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As we all know, customers come in all shapes and sizes. They have differing points of view on what they want and what you, as the MSP, can provide.

This, unfortunately, creates a major issue. Your sales force is not selling ‘items’ – they are selling concepts that need to resonate with the prospect in order for them to decide to put their signature at the bottom of the contract. Having the best technical support; the best proven up-times; or, the best of anything does not work in your favor unless you can get the prospect through that hurdle to becoming a customer.

For those with a low-touch, passive selling website model, this can be a major issue, as the different approaches required just cannot all be easily covered through a website. However, for those with an actual sales force, then a bit more thought and care can make a huge difference.

For the sales force, it comes down to building trust and being seen as fully understanding what the prospect is trying to do. This means that you need ‘cultural chameleons’: people who are very quick to pick up on a prospect’s own culture and who can then adapt their messaging to fit in with it.

For example, Prospect A is an entrepreneurial start-up and technically competent company. The culture is likely to be fast-moving with quite a few geeks employed and involved in the decision making process. The salesperson responsible should be playing the ‘born-in-the-cloud’ message – bringing out the goodness of performance, availability and support.

Talking around expected growth levels, possible exit plans, and so on will make the salesperson appear to be of the same page as the brains behind the company. A bit of knowledge around the actual market the prospect is in can also help – and shouldn’t require much desk research to come up with some discussion points around a few other names in the prospect’s market and where technical and financial analysts see the future going.

Prospect B, in contrast, is a bricks-and-mortar company that has been around for a while, with reasonable growth rates in, say, selling white goods. However, they need to make cost savings a priority in order to continue to compete against online companies.

Your salesperson needs to be talking around how a move to your services will lead to cost savings and provide flexibility for whatever the future may bring. They should also outline how the services will provide for support for staff regardless of where they choose to work, and so on. There will be little need for any technical discussions, which may, indeed, turn off prospect as they struggle to understand.

Each prospect has its own issues that they are trying to solve, and their first contact with you means that they are looking for someone who can help them deal with those specific issues. Therefore, salespeople who are one-mode only, coin-operated ‘take it or leave it’ are unlikely to be good for your long-term outlook. Indeed, in many cases, a less pressured sales model with the sales force on more of a basic pay package with less of a sales incentive payments can mean that the actual prospect-to-customer success rate increases significantly – even if the prospect meeting volume tails off.

The right tools can improve customer experience

Now, you have managed to move the prospect to customer. Congratulations! The problem continues, though – the same culture that the salesperson had to deal with is still there and each of your staff still needs to maintain that cultural alignment with the customer as much as they can. This requires suitable customer contact software that allows your staff to quickly see the type of customer they are dealing with.

In the first instance, simple flags showing how technically literate the customer is known to be can help in support calls, where a highly technical customer can be rapidly moved through to second or third level support. Those at the lower end of the scale can be walked through issues in more simple terms by first-line staff where many issues may well be dealt with directly, or the severity of the actual issue can be assessed and a meaningful version of the problem can be created as a trouble ticket for second or third level support staff.  More complete information can also be provided for those dealing with the customer to read and understand either before, or while on a call, so that they can better meet the customer’s needs.

The culture within your own organisation must then require all staff to read these flags and act upon them. You must also provide training as to why this is so important to the business. Those who deem that having to change their way of communicating while dealing with different customers is too hard, or beneath them, should be taken to one side and have it spelled out to them just what it is all about – and what it could to mean to their own prospects if they do not agree.

By aligning cultures and outlook more closely, the level of trust between the MSP and its customer (as discussed here) can be enhanced to better ensure that services renewals happen, and to enable the cross- and up-selling of new services to a customer who now believes that you are truly there to help them.

Photo: chaowalit jaiyen / Shutterstock

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Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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