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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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I DO: 10 Tips for Mastering the MSP Proposal Process

Posted April 28, 2015by Mary McCoy

"Hi, it's nice to meet you. Want to get hitched?"

Excusing the special genre of reality television that brings total strangers together in holy matrimony, what if this was how marriage proposals worked? What if we didn't take the time to build a solid relationship foundation before walking down the aisle. Think about how awkward it would be to stand in front of two-hundred of your friends and family members, after taking out a second mortgage on your house just to afford the venue, only to find out that you and your nearly-betrothed aren't suited for one another at all.

"Wait, before we say our 'I Dos,' you didn't want kids. I'm not making that up, right?"

Before entertaining the idea of a marriage proposal, couples typically make sure their life plans match up. Try getting down on one knee a week into dating, and see how your success rate compares a few years later. The same principle applies when it comes to the MSP proposal process. Too often, IT solution providers opt for the "quickie" Vegas wedding approach and try to "put a ring on it" without truly knowing who they're writing their vows for. Are you taking the time to learn what your prospects need? If they have cold feet, are you addressing those concerns?


1) Understand Customer Requirements 

Prospects know what they want, but not necessarily what they need. If you want to make the sale, you have to understand this difference. You may have a potential client that's researched your services and thinks he/she has found the answer, but you're the expert. Ask a few questions, and you may find that prospect needs are far more substantial. How does that person plan on using your solution to achieve business goals? What are those business goals and are they long-term or short-term? This is the kind of preliminary information you need to offer the best package.

 

2) Present 3 Alternatives that Solve the Problem

People like options and are resistant to overt sales pitches. Approaching prospects from this angle gives you a chance to stay engaged with them if they don't like what's behind Door #1.

Let's say you're talking to a CEO who tells you that cybersecurity is a huge concern for his/her company. You know that your remote monitoring and management (RMM) coupled with a Network Operations Center (NOC) will detect and resolve incoming IT threats so you may suggest this as a first solution. You could discover, however, that the company has a history of data loss or doesn't have a strong backup solution in place, You'd then recommend your backup and disaster recovery (BDR) services as an add-on. Finally, you could ask how many employees access sensitive company data on their own personal devices to gauge whether there's a mobile device management (MDM) opportunity. If you're working with a larger shop with more end points, MDM may be advisable.

Rather than force-feed your prospect the most expensive package, give a range. All three of these solutions will help strengthen data security, but not all may be necessary for each client. 

3) Separate Features from Benefits

As CompTIA states, people "will spend a lot of time discussing and evaluating features, but in the end it's the benefits that make the deal happen." Many MSPs use these terms interchangeably, losing the sale as a result. What's the difference? A feature refers to a characteristic of the product or service being sold, whereas a benefit is the desired outcome. Mixing the two of these up confuses prospects and stalls the buyer's journey.


4) Organize Your Proposal for an Executive 

Know your audience. Who are you pitching the sale to? The C-suite doesn't care about the technical aspects of your solution. Channel your inner Jerry McGuire, and "show them the money!" If you want to keep executives interested, lead with the bottom line and share the details and specs as an attachment. For an example of a proper MSP proposal structure, check out the CompTIA Quick Start Guide to the Art of the Deal, linked below!


5) Discuss Alternatives and Pricing Before Writing a Proposal

Don't move on to the proposal-writing sales stage if you don't think a prospect is ready to close. From Tip 2, you should know which alternatives your prospects are leaning towards and which problems they're trying to solve. Once you have their preferences, let them know how much those bundles will cost. Do not draft a proposal until you have received verbal confirmation that they're willing to pay that price for the indicated services. A verbal agreement is a lot easier to obtain than written consent. If they have issues with your quote, it's better to address them sooner rather than later. 

6) Follow-up on Proposal to Verify Fit

A couple of days after you send your proposal, reach out via an email or a phone call to verify that it was received and details all of the information your prospect needs. Be receptive to suggested edits and make sure both parties are in agreement before proceeding with talk of a signing timeline.

 

7) Understand the Customer's Approval Process

Are you talking to someone who makes budget decisions? Find out, and make sure that there's room in the budget for your suggested package. What if they don't make budget decisions? Ask who does and what the process is for approving major expenditures. According to CompTIA's Quick Start Guide, some companies require an ROI analysis to sign-off on purchases. Having more visibility into the proposal approval process will help you identify potential funnel bottlenecks. Wouldn't you rather know what you're up against?

8) Ask about Potential Objections

Speaking of, get it all out on the table! If a prospect is hesitant to commit, address it head-on. The more objections, the more chances you have to change their minds. You may find that potential clients don't fully understand the value you'll be bringing them. Similarly, perhaps as you get to the root of their apprehension, you'll discover different or even bigger problems your services can solve. Get them talking!


9) Focus on Reliable, Low Risk, and Solid Solutions

You don't need to be the Walmart of MSPs to close your prospect. Sure, cost is a consideration, but don't be deterred by competitors offering cheaper solutions. "When you keep the focus on issues such as reliability, low risk of failure, security and scalability, and then combine that with your magic ingredients (your expertise and service),"Comptia insists, "you can create a lot of advantage over cheap solutions." Customers want to wrap themselves in your managed IT services security blanket, knowing that their clients' data is safe. Your solution may be more expensive than others, but if it's more technologically robust, you could be saving them from costlier downtime costs, should disaster strike. 


10) Ask for the Order

All too often, sales are killed by the time they reach this stage because the MSP doesn't ask for the order. If you're not sure how to start this conversation, try a simple "Can you approve this order this week?" Notice how this question establishes a timeframe. If you ask generically, you run the risk of prospects claiming they need to ask around and your proposals will just collect cobwebs. If, at first, you hear "no," that doesn't necessarily mean you've lost the sale. Ask if there's anything additional you can do on your end. "No" is better than "I'll get back to you...eventually...."

See also:


CompTIA is the world's leading provider of vendor-neutral IT certifications. Excerpts from the preceding post were taken from the CompTIA Quick Start Guide to the Art of the Deal. Download the full resource below for help with pricing deals, setting policies for proposal deal packages, organizing proposals and managing deal profitability! 


Download your copy now!

CompTIA-Quick-Start-Guide-to-the-Art-of-the-Deal

Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary primarily manages the MSP Blog and has consulted with hundreds of partners, lending website, blog and social media support. Before that, she graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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