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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 Ways to Ensure Greater Sales Velocity in 2016

Posted January 27, 2016by Shannon Mayer

3 Ways to Ensure Greater Sales Velocity in 2016

Before you can sell, you first have to understand your customer. If you don’t know what their wants, needs or desires are, then you have no way to know if you are effectively communicating with them. In my last sales related blog post, I explored a few paths to understanding your customers and touched on the importance of being able to convey value quickly and plainly when in a sales situation. In this second post, I'll continue to build upon that notion by providing three distinct sales strategies for convincing prospects to buy your products and services.

 

1. Stop Using Generic Statements and Lead with Specific Business Value

We've all been subject to that showy sales person who hops on the phone and starts spouting off anecdotes about how their award-winning product is changing businesses and improving people's lives...you know, before you've even been able to splutter out a "Hi, how are you?" After their multi-minute tirade, you're left wondering how they got your number and wishing you had never picked up the phone in the first place.

To NOT be that annoying sales person, lead with concrete and compelling facts that will interest each individual person that you talk to. Remember that what's interesting to you may not align with what they want to hear about your solution. It’s also a good practice to weave relevant statistics into your story to illustrate a need that your product can fill.

Let’s examine the following statement to show how MSPs can position and sell their backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution to a prospect by strategically supporting business value with industry data:

“IDC reports that in 2015, 62% of small to medium sized business reported a disruption to their companies due to downtime and a third of those said their profits took a hit as a result. Our BDR solution will ensure 99% uptime in the event of a disaster, saving our customers an average of $12,700 per year from unplanned downtime." 

Now, that's a powerful value proposition! Sending this message in a sales email or rephrasing it on a sales phone call is effective because it uses a timely stat from a reputable industry authority to express a business problem that could easily affect the decision maker you speak to. It takes it one step further by then demonstrating how your solution addresses that problem, citing specific business results like costs saved. I emphasize specificity because anybody can say their solution cuts costs. It's too general. Stating how much you've saved other customers like them is compelling proof of your value. That being said, make sure all figures you use are accurate and truthful. 

Pro tip: First hook your prospect with the benefits of your solution. Once you’ve captured their attention, then you can move onto features, pricing, etc. 

Main takeaway: Actual data and facts are far more convincing than anecdotes and abstracts. Context matters!

 

2. Use Anchoring to Your Advantage

There is a common human tendency in all of us to rely heavily on the first piece of information - known as the anchor - offered when making decisions. We use anchors to help us interpret other information and to make subsequent judgments and decisions. Anchoring is a useful tool to use during the MSP sales process. To illustrate, we'll walk through two examples that do this well:

“The cost of purchasing this software for one year is roughly equivalent to buying one large cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee each day.”

Here we have used one large cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee as the anchor for the conversation. When the prospect thinks about the cost of the solution relative to a cup of coffee, they may be more willing to sign a 12-month commitment.

Another similar example could be:

“Our software pays for itself by identifying and troubleshooting computer problems before they affect your productivity, and costs as much as taking your family to the movies once a year.” 

Equating the cost of the services to something nominal, while highlighting the increased benefits is generally a good way to convey the value of your products or services.

What could you use as an anchor in selling your managed IT services? Write your response down, and use it in your next email send!

 

3. Strengthen Your Pitch with Norms as Anchors

A social norm is a value, custom, or tradition that represents individuals’ basic knowledge of what others do and think. Sociologists describe norms as informal understandings that govern individuals’ behavior in society and claim they have a way of maintaining order and organizing groups. The advanced MSP sales pro will begin to use norms as anchors to win over prospects. There are two very effective types of techniques to employ when doing this: the foot-in-the-door technique and the door-in-the-face technique.

The foot-in-the-door technique

First there is the “foot-in-the-door” example of using a norm as an anchor. This is a compliance tactic that involves getting a person to agree to a large request by first setting them up to agree to a modest one. For example, let’s imagine that you are speaking to a prospect and want them to buy into your full managed IT services offering. You know the customer is not familiar with this business model and is very cost-conscious, so you decide the best approach is to start small and just offer one element of the managed services offering (like BDR).

The customer agrees to use your BDR solution, and by doing so, you have set an anchor. The norm is that this customer will use your company for their IT service needs (assuming the BDR solution works for them). The smaller initial buy-in sets the stage for you to come back and ask them to make a larger purchase down the road.

The door-in-the-face technique

The door-in-the-face technique is virtually the opposite. In this approach, the sales person attempts to convince the prospect to comply by making a large request that the prospect will most likely turn down (i.e. metaphorical slamming of the door in the sales person’s face). Continuing with this logic, the prospect is then more likely to agree to the second, more reasonable request.

For example, your customer wants to replicate data from his local BDR to the cloud for data redundancy. Using the door-in-the-face technique, you could suggest that they rent servers/racks in a data center. You know that the customer has no idea how to implement or manage a project like this, so a second, more reasonable, request would be for them to put the data in your data center where your techs can manage the day-to-day maintenance.

Do you prefer one technique over the other? Have any examples of anchors or norms you're dying to share? Sound off below!


There are many ways to convey the value of your offerings to prospects. These are just a few methods that have been highly successful. Remember to start with compelling facts and figures that illustrate a problem that needs to be solved. Then state how you can help clients solve that need or problem. If that doesn’t do the trick, try implementing anchors into your conversation and eventually you can work on establishing norms that will lead to the purchasing behavior you are hoping for.

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Shannon is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Continuum Managed Services, responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging, as well as business intelligence. She is also managing the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Prior to Continuum, Shannon was the Channel Engagement Manager for LogMeIn and the Director of Marketing & Channel Relations for Datto, Inc. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists.

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