Selling managed services is difficult for so many reasons.
For starters, you’re selling something a lot of people don’t understand. It’s like trying to explain personal responsibility to a millennial at Berkeley University.
It’s a foreign concept.
You’re also selling something that is hard to differentiate.
It’s a lot like the battle between Coke and Pepsi — except (no surprise here) it’s much easier to market a product than a service (especially if that service is something people don’t understand and don’t want to understand).
Also, soda is sexy. IT … not so much.
This being said, you have two major issues at play here:
Your marketing efforts and company culture will obviously have a large impact on both of these areas. However, something most MSPs tend to overlook is their sales process.
A solid sales process has the power to overcome both of these issues — and rather easily. It is a surefire way to communicate your value, and it can be one of the most effective ways to make your offering stand out.
Over the years, TRIdigital has spent a great deal of time coaching MSPs from all over the country.
Sure, we market IT solutions for these companies. And yes, we’ve helped many IT companies build strong brands. But we also invest our resources into helping our clients better sell their solutions, not just market them.
- You need to communicate your value.
- You need to differentiate your offering.
Part of this time investment involves training MSPs on how to develop a solid sales process. We teach these companies how to integrate this sales process into their daily sales activities and show them how to use this process to acquire profitable managed services contracts.
Ultimately, this sales process boils down to 7 steps in 3 appointments.
Here’s what you need to know.
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Step 1: Prep
If you want to be like the average salesperson, then dive right into the sale 100% of the time. At this point, all sales and all prospects are exactly the same to you.
But thinking this way is a mistake.
No client is ever the same. Even if your only target market is built up of family lawyers within a 10-mile radius of each other, every firm will have different needs, goals, and pain points.
Because of this, it’s incredibly important to do your homework.
Who is this prospect and what are their specific pain points?
Look them up on LinkedIn. Check out their website. Figure out who works there. Get to know that company the best you can.
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Then, you need to determine how your managed service offering potentially impacts that business. How can your services address their very specific needs, goals, and pain points?
If you ever want the chance to share your expertise, then you need to take the time to get to know your prospect.
Step 2: Warm up
So you managed to score appointment #1.
Good for you.
But what now? Pull up your sleeves, take off your pants, and jump right into a full-blown network analysis and over-the-top sales pitch?
Well … I can say for sure that you can leave your pants on.
When it comes to the first appointment, there’s a lot going on. But whatever happens, you need to remember that you’re new.
At this point, you aren’t a trusted advisor. Heck, you aren’t even an advisor. You’re just a pant-less nerd moonlighting as a sales guy.
Think about it this way.
On a first date, a guy doesn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) start things off with a story about himself and why he’s so great. And he certainly doesn’t follow that up by taking off his pants.
If this were the case, there’s a very high chance there would be no second date.
Instead, he starts things off slowly; he keeps his pants on, and he gets to know the girl on a baseline level.
You see, people buy with emotion, and eventually, they use logic to justify that emotional purchase. But that’s eventually.
So if you want someone to buy from you, then you need that emotion first.
The idea is to take your prospect’s mind off the sale. Get them to forget that you’re trying to sell them something and force them to see you as just another human.
Once they see you as a human, slowly start to build up that credibility.
But again, think about it this way.
Going back to that first date — when a guy is getting to know a girl, he won’t ask her what her deepest, darkest fears are. At least, not at first. He has to earn the right to ask those harder questions.
As a salesperson, you need to do the very same thing.
Step 3: Qualify
You don’t have all day and neither does your prospect. So while it is important to get to know each other, this is more of an “arranged marriage” kind of situation.
Get them to trust you enough.
After the ice is broken, you really should get down to the nitty-gritty of things.
At this point, you have a lot on your plate.
You need to uncover your prospect’s needs, build up more credibility, identify potential issues, connect those issues to future (or current) implications, and find an easy-to-understand way to tie it all back to your solutions.
On top of this, you should also try to get the network assessment out of the way during this visit.
Here’s the best way to accomplish all of this:
While it might seem as if you’re doing most of the talking, you aren’t. In fact, you should only be doing about 20% of the talking.
Let the prospect talk as much as they’re willing to talk. Just make sure that you keep them on track — focused on problems, pain points, and needs … not solutions and price points.
And remember, the idea is to conduct the network analysis during this appointment. So if you’re strictly the sales guy, make sure you bring a network engineer with you to the first appointment.
Ask for permission to conduct the discovery, and if the prospect says no, then schedule a follow-up appointment while you’re still at their office.
During this first appointment, there are three main goals to keep in mind:
- Start things off with PAS (their Problem, other Alternatives, your Solution – download the PAS worksheet below)
- Warm up the decision maker (but remember, keep your pants on)
- Qualify the decision maker (make sure that you’re actually speaking to the big man on campus)
- Make high-impact statements (create an instant connection to real value)
- Ask permission to ask questions (yes, literally … basically, you’re asking for buy-in)
- Use conversational layering (pique curiosity and earn credibility)
- Ask implementation questions (to build urgency)
- Shoot down the alternatives (be the mean girl I know you can be)
- Build rapport
- Conduct a needs analysis
- Determine the feasibility of a business relationship
Step 3.5: Build your Proposal
You should never go into a presentation with no presentation. That’s just weird.
And you probably won’t end up with a signed agreement.
Instead, take everything you learn during the network assessment and needs analysis to build a thorough presentation.
This presentation should cover it all — their pain points, your solutions and features, the ROI or cost-savings analysis, and some form of a quantifiable outcome.
Step 4: Present
At some point, you gotta present, and for TRIdigital, this happens at appointment #2.
Again, this presentation should cover it all, and how you deliver this presentation should depend on who attends the meeting.
For example, if it’s just you and one decision maker, then consider using handouts or a tablet to walk the client through your presentation.
On the other hand, if you’re presenting to a group of two or more people, a PowerPoint presentation is probably the best way to go.
During this presentation, you need to discuss everything you uncovered from the network assessment, and the general idea is to educate.
This is where you’re at. This is what’s happening. And this is what’s going to happen if your company continues down this path.
At the same time, you need to take your findings and strategically tie them back to your solutions.
This can mean a few things.
For starters, you need to hit on short-term needs, as well as long-term goals.
We can immediately resolve these issues, and over time, we can help you attain XYZ goals.
You also need something measurable. Business owners like to see the facts and numbers, so use it to your advantage.
We will save you X% of dollars over a course of X months because we will speed up processes here, reduce expenses there, and modernize solutions on a larger scale.
Take your time with the presentation, and don’t glaze over certain “less important” topics. Everything you present should be considered important to your client.
This might seem easy enough, but it can actually be pretty difficult.
During presentations, people are nervous. And in this case, it’s not just because of the whole “public speaking” thing. It’s also because there’s a lot on the line.
If you F things up, it’s not just your butt on the line. It’s the company’s collective butt on the line.
After you finish the presentation, you need to ask for some type of commitment. And if you don’t get it, then you need to schedule a follow-up appointment right then and there.
Step 5: Overcome
If you don’t receive a verbal or signed commitment right away, don’t be discouraged. It’s not unusual for a prospect to have concerns or objections regarding your offering.
In fact, you need to count on them having objections.
At this step, you need to be prepared to handle those objections, and you should have pre-built slides or handouts dedicated to them. If you don’t, odds are you’ll lose that credibility you worked so hard to build up.
Step 6: Close
Again, you need to ask for a commitment.
Don’t just expect them to ask you where to sign. You need to tell them where to sign.
Don’t be timid or else they will be timid.
Step 7: Follow-up
Even if you aren’t timid and you manage to overcome every objection, the prospect still might be hesitant to sign on the dotted line.
In this case, you need to schedule a follow-up appointment. If you don’t, you may as well consider the agreement a lost cause.
Now, if they do agree to everything you’ve laid out in front of them, you still need to schedule a follow-up appointment. This is where your team will start to lay out the strategic foundation for your ongoing partnership.
Point is … try not to leave without another appointment in the books.
Obviously, the sales process is just one piece of a very large puzzle that is your business. But luckily for you, we have plenty more useful content where this came from, and here’s a good place to start: Are you a sheep or a shark? IT sales prospecting for your MSP.
You can also check out SPC International. This online learning platform can become an invaluable learning resource for your entire sales team. For a flat monthly fee, SPC gives you access to thousands of sales training documents, tools, and support.