Stop Blaming Sales for Poor Growth
One of the most difficult positions for an MSP to hire for is a salesperson. Ask around and you’ll quickly note that nearly every MSP has a horror story about a sales rep they hired, paid a lot of money to and got nothing from–no new customers, no revenue increases, just a lot of bad memories.
As a result, many have become gun-shy, and instead of continuing the search, they make compromises–putting an in-house engineer or technician in charge of sales, for example, or taking on the role themselves. If you’re running a “lifestyle business” this model might suit you fine. But, if you aspire for more and want to really grow the business, here’s my advice:
Stop. And take a closer look at the business.
More often than not, when business growth is going nowhere, the issue doesn’t lie with sales alone. It’s deeper within the organization and ties back to how the business is run and what it’s set out to accomplish.
Members of our MSP Elite agree that in order to achieve profitable growth you have to be willing to self-assess and commit to not only writing a plan and documenting processes and best practices, but also to sharing these guides and holding you and your team accountable.
One of the faster and more effective ways to do this is by profiling your company, as well as the customers you sell to. Here are three simple ways to approach it:
1. Get to Know Your Business: A business “profile” offers an excellent starting point for uncovering a company’s strengths and weaknesses, which is an essential component to crafting a successful expansion strategy. By gaining deep insight into what their business can do well, MSPs can avoid moving into markets that will require them to rely upon their greatest weaknesses–preventing them from setting themselves up for failure as sales teams are unleashed.
When developing a business profile, the basic questions for MSPs to consider include: Is your business making money? Is it losing money? What’s happening in the geography that you’re supporting right now? Is there capital? Are prospects spending cash or not?
Think strategically about the answers to these questions. And be honest with yourself. When possible, get research data to back up your intuition or conduct a customer audit to get to know why they do business with you and what more they want. From there, make the hard decisions that need to be made about the direction of the business, and possibly the brand you are building.
2. Analyze Past Successes: To understand where the best opportunities exist and where you specialize, start by identifying the characteristics of the customers you already have: location, industry/vertical market, average number of seats purchased and geographical patterns.
Look at customer wins from the past 24 to 60 months, and gather the substantive data that will give you a clear understanding of where your business is coming from. From there, create a profile sheet based on those characteristics, whether in Excel, Salesforce, or your PSA or CRM platform, and then start building a database of prospects that match those characteristics. This task, in fact, represents an excellent first order of business for a new sales hire. With data on past successes in hand, he or she can then develop a game plan for sales growth. By mapping the markets that match up well with your data core–markets with customers that align with the business’ key strengths, and as far away as possible from its weaknesses–the newly hired sales professional is set up for success. And it’s a path that will have buy-in from the top of the organization because the CEO or owner should be strategically involved as the profiling database is built.
3. Stay on Track: Another reason profiling is important is because, without it, your teams are working without a plan, which opens the door for them to fly unstructured. For sales, that leads to hunting after easy dollars, not diamonds in the rough.
If your goal as an MSP is to transition more business to managed services, and your profiling database demonstrates that success with a recurring revenue model is possible, then your sales team has to be on board and dedicated to the over-riding goal. Any departure from the game plan is a step in the wrong direction. Once the effort has been made to create a profile, it’s therefore important to refer to it regularly to ensure your growth plans are on track.
Profiling is clearly a process that involves a lot of questions–and digging deep to find honest answers. It takes time and requires discipline to implement, but those MSPs who make the effort will find that it offers a surefire way to determine where your business should go and the best way to get there. It also helps ensure that the sales professionals you hire are in line with the goals you’ve set and are ready to play a lead role on your winning team.
Frank Colletti is vice president of sales for SolarWinds N-able, a global leader in remote monitoring and management (RMM) and service automation software. In this role, he is responsible for building the sales infrastructure and culture that supports the company’s managed service provider (MSP) partners worldwide, including new customer acquisition and vertical market efforts. With more than 16 years of experience in sales leadership, Colletti brings an in-depth understanding of sales and MSP expertise to N-able. Since joining the company in 2003, he has made significant contributions to the success and year-over-year growth of N-able and its MSP partner community. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor’s annual platinum sponsorship.