There is a phrase popular in sales, “Selling the Dream”. It frequently refers to selling the customer on some idyllic outcome whether or not they need it. In the case of technology, it can also sometimes be used sarcastically to poke fun at the gap between what sales says a product will do and what it actually does.
In technology, this can be an easy thing to do, since much of what a customer can do with technology depends on what they are willing and capable of doing with it. So, in the realm of the managed service provider (MSP), what is the “dream” we’re selling? I would suggest it differs for each customer segment you might service, and it will vary across customer personas as well.
Start by thinking about what it is you are selling. Are you selling break/fix services? What about recurring services like antivirus and backup? These are all easy to quantify, and benefits and features are easy to discuss.
But what about the solution? In my opinion, the things I just mentioned—and several others—can be viewed as commodities and therefore are vulnerable to competition. This means that what makes your product different is the value you and your company add to that commodity. When talking about physical product, we usually refer to this as Value- Added Reselling.
Now we are talking about services, which is a little different. Using antivirus (AV) as an example, anyone can go down to their local “big box” store and purchase AV. What differentiates the MSP is the monitoring and maintaining of the AV as a whole solution. This solution has added value over the AV product by itself, because it incorporates time and labor that the customer would otherwise have to do themselves, or become vulnerable to viruses and malware. Not too long ago, I saw a local office supply store selling “managed AV” for $99 per year for a single PC—the added margin is due to the value added by monitoring and maintaining the solution.
This brings us to the first customer “dream,” the dream of not having to deal with the admin side of their IT and avoiding the nightmare of something happening to their systems and data. By the way, did you notice I added a larger pain point than just the annoyance of added work and inconvenience? Depending on your audience, they may be “lazy”—or more likely focused on other areas of their business—therefore, avoiding additional work will be their motivator. If the audience is more risk averse, the motivator will be fear of viruses, data loss, etc.
The second dream includes those things above as well as the dream of regular, steady cash flow. You will see this more often in mature businesses. They are the ones that are doing the same thing as you—minimizing ups and downs in their cash flow by implementing better systems and business models. For their IT needs, the MSP is that system. By offering fixed price models you appeal to this type of business owner/manager mindset.
So how do you sell the dream?
First, you listen. You cannot tell someone else what their dream is. By simply allowing your customer or prospect to describe their IT setup and their current struggles, they will reveal what their dreams and nightmares are. From there, you need to focus on creating a whole solution that makes the dream come true and keeps the nightmares at bay.
Lastly, you must deliver on the solution. You cannot paint a picture of the ideal IT solution and then deliver less than that. That’s what gives salespeople a bad name.
Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP
© 2018 SolarWinds MSP UK Ltd. All rights reserved.
The SolarWinds and SolarWinds MSP trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds MSP UK Ltd. or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.