How To Build An IT Services Sales And Marketing Machine

Robin Robins
How can IT service providers, VARs and managed services providers (MSPs) begin to build or accelerate their sales and marketing machines? Robin Robins offered these MSP marketing and sales tips during her Continuum Navigate 2015 keynote.

Among the anecdotes from Robins, which ChannelE2E has paraphrased:

. Opinions Don't Matter: What really matters in marketing is raw data -- and what the data tells you.

. Slow Churn: The typically small business customer makes an IT service provider change every four or five years -- typically around the time of a server refresh. (I wonder if that will change as small business servers fade to the cloud.)

. No Pipeline: 75 percent of IT service providers have less than 2 good sales meetings per month. And that means you lack good, healthy sales processes.

. Close Rate: The typical IT service provider has a 25 percent or less close rate on a good sales lead.

. Bad Decisions: Because of those really bad sales processes, you're willing to take business from bad, difficult customers.

. An Educated Customer Is the Best Prospect: That's assuming you deliver good, high quality services.

How to Build Your Marketing Strategy

First, figure out your target customer for the services you sell. Most businesses target based on geography but that's dangerously simple. Also, "any company with 10 to 100 computers" is not a target. The 10-person shop has vastly different needs than a 100-person shop. Or a bank vs. a medical entity also is vastly different. Broad "10 to 100" target statements can often involve thousands of business -- and you can't afford to touch all those businesses with marketing campaigns.

Second: Next, have a compelling, targeted marketing message and USP: You must be able to answer this question -- "Why should I choose you over all the other IT services firms and options available to me?" Yes, you need a unique selling proposition (USP). An example of a one-person shop's USP: "Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed." There's no promise of good pizza -- and that's a great lesson. Your USP must be (A) unique to you and it doesn't have to be a tagline or single sentence. (B) Have meaningful specifics. (C) Relevant to your target market and (D) has to be defensible BEFORE the customer buys.

  • What are you intentionally doing in your sales process to sell trust? If you use a sale to price, you didn't address customer questions and concerns about trust. By the way: Answer your phones live -- don't let it go to voicemail.
  • How to handle sales or price objections: Instead of getting into a price debate, proactively address price via marketing materials -- before you even get to the sales meeting -- so that they know you're not the cheapest, you're not a break-fix trunk slammer.

Third: Figure out your message delivery system and execute. Build marketing oil wells that predictably pump oil. It's not just about LinkedIn, Facebook, direct mail, etc. "I'm for all of it." But if you're only doing online, that's not enough. You need an overall strategy that also includes direct response/direct mail. Also, automatically send a prospect on a free report -- establishing you as an authority on IT outsourcing, FAQs, etc.

Characteristics of the Wealthiest, Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Check out the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The book covers 13 characteristics from the 1920s or so. Hill noted the best entrepreneurs have:

  • A burning desire to succeed. Excuses ("I don't have the time; I don't have the money") hold you back.
  • Specialized knowledge.
  • Decisive personalities.

An anecdote she shared: Wealthy people typically invest time and money in things that go up in value -- like your own education. Broke people often invest time and money in things that go down in value -- like consumer goods and electronics.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.