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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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Your 2018 Business-Wide Success Guide | Part 2: Selling Upstream

Posted December 6, 2017by Robert Kocis

Your 2018 Business-Wide Success Guide | Part 2: Selling Upstream

As more companies begin to invest in managed services in the year to come, developing the right sales strategy is top of mind for all IT service providers. However, due to longer sales cycles, higher cost of sales and new buyer behavior, selling managed services is quite different than selling any other kind of technology. Providers can no longer take the “same old sales” approach if they’re to generate viable sales leads and grow their business. So, how can you adapt your sales strategy in 2018?

This series is designed to help you plan for and achieve success in the new year. Each post digs into a specific department of your business, assessing your efforts of the past year and establishing a success plan going forward. In the previous post, we learned how to accelerate growth in 2018 by refreshing your marketing strategy. In this post, you’ll discover how to fuel business growth with sales, generate more opportunities and revenue, and make every contract as profitable as possible.

The Importance of Your Sales Department

I think we all can agree that sales is primarily responsible for driving revenue growth, but it’s role within your business is two-fold. First, your sales department should be producing net new accounts to fill your customer base. Second, your sales team also needs to perform an “Account Management” function that will maintain and develop existing client accounts in order to preserve monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and uncover cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

Depending on the overall goals of your MSP business, your sales focus may shift accordingly. For example, if you’re just looking to grow your business through referrals, then account management would likely be the focus as you would need to continually grow existing clients to scale the business and remain relevant. On the other hand, if you have a plan to grow the organization through outside sales, then your focus would shift to adding new clients and revenue. Either way, your sales department is there to ensure your revenue goals align with your overall business goals.

Focus Areas for 2018

If you’re going to accelerate your sales in 2018, you need to take a different approach than what’s been done in the past. Below are four strategies to get you there. 

Reevaluate Your Sales Process

Aside from not having an actual sales process, I think the biggest failure most MSPs face is not having a client-focused sales process. This is when the conversation is centered around the technology, not on the value to the clients’ business.

Instead, shift your focus to the clients. What are they seeking from you or your services? Usually, they’re looking to solve a problem. Therefore, you can leverage success stories from other clients that can be communicated throughout the sales process. These help you bridge the gap between the value you are selling and the problem you can solve for the client.

Determine Potential Client Value

You can’t grow your business if you’re not acquiring new clients—but that doesn’t mean you should take on every single opportunity that comes your way. To get the most ROI out of your sales efforts, you should be determining the potential value of clients and prospects, which requires diving into historical data and understanding profit by client. 

Many MSPs believe that the larger the client, the larger the profit. However, depending on how your organization is setup, this could be completely wrong. In some markets, clients towards the smaller end of the spectrum are the most profitable. For others, larger clients can bring in more revenue, but the amount of time and resources spent on setting up or maintaining these clients effectively kills the profit margin.

If you’re unsure of how to pause or walk away from a bad deal, here are some things to look out for:

  • They’re focused only on price. When cost is the focus, the customer is not seeing the value that your solution will deliver.
  • They have unrealistic expectations. As an IT service provider, you should have well-documented SLAs (service level agreements), and you need to make sure that the client all of this information before they sign on.
  • They can’t commit. If you keep getting the “let’s talk about this in a month or so” excuse, you want to make sure that your sales team isn’t expending too much time or effort on these cycles. Instead, ask the customer for a detailed “Decision Process,” and hold them accountable to more through this process with you. If that breaks down, put the campaign on pause until they are willing to spend the effort.

Sell Beyond Your Network

If you’re looking to expand—whether it be into different verticals, geographic locations, or simply in your general market influence—you need to reach beyond your personal and professional network. Social selling is one technique where I see today’s best technology sellers separating themselves from the competition. Look to become a thought leader on LinkedIn by sending your prospects valuable content to help their business, not content that’s specific to only your interests.

Additionally, you should be investing in a consistent and targeted marketing strategy. This will focus on building brand awareness in your market, as well as other verticals. To start, pick a few verticals and include them in your targeted marketing efforts. Once you have at least three-to-five clients in a specific vertical, you can then build out a vertical market focus.

Expand the Roles of Your Sales Reps 

As the function and focus of your sales department evolves for 2018, so too should your sales representatives. Aim to make their role in the sales department more strategic. Split your team into hunters and farmers—the former focusing on hunting for and attracting new accounts, the latter focusing on ongoing account management. If you only have one sales representative, clearly define the position and compensation so that they spend the right amount of time on each critical function. As your team works in unison (within their respective roles) to generate more revenue and transform existing revenue, you’ll see exponential growth.

But what if you’re already stretched thin when it comes to your sales team? As a Continuum partner, you have access to resources such as Continuum Sales Academy and Continuum University, which provide you with the education and training you need to maximize the talent of your team and sell with success in 2018.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today, and one of our reps will be in touch with you!

Overall, you don’t want to completely abandon the sales strategy you’ve used in the past, but rather evolve and expand upon it to truly fuel business growth and generate more sales opportunities in 2018. Tune in next week for part three of this series, where you’ll discover how you can make customer satisfaction and success a driver for your MSP business!

 

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Robert Kocis is Continuum's Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). He brings more than 20 years of experience in global sales leadership and business management. Prior to Joining Continuum, Bob served as Worldwide Sales and Customer Excellence at ANSYS for two years, providing leadership for the overall strategy and management of the global activities of the company’s sales and technical support units. Robert spent 16 years with PTC, Inc., a U.S. based software company specializing in 3D design software, product lifecycle management and service management solutions, in progressive sales leadership positions. He also served as Senior Divisional Vice President of Asia Pacific Sales and Distribution, where he oversaw PTC’s operations across Asia. Prior to that, Robert was responsible for creating and leading PTC’s SMB Channel Advantage Program. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering systems from the United States Merchant Marine Academy. He is also a graduate of the General Dynamics Nuclear Engineering School.

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