MSP Advice Project: Article - Reducing the Sales Cycle

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growing pains
Reducing the Sales Cycle

November 05, 2018

FULL TRANSCRIPT

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Question: Have you found any tricks to accelerating your sales cycle?

Chris Taylor: The sales cycle is always a little tough. I think the technology changes help push some of that sales cycle faster than maybe the customers. But I think in some cases they don't have a choice. Some of the products are using maybe going end of life and end of support - they need to make a decision sooner than later. So, I think some of it the industry helps, some of it, I think just making the customer comfortable with the direction they're going. Cloud services is a big one, right? I mean everyone's kind of been a little hesitant on some of the cloud pieces, but as they see the industry make more changes, and as we make them more comfortable with that, I think that the cloud services stuff has continued to move forward.

Brent Morris: I don't know that there's anything we could do to accelerate the sales cycle, but what we can do is further support the sales people and their ability to close. So not relying on them entirely to close the deal. I believe that their job is to quarterback or marshal an opportunity forward, and to qualify the opportunity and come back to the business and tell us what they think they need to move it forward. So again, whether that's they need someone in operations to articulate our value from a remote support perspective; or if they need the president of our company to come in and talk about our approach with theory of constraints; we allow them the opportunity to tell the business what they need to win an opportunity, and not rely on them entirely to do it. I think it's somewhat unfair to expect that a salesperson will have all the answers, and I don't believe the market would respond well to that because it takes a lot for salespeople to build trust. And so, we think it's important to give them the resources that they need to build that trust.

Fred Alonzi: We find that same problem with a long sales cycle  and a very hard sale cycle too with the RFPs and justifications you have to do. So yes, we do get our foot in the door with smaller products such as web design and web hosting - we now do security audits. These are smaller products, easier to sell, easier to get our clients or perspective clients to understand what these are. Sometimes it's hard to explain what managed services is if the client has never had that type of a service before. But if you can lead off with showing, demonstrating some websites we have designed or say, “Hey, I can do your penetration audit, I can help you with your PCI compliance.” That's a lot easier to get your foot in the door with those things.

Question: What are some of your prospecting best practices?

Chris Taylor: Just getting  more targeted on the clients that have worked well for us, and really digging into who has been the; best size fit organizationally; what industry; what vertical industry; and what geographic area. We look in to those as a key marketing effort when we go out to market.  I think that helps us focus more on that ideal customer. So, we'll look at certain industries like banking or look at rural banking because we know that they're in need of help managing and securing their network, and they don't have the resources. So those are easy to target because you can get that demographic information pretty easy.

I think first and foremost, if someone's looking for inexpensive IT services we’re not the right provider. And so that's one of the first big qualifiers. The second one is whether or not they're coachable. If they're an organization that's willing to take some advice and do some things that we believe are right, it's no different than having a personal trainer. You know, are you willing to pay for a personal trainer and do what they say? Are you going to pay for it? And they get mad at them when you don't get the results because you weren't doing the work. We don't want to work with organizations like that. We want to work with organizations who will listen to us and I believe it's important for us to listen to. Not everything that we say is always right. We need to understand what's going on in the business, so it takes a little more investment on our part, as well. Ultimately, it's about a team and I think one of the things we say to organizations as we begin working with them is this is no different than managing your own people. We need to have one on ones. You need to give us feedback on our performance - not telling us you're going to get fired if you don't do this right. Rather, here's how we improve and we need to tell you what we need to do our jobs well. And sometimes that means investment and other tools.

Fred Alonzi: We’ve been fine-tuning this over 25 years and we do have a regular sheet that the marketing person and myself use when we do sales calls to make sure we are not wasting each other's time. That's the most important thing. I think so many prospective clients get worried going into this industry looking for a new vendor or a vendor at all, because they're just not too sure of themselves, and not too sure they could trust that vendor.  I think we come to them with a proposal that's a win-win situation; that we're not trying to take advantage of them or not trying to push a certain product. That always works the best. When I make that introductory call, I have a regular list of items I like to go through with them and make sure that after that first half hour call, that we both want to proceed, and we both see something of benefit from each other.

Question: What does your pricing model look like? By user, by device, by monthly fee?

Chris Taylor: We have a combination because we offer a couple different flavors of our managed service platform. One of which is more of a premium where it's by user and it's unlimited remote support. The other one is more of a standard service and it's designed for a customer that has some internal staff or a person that maybe front ends some of their technology support issues on a day-to-day basis and we really supplement them more on a device base. We have a model that’s kind of both: user-based and device based really to help with organizations that have an IT staff on board; or a person in organizations that don't have any dedicated internal IT staff. As we go after larger customers, they're typically going to have some IT staff and if we go in with a full managed platform, sometimes we can come across to them as being threatening to their internal staff - and they want to keep that staff because there are lots of knowledge there. So, we'll try to supplement them more than look at replacing and then smaller customers are looking for us to take that first role. So that's why we came up with both of those plans because it is a little different for the size of client.

Brent Morris: We charge a flat fee for the number of devices that we're going to support, and then we have a formula for how much time we think we're going to need to support an organization. We review that with our clients regularly to ensure that there never a winner or a loser and that services are always priced appropriately for the service that we're delivering.

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