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MSPradio Episode 5: Closing More Qualified Leads

Posted May 16, 2014by Nate Teplow

Episode5-logoWe've talked about building a marketing program for your MSP business, which is important for growth. But that's only half the battle. None of that really matters unless you can actually close the leads that you generate from your marketing. 

On this week's episode of MSPradio, we're talking about closing leads for your MSP business. Our guests include Chris Wiser, Founder & CEO of TechSquad IT and Bill Ruffalo, Senior Account Executive at Continuum. These two are deal-closing experts who have experience both working with MSPs and working on the front lines to close new deals for their companies. Tune in to learn how you can generate leads and actually close new clients for your business.

 

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Episode Transcription:

Nate: Welcome back everyone to MSP radio, good to see everyone again and have you back here on the show. Don’t forget to Tweet us@follow Continuum or use the hashtag MSP radio, we would love to hear what you guys have to say about episode and future and past episodes.

So in the past, we’ve talked about building an MSP marketing program and some of the opportunities out there for MSP’s. But none of this really matters if you can’t actually close of the leads that you are generating. So today’s topic is really about driving qualified leads and actually closing and actually turning the leads that you are generating into revenue for your business. So I am very excited about the guest that we have joining us today. First off I’d like to welcome Chris Wiser; he is the founder and CEO of Tech Squad IT, which is a Milwaukee based company that provides managed technology services to small businesses.

Chris is also a best-selling author who has written multiple books about proven secrets and strategies on how to realize maximum sales and profits in an uncertain and a changing economy. So Chris has also consistently increased his revenue over the years as a result of being able to effectively obtain suitable leads that really lead to new business and growth. So Chris, welcome can you hear me?

Chris: Yes sir, how are you doing today?

Nate: Doing great, great to have you on the show!

Chris: Yeah, it’s great to be here.

Nate: And we are also joined here by Bill Ruffalo, he’s a senior account executive here at Continuum. So Bill works on the new partner acquisition team here at Continuum. So first off, he’s constantly working with MSP’s and working to understand their business problems, their business goals. But Billy is also responsible for actually closing the leads that we generate as a business. So he is an expert at MSP’s, he is an expert in closing leads. I thought he would be a great addition to this show so welcome Bill.

Bill: Hello Nate, hello Chris how are you?

Chris: Good, good. It’s good to talk to you.

Nate: Just to kick things off I just wanted to mention, Chris you will actually be speaking at our first ever user conference in September, it’s called Navigate 2014. Could you give us a little sneak peek of what you will be speaking about there?

Chris: Sure, definitely. I am really excited to number 1, be at the first annual conference and I think one of the things that I really come to get better and better at over the last 10 years has been taking an MSP business model where most of the talent we have is technical and then turning that into what we like to call a “lead generating machine” and then actually closing those leads. And I’ve got some good stories that I would be telling and some good examples that I will be handing out and then I think you really, really great session.

Nate: Yeah, definitely. We are very excited to have you there and really excited about our first user conference. We’ve got a ton of great speakers lined up and a great event for our partners to join here in Boston so really excited about that coming in September; that’s Navigate 2014.

To start things off, I thought we could have sought to define what a qualified lead is. Chris, how do you like to define a lead that’s qualified?

Chris: Well one of the things that I think I have seen is, you have a couple of different categories of the managed service provider, the managed IT provider. You have the MSP that is pretty new, pretty small from one to even probably 1 to 15 people and there is a whole lot of structure and there is not a whole lot of specifically sales structure. Most of the techs are the CEO’s of these companies; know how to do the technical side so they are pretty good at that.

So there is that version of the client or the MSP and then there is the next level which is the little bit larger MSP that actually have their stuff in gear. So it’s important is that you actually know who you are looking for I know who the client is that you are looking to get and that is one of the big things that I think is the differentiator between that small client, that smaller MSP and the bigger MSP.

The bigger MSP kind of has an idea, gotten good enough at it, they have enough talent internally, they can look for that. Whereas the smaller MSP’s I think I like what probably 90% maybe even higher of the actual MSP’s in the world, just take America for example. They are actually going out and they are willing to take just about anybody as a client. And I think one of the biggest things that has been a big differentiator for us is, we have people that walk in the door ...in fact we just had this debate like two days ago here in my office because my sales team took on a three person attorneys firm that just wants to do [05:01 break/fix]. And it is something I continually say I understand you want business but there is a fine line between, “Is that the type of clients that we want or not?” And the answer really is, I am now going to say no to some business I get but really at the end of the day, is that the type of plant I want because my goal is 50 to 200 end-users and recurring revenue. These guys won’t even break six and they are a three-man shop. It’s looking for the type of client you want in qualifying that lead and making sure that yes, they want you but do you want them?

Nate: Yeah, definitely. I mean increased revenue doesn’t always lead to increased profitability so you really got to find the right opportunities out there.

Chris: The power to say “no” right? You’ve got to be willing to say no at some time. And even we, by no means are we rock and sock and perfect shop here. This literally happened yesterday and we have one machine which is like their server machine up on our bench and it probably will turn into our recurring revenue deal but it is not our ideal client.

Nate: Yeah, definitely. You can’t be everything to everyone.

Chris: Exactly.

Nate: So Bill, you are a sales guy, you are on the sales team here, what do you usually look for when a lead comes in?

Bill: Well Nate I think Chris kind of touched on some of it, that there really are a few things that I key on. For example, how did that lead come into me? Was it the response to something that we ran in terms of a campaign? Was it phone call? Was it someone I have engaged with in the past? But first and foremost, directly at this point, are they a fit both ways? Do they fit us, do we fit them? And a little research goes a long, long way to not only helping qualify those leads but it also gives you a little bit of ammunition during the next call as well. I want to know typically are they able to use my product and service and if so, do I have direct means of contacting them obviously, that’s crucial. But it comes down to fit, it really does whether they are the right kind of client that I am looking for or I am the right kind of business that they need, that’s really the basis of qualification there.

Nate: Yeah. What are the means you use to qualify them? Is it phone conversations? Are you looking them up online or on LinkedIn? What are some tools you use for that?

Bill: Yeah, research is key definitely followed up by contact for sure but there is a wealth of information out there for us. There is the Internet and a great number of sites out there that can give you a little bit of business Intel. But their websites really kind of gives you a lot of clues as to whether or not they are the type of person that you want to be pursuing as a lead.

Nate: Yeah, definitely.

Bill: And real thing, I will add this on there as well, it’s not just the MSP’s that have this, we use the same exact practice, I don’t care who your client is. We use the same exact practice whether they are law firm, whether they are an MSP as a client, it doesn’t matter I think you will probably agree with that, business is business and sales is sales so if you are implementing the same techniques and the same practices, one of the biggest keys is implementation, actually doing them and execution and making sure it is done in a systematic process.

Chris: Definitely agree, definitely agree.

Nate: What are some of the ways you can actually generate these leads? We’ve talked about kind of qualifying them but a lot of our partners and a lot of MSP’s out there, they kind of sit back and wait for referrals to come in, that’s how they generate a lot of their new business but you’ve really got to be proactive, you’ve got to go out there and find these leads and start to generate them yourselves if you really want to be able to control your own growth. So what are some ways MSP’s can start doing that?

Chris: I will take that Bill if that’s okay. One of the biggest things that we do is we have a consistent marketing plan. And we execute that marketing plan every month. We have here about 12 different, I know, I am Robin Robin’s disciple. I think there are a lot of guys out there that are MSP owners know who she is and she calls them “Oil wells” and we have like two or three different oil wells that are just flowing; Google ad words is a good example of that. Our newsletter is a sample of that. I am hot off this morning. We literally did a 55 person in-person seminar as we partnered with a company called Master Link Training. So they do end-user training we did a partnership with them and we did a blast and we shared time this morning.

There were 55 people in the house and we offered a network security risk and hidden risk assessment that is of $2500 value. We offered that for the first five people that signed up and we had them lined up waiting and I got six immediate assessments that walked in the door for clients that were, two of them are big law firms, like 15 partner law firms and one is a Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Milwaukee. So we are getting some legitimate really good leads and that entire yield today cost us about $200 to do it. And we had 55 people in the room and we got six signed assessments of people who were standing in line to sign up for them.

Bill: I think honesty we are… What most unorganized, let’s say MSP’s fail to realize is that this pipeline takes time, if they have 100 contacts in their database, that realistically is going to lead them to poor sales. So they can’t really ever stop taking advantage of the options that are out there for your otherwise to keep at the top of that funnel filled. Just like you said networking and taking advantage of an aggressive marketing campaign and pursuing those options, those are all going to help. There is a lot of free things they can do but they’ve got to get their relevance up online first and foremost I think and in today’s age, but they can’t stop pressing the question called calling either.

Chris: I totally agree with that. It’s really important. I think there is a big things that I say is consistency and persistency in marketing and you are spot on in that it takes a long time. We have a machine that pretty much pulls in the lead but it took us two years to get to the point where we really have some consistency. And we even still struggle. It is important to make sure and not all of them are going to be wins either. You’ve got to be willing to take six out of 10 failures or maybe even higher sometimes or you’ve got to be like, “We did this, I had no fails.” Okay well then we won’t do that one again but like today I did my seminar we had six assessments out of that seminar and we’re going to do the same exact thing. In fact we already scheduled the next date for June 5.

Nate: Yeah, you’ve really got to learn from what you actually do and the different activities you are putting out there. And if things don’t work out, it’s okay, it’s a learning point and you might have to eat the cost but sometimes it’s more important to eat that cost and to figure that out then just dump more money into it blindly.

Bill: Well WD-40 is a good example of that honestly Nate and 39 failed attempts to get something right, that’s kind of the same mentality these guys have to have. They’ve got to learn from their mistakes and continue to pursue their ultimate end goal which is to running their business.

Nate: Yeah, yeah definitely, definitely. So this has been great guys. I think we’re going to take a quick commercial break here but coming up next, we’re going to be talking about actually closing these leads. We kind of talked about here about generating them and qualifying them but in our next segment we will talk about actually closing these leads and turning lead generation into revenue for your business. So Paul I think we’re going to go to commercial break and I will see you guys in a minute.

Nate: Thanks Paul. Welcome back to MSP radio I am your host Nate Teplow. I am here today with Chris Weiser, founder and CEO of Tech Squad and Bill Ruffalo, Senior accountant executive here at Continuum. We’re talking about generating qualified leads and actually closing these leads and really turning lead generation into money for your company. What do you guys usually do? I guess I’ll direct this to Chris to start.

Chris: We send them an actual botch of information and we are very detailed as to those things need to be within a certain timeframe or the botch of information is required by our process to go out the same day. So they should have that on their doorstep the next day. And for example the ones that come in via like an event for example, we had six that signed up for our risk assessments today. We’ve already reached out to those people after lunch here 1:20 in Wisconsin here. They were reached out to between 12:30PM and 1:00 PM today; they just walked away from the sales team before I called into the show. And they had already reached out and we’re talking to those people and scheduling the risk assessments. So it kind of depends on how they come in but what’s important is that it’s structured and it’s systematic and is consistent.

Nate: You don’t want to let their interest to dry up or anything by waiting too long.

Chris: You can’t let that happen.

Nate: Definitely, yeah.

Chris: Because as far as they see it, you are going to be during the interview time is the best you are ever going to be. It’s just like when you look at an applicant coming in for a job interview; when they are coming in for that interview, they’re going to be on their best behavior. That’s the same thing we are trying to do. We are trying to layout that consistency that we are a top-notch organization from top to bottom.

Nate: Yeah definitely. But you also want to work to understand their needs as a prospect wouldn’t you say so Bill?

Bill: Yeah, absolutely Nate. That’s the number one premise in selling it’s not technology, it’s not what you can do or how expert you are on a certain subject; its “How do I solve your problem?” So needs definitely, definitely the key.

Nate: Yeah, and what are some, you don’t want to be too pushy when it comes to sales and you don’t want to drive them away by constantly talking about your solution. So what are some things you try to do bill to not be too persistent that it pushes them away but to kind of tow that line and make sure you are being consistent and following up in an appropriate way with them?

Bill: Well Chris touched on it again as well there is a method to my madness in the sense that I’m going to try to reach out five times to lead through a combination of calls and digital flattery etc. and once contact is made, I set the expectation that I know your time is valuable but so is mine. Then we will have a brief discussion on what we do and how we potentially help and set up a deeper conversation typically within three days. What I don’t want to do right then and there is go for the close. Because that’s going to drive them away in some way; it’s like they are talking to a sales rep and I don’t want that image portrayed. We are two professionals having a conversation and a good sales call doesn’t focus on the products or services but instead the problems those products or services can solve and how both from an operational sense and from a financial sense is going to benefit the prospect and that’s where MSP’s fail. They focus their conversations around technology and price and they are two aggressive because they want that business so bad that they actually push them away when all you really want to do is have an intelligent, meaningful conversation.

Nate: Yeah, yeah definitely.

Chris: I just want to interject. One other thing allow price to be the lowest common denominator and the second you start negotiating on price, you might as well just let that lead go because you have eliminated all of your value and especially as an MSP you want to be able to have them seeing all of the stuff that we do and to the point where they are almost salivating and just wanting to see how much it costs and then if you present it properly, they are going to be looking at you like, “Oh, that’s expensive but I can see where it’s fair.” Versus, “I want it to be so damn cheap that the only thing I care about is price” and once you do that, it is a commodity.

Exactly! You want them to ask you, “What is the next step here?” That’s really we’re you want that to go.

Nate: That is a great point Chris. We actually spoke about this a few episodes ago on pricing but when it comes to figuring out your pricing, you want to look internally and figure out your cost structure and if you’re competing on price with other providers out there or focused too much on dropping a price, then you are really devaluing your services and you don’t really know what’s going into the other competitors pricing models and what sorts of value or services they are adding to their prices. So focus on yourself internally, figure out what you can offer and really value the services and don’t devalue them by negotiating on price.

Chris: Year. And it’s important that you are differentiating yourself from your competition also and price rarely comes up in our discussions, especially if we get them to… If we actually do our presentations here at our office, we invite the client in, cater in lunch, really roll out the red carpet and show them all the things that we are going to do and price is rarely a yes or a no. That’s rarely the decision-maker. The decision-maker is usually, usually is “It’s not in our budget” kind of thing but that to me is different than, “Hey, Joe over there across the street is $12 cheaper a month.” We almost never run into that because we are actually, in my opinion we are one of the highest priced in Milwaukee.

Nate: One last question here for you guys. So I spend a little time in sales and I think anyone who has spent some time in sales knows there always those leads that are in the bottom of the funnel and are caught in that final stage. They seem interested, you’ve said everything right to them but they just won’t sign the contract. So what are some strategies that you guys use to really push them over the edge and get them to actually putting down their signature on a piece of paper and become a customer for you?

Bill: I think you need to focus on the quote unquote, the paperwork at that point. When they get to the point where there is a stall, you’ve got to refocus them and reprioritize why they talk to you initially and bring back that pain or that need right off the bat. You’re not going to want to get into a negotiation on price at that point. You’ve already proven your value and either time has gone past or some outside variable is impacting their decision but the reality is that the need is still going to be there and you are still going to need to solve it. So you’ve got to never focus on getting that piece of paper in and focus on reprioritizing them, re-lighting that fire of need and that, as you put it earlier Chris, that salivation so that they want to do business with you. You can’t focus on the paperwork.

Chris: And sometimes also they genuinely have a delay issue. If they get all the way to the final stage and we actually, I have a great example; we have one closed this week, is a $3000 a month MSP deal for a company that was going through some internal turmoil; we did all of our stuff wrong but this is actually a lead that came in and that was first presented to over seven months ago and we kept reaching out, touching base on a consistent basis, not been pressuring but reached out and a consistent basis and let them know that we are thinking about them and if you build that good rapport and that a good discussion on the sales side with them, he reached backed out when he was ready and then the sales process and that last piece; within a week and a half, that went from, “Okay, hey guys I think I want to pull the trigger” to “He signed on Tuesday this week.”

Nate: Yeah, definitely. Is different for each meal, it’s never the same formula, one-size-fits-all but it’s important to feel out your prospects, understand their needs and work to help them solve the business problems, don’t just implement a technology kind of thing.

So I think we’re kind of just wrapping up here. Bill and Chris thank you so much for joining me here on MSP radio. I thought it was a great episode. You guys provided some great advice for MSP’s to really turn leads into business for their companies.

So don’t forget to Tweet us@ follow Continuum or use the hashtag MSP radio. Again we’d love to hear what you guys have to say about the episode and don’t forget to come see Chris speak at Navigate. He will be talking a little bit further about our discussion today and giving some more examples of how MSP’s have really become successful and grown their business using these modern lead generation techniques and qualifying their leads. So thank you all for tuning in and I will see you next time on MSP radio.

Thank you gentlemen.

 

Nate Teplow is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Continuum, currently managing the company's RMM marketing initiatives. Nate's experience spans inbound marketing, content strategy, marketing communications and B2B lead generation. A proud Miami Hurricane alumni, Nate enjoys staying active, traveling to new places and performing A/B tests.

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