Why Your MSP’s Sales Problem Is Really a Marketing Problem
Oftentimes when a managed service provider isn’t generating new business, leadership assumes that it must be a sales problem. After that, a pretty familiar cycle occurs: They look to hire a salesperson and eventually find someone with the right experience, the right talent and the right perspective. That person starts strong, but eventually she’s spinning her wheels. Soon, leadership realizes that they don’t have a sales problem at all. What they have is a lead generation problem. Now, they’re right back where they started, except with an additional salesperson on the payroll. What now?
Sure, you can assign a salesperson to do “cold outreach” as a part of her job. Sometimes, this will work — but not very often. That’s because a sales pro’s skill set is far better suited to responding to inbound leads that are already warm. Unfortunately, these days, those are in short supply.
We’ve discussed in the past that cold outreach techniques, like cold calling, are becoming less and less effective over time. This is a trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. So in this particular case, what you really need is a new approach. A new point of view. A new outlook.
That, of course, will require you to keep a few key things in mind.
Remember that marketing and sales are not the same! MSPs that find themselves in a situation like the one described above often land there because they’re coming at sales from the wrong angle. Never forget that at the end of the day, it’s the function of your marketing department to generate interest and act as the initial point of contact with the customer. Your marketing, by design, should be the first exposure that someone will have to your business, your products and your services. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about an e-book or a white paper or a flyer or something else entirely — this is, fundamentally, true.
The job of your sales team is to take that prospect your marketing department dug up and turn that lead into a customer. Many MSPs get these two roles confused, which is what causes them to hire a salesperson when they don’t have any leads. Listen, when you ask a salesperson to generate her own leads with cold calling, what you’re really asking is for her to become your sales and your marketing departments. This is a great way to make sure that neither of these jobs gets done particularly well, putting you farther away from your goal, not closer to it.
Techniques like cold calling are very much on their way out. You’re never going to be able to convince someone to make a massive leap like embracing managed IT services (or switching from their current provider to you) over a cold phone call. A lot of this has to do with the evolution that the modern B2B buyer is going through. According to a wide range of studies, more and more buyers are conducting their own research — meaning that they’re actively looking for marketing materials to help them make a decision. And, 40 percent of them are doing it from a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
It’s not that potential customers don’t want you to reach out to them; it’s that they want you to do it on their terms. They want time to research their problems and potential solutions. They want time to read up on the situation and take this journey as far as they can on their own. In a best-case scenario, your marketing department will be creating collateral to help guide them through this process (and, of course, into your arms).
But cold calling someone before they’re ready isn’t a great way to convince them that you understand what they’re going through. If anything, it’s a great way to make sure that when they are ready to make the jump, they do so with someone else.
So based on that, the next step becomes clear: Instead of acting like you have a sales problem, acknowledge that what you really have is a marketing problem, and get started fixing it.
Let Your Marketing Be the Light to Shine the Way
Once you begin to generate enough leads from your marketing efforts that the owner of the business, the director of sales or your current sales team can no longer handle the volume that you’re talking about, only then should you hire that star salesperson. Hiring her prior to that point is doing her — and you —- a massive disservice.
At the point where you’re actually generating viable inbound leads, the marketing side has, in theory, already carried your relationship with these prospects as far as it will go. The handoff — the point where prospects move far enough down the line where they know they need to make a purchase — is critical because it’s the job of that sales leader to guarantee that purchase happens with you.
As the owner of a managed services provider, you’ll get a lot more value out of your salesperson as well. She’ll be spending her time working on the warmest leads, which of course will be those that generate the highest amount of revenue. It’s win for you, that sales pro and your customers.
Nate Freedman is the owner of Tech Pro Marketing, where he helps MSPs and other IT related businesses solve the “marketing problem” so their sales teams can spend their time closing deals (instead of chasing leads.)