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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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3 Tips for Unleashing Your Managed Services Sales Potential

Posted February 15, 2017by Lane Smith

3 Tips for Unleashing Your Managed Services Sales Potential.png

We’re already well into the first quarter of 2017, and I bet you’re thinking about how you can amplify the sales of your managed IT services. Many MSPs still struggle with selling their services because there are countless variables to consider. For example, who are your ideal clients and what is your target market? What should your sales force look like and what should your sales cycle look like? The list can go on and on. While you’re figuring these factors out, it’s likely that you’re out selling your managed services already. To help you get started and maximize the effectiveness of your sales team, here are three steps you can take to accelerate your sales cycle and increase your close rates.

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify

Pre-qualifying and re-qualifying are absolutely essential steps when selling managed services. For the traditional sales person, very little time is spent re-qualifying leads sent by marketing or vendors. Most of their time is taken up by making proposals, which result in a proportionally small number of closed sales. Therefore, not qualifying accounts can have a negative impact for you and your potential client. You’ll end up wasting time and money, getting sucked into time-consuming sales cycles and arriving at the proposal stage and not understanding the priorities. All of these are frustrating to both your team and your prospective clients alike.

Instead, look to invert the time commitments. By spending more time on the front-end actually qualifying prospects, rather than rushing into proposals, you’ll close a higher percentage of deals on the back-end. A lead isn’t qualified unless you can answer “yes” to these questions:

  • Do they fit your ideal client profile or target market criteria?
  • Do their goals and needs match what you provide and how you provide it?
  • Do they value the benefits and differentiators your program offers?
  • Can you establish a mutual consensus on pain points, priorities, and budget?
  • Can you get access to the right people during the sales process?

If the prospective client is not properly qualified, you should hold off on moving forward with the sales cycle. Either send them back to marketing or work towards further qualifying them. This may be as easy as getting to the decision maker, or as difficult as continuing to understand their needs so you can better align your solutions.

Listen and Learn Before You Pitch

Building a relationship in life usually starts with listening to the other party, empathizing with them and identifying areas of commonality or interest. A managed services sales cycle is no different. The only exception here is that the commonalities will be areas that your company and your solutions can help their business from a technology perspective.

While there will be plenty of time to talk about your company and how fantastic your solutions are, the most important thing to remember during your initial meetings is to listen to what your prospect has to say. By doing so, you will be able to learn much more about their needs and challenges, and your prospect will end up having a better impression of the meeting.

People enjoy talking about themselves. In fact, they spend an average of 60 percent of their conversations doing so. So, if you come in and spend an entire meeting talking about your company and your solutions, what impression do you think your prospects are going to have of the meeting? If you let them do most the talking, they will leave the meeting feeling like it was a fantastic use of their time, and you will have accomplished a key goal in starting to build your relationship. So, keep your ears open and listen for some of the typical pain points and IT challenges we see in the SMB market. When you hear them, drill in and ask more questions. Oftentimes, your prospects aren’t even aware they’re facing some common pain points.

Agree on the Problem Before Proposing a Solution

At this point, you’ve held off on proposing until you properly qualified the client and have listened to their needs and challenges. So now it’s time to propose, right? Wrong!

Jumping to the proposal can lengthen your sales cycle and, at this point in the relationship, cost you the sale. I have found that by following these 3 simple rules you will exponentially increase your close rate for proposals.

Agree on their pain points

They have discussed their problems with you, you have asked questions and dug a bit deeper, identified other challenge areas, etc. Restate what you have heard from them in your own words to confirm that you are on the same page. Ask if they agree with you, and once they do, move on.

Agree on how your solution solves their problems

You may know that your solution is a great fit for a potential client, but until they believe it as well, there is no point presenting a proposal. When going through your solution, make sure they clearly understand it’s value, how it solves their problems and how it directly addresses the pain points you agreed upon earlier. Once they can truly visualize your solution solving their problems, you are one step closer to closing the sale.

Agree that the price aligns with their perceived value

While you have not yet presented your prospect with a proposal with detailed pricing, you should be discussing their budget with them. You should understand their budget, their perception of their IT spend and how much they value IT. It is now on you to put these factors together and paint a clear picture for them that ties your price to the value they will receive.


When you have an agreement on all three of these items before delivering the proposal, it will end up being exactly what your prospect was expecting. In fact, they will feel vested in the proposal as they will have helped you develop it. If done right, you will have your “yes” before you even reach the proposal stage.

Continuum Partners: Want to learn how to fully unleash your sales potential? To help you improve your sales process and grow your pipeline, we've launched a new "Selling Managed IT Services" course in Continuum U, designed to help you close more deals and grow your business. Click here to access the course today!


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As Senior Director of Partner Development at Continuum, Lane has deep experience in the MSP market and has been working in the IT and Managed Services space for the past 20 years. He successfully built and sold a nationally recognized MSP (# 9 in the MSPMentor 100, 2008 Edition). From there he went into consulting in the MSP space where he guided large VARs ($10M — $100M annual revenues) in their transitions to recurring revenue/managed services business models. He spent the past three years working as President of a sizable MSP in the Chicago area. Through his time in the industry Lane has helped hundreds of MSPs and IT Service providers build their managed services practices.

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