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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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Who Filled Out My Form? Prospect Research 101

Posted March 9, 2016by Frank Bauer

Who Filled Out My Form? Prospect Research 101

“I GOT AN INBOUND LEAD! I'm going to call them now!”

Whoa Nelly! Hold your horses for one moment. All of us in business get excited when that hot inbound lead comes in, but let’s take a step back and prepare before engaging. Much like I stress in our previous MSP Sales Success blog post, Understanding Your Managed IT Services Competitive Landscape, you’ll want to fully understand the end client before reaching out. That due diligence starts on the Internet.


Review Your Prospect's Website

8 Sample Questions to Ask While Researching

First, hop on over to the company's website to understand its business.

  1. What vertical (if any) is the business in? 
  2. Does that vertical have compliance regulations you will need to help them adhere to?
  3. Are you truly an expert on those compliance regulations?
  4. Do you have any references in a similar vertical that you can leverage?
  5. Do you have any related case studies you can email?  
  6. Does the prospect have multiple regions or offices under a Contact Us page, and can you cover all those regions should there be a need to roll trucks?
  7. If not, which of your peers can you reach out to to assist?
  8. Are any company officers or executives listed on the website?

Let's review some of these considerations. If a prospect operates in the healthcare vertical, for instance, you better be well-versed in HIPAA compliance if you plan on pursuing their business. Not only that, but you can lead with your HIPAA expertise and provide testimonials from other medical provider clients to strengthen your sales pitch. The stakes are high for companies that are legally required to be HIPAA compliant. If you can ensure the encryption and protection of their electronic medical records (EMRs), that's an advantage you may have over the competition that you should have already scouted out. Looking for more assistance? Check out these 5 Ways Your Healthcare Clients Can Avoid a Data Breach!

Hopefully you’re learning how to build a rough, preliminary profile of the organization, and some of your potential actions or rebuttals, before engaging. 

 

Research the Company on LinkedIn

Once you’ve reviewed your prospect's website, turn your attention to LinkedIn. You may recall I recommended using this social networking channel in our previous post as it's a powerful tool for anyone in sales. Start by looking up the individual who contacted you.


4 Sample Questions to Ask about the Lead

  1. Is the lead's title accurate?
  2. Does the lead appear to be an Officer or Decision Maker within the organization?
  3. Do you have any mutual connections?
  4. Should you have mutual connections, are any of them competitors of yours?

Working through these inquiries will help you know who in the company you're appealing to, and what that company's current IT strategy may be. For example, if you discover that the lead is connected with a representative from a competitive company, you can tailor your messaging strategy to areas in managed IT services in which you win. And remember to approach them with your strengths, rather than their current provider's weaknesses (though the two may coincide).


How to Analyze the LinkedIn Company Page for Prospect Viability

You’ll want to drill into the company's profile on LinkedIn too. If you can't find the page in a simple search, click on the company associated with the lead's current title to direct you to the right page. Once there, determine how many employees are listed. This will help you understand the potential monthly recurring revenue (MRR) range of the opportunity. Click on the number of employees on LinkedIn, and you’ll find most of those employees.

But what about a prospect's IT budget?

If... 

  • the lead is connected with one of your competitors
  • you know roughly how many employees the lead's company has
  • you have updated your competitive landscape

...you may be able to extrapolate what this prospect's spend may be. It won’t be 100 percent accurate, and you'll obviously need to verify once engaged with the client, but having this ballpark figure gives you an advantage going into the sales pitch.

Occasionally, you can get some rough financial information through Manta.com as well, which will corroborate employee ranges and also provide estimated annual revenue ranges.


How to Use LinkedIn to Begin Building a Relationship

Is the prospect connected to any of your existing clients or friends? Use these mutual connections to break the ice, being sure to naturally bring it up in an honest and friendly manner.

Here's an example of how you can take this approach over a sales follow-up call:

"Mr. Rooney, before I called you, I was doing a little due diligence on your organization and saw you were connected with six of my Lombardi family friends. They’re great folks, how do you know them?"

That prospect may have been referred to you by said clients or friends, which should also get you thinking about how to leverage your relationship further. Could they be asked to provide more referrals? Would they make a compelling case study?

Then focus again on the company page's list of employees. Who else may be a stakeholder in the decision making process? Perhaps a chief financial officer (CFO)? Conversely, is there an Internal IT Staff member who may be an advisory? You'll want to factor in their interests and concerns throughout the MSP sales process.


Wrapping Up the Prospect Research Process

While this blog post may portray the prospect research process as quite an undertaking, you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Often, you'll obtain the intel you need after only a couple of clicks! 

So what did you just do?

You should have built a robust, preliminary company profile, compiling the following information:

  • Company
  • Vertical
  • Number of sites/Number of users
  • Contact(s), Decision Maker(s), Stakeholders and/or Adversaries 
  • Mutual Connections to:
    • Determine potential competitors
    • Identify Friends/Existing clients to break the ice


In addition to this objective information, you should have also generated some thoughts about how you’ll potentially position yourself and what materials you may leverage to ensure success.

Look out for our next piece in the MSP Sales Success series, hitting the blog next month!

Download Webinar: How This Once-Struggling MSP Added Over $1 Million In Sales In Under A Year While Increasing Profitability

Frank Bauer is Sr Channel Development Manager for Continuum. Frank can talk, a lot, trust us, but doesn’t feel comfortable talking about himself, so we’ll do it for him. Frank has been serving the IT Channel since 1998 starting as a marketing assistant with a regional white box manufacturer. His career has spanned many positions in sales management with organizations such as Tandberg Data, Zenith Infotech and Artisan Infrastructure. Frank is also a proud, honorably discharged, veteran of the United States Navy, serving 2 years in Yokosuka, Japan and Everett, Washington. When we can get Frank out of the office, he enjoys tasting craft beers, spending time with his father and Pittsburgh sports.

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