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As managed service providers, one of the difficult tasks you face is weeding through prospective clients to determine which ones qualify and which ones do not. Each MSP may vary their criteria for what makes a new prospect “qualified,” but all MSPs should be closely scrutinizing potential clients on a few factors, including revenue potential, financial stability, and a clear articulation of pain points.
One problem many managed service providers make is including size as one of their qualifying criteria. They are unwilling to work with small two- or three-person operations. Size is a limitation MSPs should not accept when qualifying prospects, as it can cause them to lose out on valuable business in the long run.
MSPs should be qualifying prospects based on their revenue potential, asking yourself, “How big can this prospect become?”
One of my MSPs most valuable clients started with three guys sitting around a coffee table. If I had used size as a determining factor, they would have been disqualified immediately as a client. My Calgary IT Services company considered a number of other important factors, however, and decided this operation had substantial revenue potential. Our decision paid off, as the business grew to over 375 employees in multiple locations, and I was getting more than $20,000 in managed services revenue each month.
Bottom line? “You do not want to disqualify people based on size, qualify on revenue potential.”
Managed service providers have to continue qualifying leads and onboarding businesses to generate profit and ensure growth. This requires having a marketing process in place. When looking for new clients, “other businesses that are similar to your current customers are likely to be your warmest leads,” according to Pete Langas, Director of Sales and Business Development for Nerdio.
The process of an MSP qualifying prospects may vary across organizations. Each MSP is going to develop a profile for ideal customers after doing market research, analyzing their capabilities in terms of providing services, and, of course, trial and error. MSPs can gather leads by advertising in trade journals, posting on B2B social sites like LinkedIn, perusing business directors, and combing through the community for local businesses that seem like the right fit, according to Langas.
Part of the qualifying process is learning what those organizations’ current pain points are in their competitive business environment, and if you have IT solutions that are cheaper and/or more efficient than what they’re currently using. This can begin by you offering them an invitation to a webinar or seminar; offering a free IT audit or scheduling a meeting to discuss your offer.
“You can probably connect with more business customers in the long run if you offer to help them without trying to sell them something right away,” Langas says. “Once you’ve developed a relationship and learned more about the company, you can work to provide offers that they can’t refuse.”
While various service providers may have an ideal customer profile, you do not want to be overly limiting, especially by ignoring small operations that have a potential for growth.
So, as an MSP qualifying prospects, what are the questions you need to be asking to make sure you are pursuing qualified leads and not wasting time and money chasing the wrong ones?
One of the first questions to ask is whether they can afford your services. It can be slightly uncomfortable to discuss budget up-front, as money is a sensitive issue. If you do not bring up the topic, though, and you are dealing with a prospective client who simply can’t afford your rates, that does neither of you any favors. You can approach the issue in a non-threatening way by asking for their budget range or sharing what clients have spent for similar services in the past and if that aligns with their current spending.
Another question to answer immediately is if you are pitching to the decision-maker of a company. You do not want to go through the process of presenting and preparing to close a deal only to find out you have not been dealing with the person who has the power to ultimately make that decision. During your prospecting stage, make sure you obtain direct exposure with the decision-makers of a company. That doesn’t mean you can disregard or dismiss other points of contact. Rather, make sure you ask what factors will be involved in the decision process and ask them to participate so you can get all their questions fully answered.
Finally, you need to figure out if the organization has an actual need for your managed services. If a prospective client already has a working system or is content with their current IT solutions, you don’t want to put unnecessary time and effort pressuring a business relationship that is unlikely to yield positive results. To help you gauge the situation and the prospect’s needs, you can ask what sort of timeframe you can expect for them to make a decision. If they seem in no hurry to make a decision, you can assume your services do not equate to a pressing need or that the company is not particularly serious about hiring you.
In the end, the answers to these questions will give you a better, more comprehensive picture about a prospective client and whether they are worth your pursuit than oversimplified factors, such as their size or number of employees.
For many MSPs, a website will be the first introduction for prospective clients. You want to make sure your online presence is up to par so it is generating new business, creating strong social networks, and helping your business show up in web searches. Grade your MSP website with a complimentary review from Ulistic and identify areas for improvement.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.