MSP fearsFears are odd things. I met a guy once who makes a living wiggling into tiny, dark crawl spaces under houses where mold, feces, poisonous spiders, snakes, rats, and other unsavory things abound, and he was impressed by my fearlessness in speaking in front of thousands of people. Said he could NEVER do that, yet he routinely squeezed into places that would give me a claustrophobic heart attack. No matter what others fears you have, though, there are six things that should truly scare you as an MSP.

1. Not knowing what your employees are saying to clients and prospects

Like the thrill of haunted houses and scary movies? Then allow me to suggest a totally free activity that will leave you unable to sleep at night: eavesdrop on what your employees are saying to clients and prospects. A chill will run up your spine, guaranteed.

Consider this recent interaction I had at the checkout at the airport when buying a little snack for the plane. Salesperson (?) says, “You know, this is $8,” with an incredulous look on her face and emphasis on the EIGHT DOLLARS. I reply, “Yes, I know.” (I actually didn’t but didn’t care anyway). She persisted, “Are you sure you want to get it?” At that I replied, “No,” and walked out to buy it somewhere else.

Oh, but that doesn’t happen in YOUR company, right? Another friend of mine with a dental practice was told by a patient that she heard the receptionist telling a potential new patient that the doc was MUCH more expensive than other dentists in the area because he had three kids in private school.

I have personally required clients to let me listen to inbound call recordings and was utterly floored by what was said and how the call was handled. On MULTIPLE occasions, I’ve heard techs tell prospective clients calling in and inquiring about whether or not they could assist with an IT project, “We can’t help you — we ONLY do managed services,” and then proceed to give the phone number and website of a competitor.

For starters, you need a playbook, process, rules, and scripting for how the phone is answered, how a client is taken care of, how an upset customer is talked to, how an appointment is booked, how an appointment is confirmed, etc. But MORE important than that is checking for COMPLIANCE with those rules and scripts. Everyone likes to do the rah-rah team-motivation stuff, but hardly anyone will do the auditing and enforcement piece.

2 . Lack of a COMPELLING reason for a prospect to meet with you

The other day I had a client who is desperately trying to break into a new market they said they have extensive experience and background in. I get on the phone to help assist in crafting their website copy and an offer to get them in that they could use throughout their marketing. When I asked them to give me a SINGLE (not multiple) reason for their defined prospect to meet with them, they come up empty.

I tried a different angle: What are the top three biggest problems you can solve for them? Nothing … just vagueness: “We make their systems stay up and running.” Geez. How about ONE problem you can solve? Nothing. OK, so tell me what you know about your competition and where they are failing? Who are these clients already buying from? No clue. Frustrated, I told them I could not help them and refunded their money. I can’t work with someone who is that clueless not only about their chosen target market, but also what they bring to the table — and then is expecting ME to somehow give them a magic pill to get customers to flood their doors waving checks.

Look, this is Business 101: Money goes to perceived value initially (marketing) and then REAL value after they buy. If your prospect cannot instantly see how working with you will greatly benefit them, you need to go back and work harder on your value proposition. Further, a USP (unique selling point) has to be in your DNA, not some tagline or sales letter I write. And YOU need to know your customers, market, and competition THOROUGHLY. That is not my job, and it’s shameful for anyone calling themselves an entrepreneur to be and stay ignorant.

Bottom line: If you are EASY to ignore, that should scare the crap out of you. It’s a recipe for frustration, low margins, slow to nonexistent growth, slow sales, and price resistance. Yes, I’m a great marketer, but that doesn’t mean I can wave my magic wand and pull a USP out of my butt for anyone who shows up on the doorstep.

3. Failure to build, maintain, and farm a list of qualified, interested prospects

Not having a good list of prospects leaves you living in the land of the walking dead, with MASSIVE uncertainty about this month’s, this quarter’s, or this year’s sales. You’re totally and completely flat-footed should you lose a major account or encounter some other sales disruption in your company, and you’re ALWAYS starting over.

It’s much easier to maintain a relationship than to initiate one, yet I know of many MSPs who’ve been in business for 10, 20, even 30-plus years and don’t have a list! Further, your list is the single biggest asset in your company — including clients and prospects — and for most it’s overrun with errors, missing and incorrect information, and ZERO systems in place to nurture the relationship.

4. Lack of accountability for anyone or anything important

Roughly half of the salespeople I interview tell me they weren’t given a quota. No quota! How can this be? It’s because someone dumber than a box of rocks hired them. Even more common is no accountability or coaching; their managers didn’t monitor them in any way … just the two-part training of “Good luck and hang in there.” But it’s not just sales — ANY position in your company ought to have some accountability for hitting some metric, quota, number, percentage, or goal, INCLUDING YOU.

5. Lack of a numbers-driven marketing plan

I’m NOT talking about a marketing schedule of promotions, tweets, posts, and newsletters. I’m talking about a specific GOAL for new clients, sales, profits, or all of the above worked down to the specific number of prospects you need to target to hit said goal. Money is not just sloshing about in the streets for anyone walking about to pick up. DISORGANIZED, random acts for client acquisition and revenue generation should scare you. It IS a weakness that needs to be addressed.

6. Not knowing if you made money or not UNTIL your accountant finishes your tax return

The other day a client asked, “What is gross profit?” I almost choked. Do I even need to teach this? Kevin O’Leary said: “One hundred percent of the successful businesses that come on Shark Tank know their business and their numbers cold. They know where break-even is. They know their competition and their market size. They know their customer acquisition costs and lifetime value of a client. Those who don’t get funded are easily stumped by those numbers.”

Photo: UVgreen/Shutterstock.com

Robin Robins

Posted by Robin Robins

Robin Robins is the CEO and Founder of TechnologyMarketingToolkit.com, the largest sales and marketing consulting firm in the IT channel, specializing in sales-generating marketing campaigns for MSPs, VARs, and solution providers. To date, over 7,000 IT services firms have enrolled in one or more of her programs. Click here for more information and to request a free one-on-one marketing consultation and marketing roadmap for your IT services firm.

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