Whose Buy-in Counts When Selling Managed Services?

Within each managed IT services sale, there are usually multiple people, or stakeholders, involved who provide varying levels of input on choosing your product or solution. Every MSP must be able to identify who these stakeholders are within any given company you're prospecting. And not only that, you must also know how to position yourself accordingly with each. A 100 percent uniform strategy will yield zero success in selling managed IT services.

Welcome back to our MSP Sales Success blog series, a collection of posts that dive deep into the sales journey. Last time around, we looked at the do's and don'ts of an MSP sales discovery call. In this next post, we cover the three types of people whose trust you have to earn and how to do it!

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper is just that - someone who won't let anyone or anything get to the decision maker without their say in the matter. You’ll encounter the Gatekeeper in at least two instances:

  1. When you’re working towards a net new sale
  2. When the organization you’ve been trying to sell has waning interest

When you’re working towards a net new sale, whether that’s upselling clients on IT products and services or acquiring brand new accounts, the Gatekeeper can either be your best friend or your biggest obstacle. A good strategy when encountering these people is to incorporate them into your MSP sales process, turning them from adversary into ally. Instead of seeking out the Decision Maker (more on this stakeholder later) directly, involve the Gatekeeper by asking questions like:

  • How has your experience been with your IT service provider thus far?
  • Do you need any assistance with your internal IT operations?
  • Is there anything about IT that you would like to run better?

And if clients give you the impression they're not interested in using any more of your services:

  • What has led you to come to this conclusion?
  • Is there anything that we could have done better as your IT solutions provider?
  • If we had done this for you, would you then be interested in this new sale?

By dedicating part of your sales conversation to the Gatekeeper, you've now empowered them. They'll appreciate you for valuing their feedback, rather than dismissing them in order to access the Decision Maker.

The Champion

The Champion is a person within an organization who recognizes the need for your managed IT products or services. Sometimes they’ve worked with you previously. Other times, they’re disenchanted with their current solution and are advocating for a change. This person can provide you a lot of the insider information you need to best position your offering. You can gather intel by speaking with the Champion and asking questions like:

  • Why are you looking for a new or different MSP?
  • What challenges are you having?
  • Who are the stakeholders in the sale?
  • How long have you been using the current product/service?
  • What is the budget today? In the future?

The Champion is your ally. Make sure they’re in full support of your IT solution. Arm them accordingly, preparing them with information to use internally. Supply the Champion with the product and services knowledge they'll need to assist in the sale, though without coming across as salesy. Then coach them on rebuttals and responses they'll likely receive from management. If, for instance, you're having a difficult time selling backup and disaster recovery (BDR), consider these responses to common objections. Ultimately, you’ll want to work past the Champion by asking when/how you can engage with the Decision Maker. To signal this transition, consider asking any of the following:

  • Can we work towards a call/meeting with the Decision Maker? (Note: refer to the person by their title or name, not "the Decision Maker")
  • When can I expect to hear back from them?
  • If I don’t hear back, when is a good time to reach out again?

The Decision Maker

The Decision Maker can be the trickiest stakeholder to identify. Often times we believe it to be the President, Owner or CEO of the organization, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it could be the CFO, for example. Sure, the person who ultimately signs the checks will need to experience the value, but organizations have departments and budgets. The chief executive is not always the one making the decision. Once you swim upstream a little into the medium-sized business space, it could be the IT Director, or equivalent, setting the IT budget. The easiest way to find out is simply to ask "Who’s responsible for making the decision on this product or service?" If you find yourself in a position where you've failed to connect with the Decision Maker, use the ever popular name drop and leverage your other contacts in conversation. Explain how you’ve talked with the Gatekeeper and/or the Champion of the organization, but that you wanted to speak to them directly about the impact of your managed IT services offering and how working with an MSP could increase business efficiency and profitability. 

Regardless of who decides whether to buy your IT solution or not, you’ll always want to keep the chief executives close and updated. While they may not always be the ones who decide whether or not to move forward with your product or service, they do have the authority within the organization to terminate the relationship with your organization faster than anyone else within the company.

As you know, success in IT is all about building and strengthening relationships. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the MSP sales process when various stakeholders have to determine whether you're someone they can trust. Knowing what to say and how to interact with each respective role in an organization can make or break any sale. Continue to honor the process and get the verbal contract to proceed without taking any short cuts. In the end, you'll walk away with tangible next steps to progress your sales cycle and grow revenue.


Frank Bauer is senior channel development manager at Continuum. Read more Continuum blogs here.