with the negative repercussions. Be careful not to insult someone’s previous buying decision that may have directly contributed to the problems you’re trying to solve.

The underlying theme of consultative selling is a mindset of providing buying guidance. To do this you need to determine their buying process and the personal incentives of each key decision maker. This is often where consultative selling may seem counterintuitive. It’s tempting to brag about your products and everything you can offer, but keep your own buying behavior in mind. We often avoid salespeople because we don’t want to feel cornered listening to a pitch. It is generally unwise to propose any solutions before having a thorough understanding of their environment, needs, and business strategy.

Gather the Right Information Before You Pitch

You put a lot of energy into convincing each new prospect to give you some of their time, so respect it and be efficient. When you notice a potential improvement, resist the knee-jerk urge to describe your resolution. Instead, ask questions and when you’re done…ask more questions! As the old saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

In addition to investigating what’s required for your prospect to safely maintain their day-to-day, quantify any gaps in operational efficiency. To do so, ask the following discovery questions:

  • How much time does it cost or would it save?
  • How much is that time worth?
  • Is there a revenue generating opportunity cost if that time were instead to be applied toward higher value activities?

Having them verbalize their problems helps to subconsciously justify your requested meeting. By asking questions to verify their pain, you will also be able to quantify the underlying issues. Ultimately, this makes closing the deal exponentially easier, all while building rapport and becoming a reliable consultant.

Not all questions are simply intended to gather information. Genuine curiosity tends to add weight to your inevitable request to sign a contract. Always keep in mind that in order to close most deals, you must ultimately offer a solution that costs less than the pain it alleviates. This is why you want to be sure that you understand their business strategy and goals so that you can offer additional value with recommendations that help them accelerate their growth. Reinforce the idea that you both win when you save them money through efficiency. It often takes several meetings to complete a thorough discovery. Treat every interaction as an opportunity to ensure your proposals have value and cement a long-term relationship.

So, to summarize this second stage, if you do your due diligence and properly research your prospect’s business, you will have a successful first meeting that speaks to their pain points and business objectives. This allows you to better present your solution and can propel you to the next stage in the MSP sales process—the proposal.

Looking for tips on how you can nail the proposal stage? Click here to check out part three of this series!

 

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Blake joined Continuum in early 2016 with 20 years of business development experience ranging from short sales cycles to navigating RFPs with Fortune 500 companies. Prior to joining Continuum, Blake founded a successful merchant services business before helping to exponentially accelerate Microsoft Dynamics channel development at HighJump Software and CSSI. As a Strategic Partner Manager at Continuum, he specializes in helping increase revenue growth for strategic partners in the Southeast region.

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