More often than she would like, Carrie Simpson fields a call from a panicked managed services provider (MSP) desperate for new business after realizing their sales funnel is near empty.
The owner of Winnipeg, Canada-based Managed Sales Pros is an expert at finding small businesses that want to buy managed IT services, and scheduling them for appointments with salespeople at MSPs.
Making that happen is a product of smart, grinding work behind the scenes – after which Simpson and her team are powerless to guide sales tactics that ultimately determine whether a deal closes.
“When your pipeline is empty, it’s too late,” she said. “It’s not a magic bullet.”
“We can’t really do anything to get you out of this hole right now,” Simpson explains to those callers. “We can start building a ladder.”
Managed Sales Pros specializes narrowly in MSPs looking for customers of between 20 and 200 seats.
“Any more than that and the opportunities take so long to turn over,” Simpson said.
She cautions clients against unreasonable expectations of an immediate impact to their top lines.
“It’s usually a six- to 12-month process before you get ROI on a deal,” she said. “Many times, the opportunity doesn’t close until they disengage from us.”
One early client with whom Simpson has kept in touch reported ROI of about 500 percent over three years.
“Really, all an MSP should have to do is look at their calendars and go to their sales meetings,” she said.
Culling ‘the garbage’
When an MSP signs up for the managed sales prospecting service, Managed Sales Pros ensures they have no other competing clients within a 30-mile radius.
They then purchase or otherwise obtain a contact list, identifying every potential customer within those 30 miles, up to 2,000 target organizations.
“We don’t have a magical source: Dunn and Bradstreet, infoUSA,” Simpson said. “You can also find free lists from libraries; most libraries offer a service where you can just go in and pull lists of businesses.”
Then the real work begins.
One by one, Simpson’s team begins sifting through those 2,000 records, evaluating each one against the profile of customers who are ready to discuss their managed IT services contracts.
“Of those, there might be 200 of them that are good for you to work with,” she said.
On average, about 30 percent will be worthless and need to be culled.
These could include organizations like schools – Managed Sales Pros doesn’t typically work with government – companies that are too small or too big; or restaurants, transportation businesses and other organizations in verticals where large numbers of employees use the same few computers.
“You’ve got to get them out of your pipeline,” Simpson said. “So, the first quarter of a prospecting campaign is just taking out the garbage.”
“We want high-probability of success opportunities,” she explained. “At the end of the day, we’re going to be judged on conversions more than anything else.”
From there, skilled telemarketers go to work, identifying principals and comparing the organization against key measures to gauge just how susceptible they might be to leaving their current MSP and signing on with a new provider.
“The telemarketer engages with the prospect and takes them through the qualifying process,” Simpson said.
At this stage, the Managed Sales Pros employee notes factors like why the small business is less than fully satisfied with its current MSP, and how reliant it is on technology.
“If the prospect is paying $500 a month for someone to come in twice a month, are they really ready to make the hop to paying $3,000 a month to make sure that nothing breaks?” Simpson said. “That’s a big hop. We have to qualify prospects beyond that and help our clients to find those companies.”
Sometimes that also means steering their MSP partners clear of potential problems down the line.
"Our callers are good at ferreting out the ones that are going to be nightmares," she said.
She recalled one target business out of Ottawa, Canada.
At first glance, it seemed an ideal prospect: 30 computers, three servers and near-term plans to migrate to the cloud.
But Simpson’s team learned that the CEO’s laptop had broken weeks earlier, was sent off for repairs and that the head of the company had survived without a computer in the interim.
It’s the type of caveat about which Managed Sales Pros wants to inform its clients so they can make their own decisions.
“The CEO doesn’t have a laptop and they’re just waiting,” Simpson said. “Their pain threshold is extraordinarily high.
“How tech dependent is that business?”
Qualified sales leads
For each prospect, someone from Simpson’s crew will have multiple contacts, ensuring that every target business receives proper follow up until it’s ruled out or passed along to the client as a qualified sales lead.
“We might call someone 10 to 15 times before we get an appointment – over the course of a year,” she said.
Managed Sales Pros clones each client’s phone number so the target’s caller ID indicates the call is coming from the MSP.
Once the telemarketer believes a prospect has met the criteria, they submit the contact for a sales appointment.
“If they only have three out of the four (criteria), they’re not allowed to set up the appointment,” Simpson said. “The platform won’t allow it. They have to have four out of the four.”
For every proposed appointment, an office manager performs an audit that includes listening to recordings of relevant phone calls.
“The intention of the meeting is always very clearly stated: ‘We’re coming to discuss replacing your current managed services provider,’” Simpson said.
After the sales lead is deemed qualified, an appointment setter reaches out to the prospect and the MSP, and puts a meeting on both of their calendars.
An accompanying email is also sent to the client, advising them of everything they need to know about the prospect.
“Once they click ‘accept’ on the appointment invites in their calendars, we’re done with the process,” Simpson said.
At some point, Managed Sales Pros might develop their business model to follow their clients further.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can work with companies to better help them close opportunities,” Simpson said.
“There are plenty of companies that get it done just fine,” she explained. “Then we have other companies that aren’t converting anything.”
Following its third fiscal year, Simpson’s company continues to show steady growth.
“I think we found a really good niche,” she said. “We’ve seen some competitors come and go.”
“We don’t get involved in digital, we don’t get involved in SEO; we don’t get involved in anything fluffy,” Simpson continued. “We’ve stuck to one thing. We’ve gotten really good at it.”
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