January 29, 2019
By John Davenjay
I used to run an MSP before I started a staffing firm that exclusively handles staff for MSPs. We’ve been staffing MSPs since 2010, have 450 MSP clients and have successfully staffed more than 5,000 MSP professionals … but I would have retired years ago if I had nickel for every time an MSP owner asked us for help finding an MSP-experienced sales candidate to hire.
People have an easier time finding unicorns than they do finding proven, worthwhile MSP-experienced sales/business development candidates. And the only thing harder than finding one is hiring one that actually hits quotas and remains employed for a respectable amount of time. Assuming they even exist, what makes them so hard to find and how do I successfully retain one? There are two primary factors affecting this ostensibly widespread task of finding and retaining MSP sales people: the MSP job market and the nature of how MSPs define the position.
First, the job market. MSP sales people are in-demand. The good ones are usually well-compensated, very picky about where they might invest their time interviewing and often are only passively interviewing, meaning they are only interested in testing the waters.
Second, the nature of the position and how it fits into an MSP. This is the tricky part. The very large majority of MSP business owners interested in tapping our professional help sourcing a business development person with MSP experience are hiring because the MSP owners have been performing all the sales functions for their company themselves for years and they’ve finally recognized the need to free up their time by offloading the “heavy lifting” to an experienced sales person.
That heavy lifting is essentially all of the lead generation, prospecting and marketing functions that ultimately lead to building a sales funnel. A sales funnel affords us the ability to track conversion rates and close percentages and it’s how any company in any industry predicts, manages and positively influences sales.
Now, MSPs that are either employing fewer than 20 people or generating less than $5 million in yearly sales will typically lack comparable sales processes or sales tools that are in place at larger MSPs. The founder(s) of an MSP have typically built their companies using an organic, grassroots business development model where they depended on word of mouth, attending networking groups (i.e., Business Network International) or using simple mass email marketing campaigns to generate the leads that fuel the company’s sales.
Just so we’re on the same page, a true sales model will often contain most of the following ingredients: a homegrown or purchased database/CRM of prospects; automated lead capture such as tracking clicks and opens from tailored email campaigns; drip marketing that automatically touches your prospects that have indicated behaviors indicative of being interested; social media where free, informative content is published and shared (indirect sales); email marketing and cold calls (direct sales); and …
… uniform branding and messaging.
Not having a defined sales process means there isn’t a process for anyone to follow. And no matter how good our new hire might be, when our employees don’t have a process to be plugged into, we are leaving them up to their own devices to succeed. Sales already is hard! Without a sales model with defined processes to follow or tools to automate certain functions of lead generation, people will almost always flounder.
That’s why so many MSP sales professionals quit or get fired and why so many MSP owners have unrealistic expectations trying to find a “silver bullet” solution. Making a successful hire starts with building a successful sales and marketing process that not only empowers your sales professional but defines the recipe for achieving the goals we set for them.
John Davenjay is the CEO of Bowman Williams, which he founded in 2009 after running operations and sales for a managed service and VoIP provider based in Washington, D.C. His firsthand experience of sourcing and hiring MSP employees led to the creation of a staffing firm exclusively focused on helping the MSP industry eliminate the common bottleneck of hiring MSP talent. Forbes ranked Bowman Williams #137 in the Best Recruiting Firms in America in 2018 and the firm is a staffing partner for over 300 MSPs around the country. Reach Davenjay on Twitter @bowmanwilliams or on LinkedIn.
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