The prospecting strategies that worked for managed services providers in the past may not be as effective now. Simply sending emails or making cold calls may not be filling your sales pipeline, especially when prospects’ email inboxes are flooded with hundreds of messages each day and many send their calls directly to voicemail to help screen them.
Continuing to do what doesn’t work isn’t a viable strategy for your business. Prospecting is the key to sustaining and growing your business, so you need to find new strategies that will ensure your message gets through and more prospects agree to first sales meetings.
Although each company’s approach to prospecting must be tailored to the type of services they offer, their sales team, and their target market, there are basically “four Cs” to filling an MSP sales pipeline:
1. Commitment: Prospecting needs to be a part of your sales team’s weekly, if not daily, routine. It’s unwise to wait until there’s a lull to go out and find new business. A wax and wane in work doesn’t make the best use of your resources, and, more importantly, it creates uneven revenue flow. Whether you are your own “sales team” or you employ sales representatives, prospecting for new clients must be a priority.
2. Channels: Use every channel available to you. If sending emails or cold calling isn’t getting the job done, consider following up with prospects on LinkedIn or other social networks. Check tradeshow lists to see if the prospect is attending and introduce yourself in person, or consider whether you could arrange for an introduction from another client or a partner.
In his book High Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter points out that using different methods of contacting a prospect works better than using individual channels alone. Meet your objectives by using any combination of channels necessary.
3. Charting: As with any objective, you need to plan a way to meet it, and getting a prospect to agree to a sales meeting is no exception. You need to tailor the approach you take to the prospect’s business and their specific needs, so doing some research in advance makes sense. The approach you take with a prospect that has in-house IT, for example, would probably vary from how you would approach a company with no in-house IT resources. It’s also important to remember that you will meet prospects at different stages of the sales funnel. Be prepared to show you are ready to meet immediate needs as well as help a prospect plan for a future project.
Make sure your strategy includes a defined next step with your prospect. Sales consultant Gil Cargill says that lack of follow up is the top reason all other efforts fail. He says research shows between 43 percent and 65 percent of prospects that initially turn you down will buy later when nurtured over a period of several months. An initial “no” means you should put them on your calendar to contact again later.
4. Conquering Obstacles. The process of prospecting always involves overcoming obstacles — like never being able to get past a receptionist or constantly getting a prospect’s voicemail. In High Profit Prospecting, Hunter suggests looking for creative ways to speak to your prospects, such as calling after 5 p.m. to catch them before they leave but after their receptionist is gone.
Another obstacle to overcome is talking yourself out of making the call. If you are concerned it’s a bad time to call, call anyway. Even busy times may allow enough time to schedule a call later. Attempt to reach the prospect today, knowing you may not get through, but maybe you will.
Prospecting isn’t easy, and it takes time and commitment. But, approaching it in a strategic way will pay off. Devise a plan to reach prospects with a message that addresses their needs and gets their attention, and be prepared to cross some hurdles before getting through and setting up a first meeting. Above all, be consistent in your prospecting efforts to keep your sales pipeline full and your business moving in the right direction.