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Being an MSP comes with its own challenges. In the early days, the main way to market was to set up a website with enough search engine optimisation terms in it that anyone looking for what you offer would find you on Google. This was good enough when the market was sparse and most MSPs focused on one service.

Now, things are different. The MSP market has grown – some may say to a point where it is saturated.  Many MSPs offer a range of services to their customers. Being able to sell to the right market is critical – but just how can you do it?

There are three main ways of selling MSP services – and each has its pros and cons.

  1. Web selling. This is just trying to maintain the old way of capturing search terms and capturing passing trade. It can be an incredibly cheap way of selling services. To begin with, no sales force as such is required. Instead, customers can either sign up directly on the website; get in touch with personnel at the MSP via email; or chat to discuss the deal and (hopefully) close it. However, such an approach means that the search terms prospects may be using must be well understood and addressed via the website. This requires a lot of skill and may require outside help in creating the right SEO terms on the site and in the right places.

Such selling is best for simple MSPS with one service that can be heavily focused on throughout the website.

  1. Email selling. I’ve disregarded paper-mail selling, as this is now pretty much dead. However, email selling is also not that effective. By some estimates, the overall open rate on emails is about one in five. The overall response rate on business emails is around three to five percent.  However, it is felt that with adequate effort, this can be boosted to above 10 percent.

What is adequate effort?  It starts with knowing your market and researching who you need to sell to. Then, you need to source the right email lists from reputable sources. Next, you must create a well-crafted email that covers the main points in such a manner that it captures the reader’s attention. Within this can be links to more wordy descriptions and clarification on your website – but do not over explain it in the email itself. Most importantly, the subject of the email must be interesting and address what you are trying to solve in few words.

Also, the email must adhere to all the areas, legal and otherwise, that a customer expects.  Check spelling and grammar. Ensure that all opt-out requirements are met and list full contact details for your business, including your address and phone number. Prospects can be put off by simple things – and these are some of the most noticeable items.

Then, when the campaign starts, ensure that you have enough staff to respond.  It may be that the campaign must be carried out in waves to ensure that prospects do not have to wait for a suitable response. If responses come in via free-text emails, make sure that they are read properly and that the issues raised by the prospect are responded to appropriately.  This is no place for templated responses.

Next, ensure that the campaign is monitored and measured. It is

Email can still be a relatively cheap means of selling, if all the processes are followed carefully. It still doesn’t require a lot of people to manage it – but does need a far more focused approach than web selling.

This approach is more suitable for MSPS that have a range of distinct service offerings, where there is little complexity in the sale and prospects are unlikely to have a need for a high-touch sale.

  1. Direct sales. Here, we go back to the way that brick and mortar companies have typically operated. A sales force is employed to identify and chase down customers through outbound telephone calls and face-to-face meetings. This requires an intelligent workforce that is willing to listen carefully to prospects and present them with one or more possible solutions that the MSP can offer.

Obviously, such an approach is not cheap. A sales team is costly to employ and to keep.  Incentives are needed to keep them in your organisation. Targets must be achievable without them leading to income from sales being less than payments to the sales force.

Conversion rates need to be carefully monitored as most direct sales forces will be targeting a relatively small group of prospects. Each one of these targets lost through a non-sale will be very difficult to bring back. Salespeople who have abnormally low conversion rates need to be let go quickly to avoid whole swathes of prospects being lost.

This approach is best suited to high-value, complex MSP sales where what is being sold is more of a solution than a straight-forward service. Expectations must be established that the contract value will be high – leading to this being most suitable for large enterprises or high-end mid-sized businesses in high-value markets, such as pharmaceuticals, high-tech, aerospace or automobile manufacturing.

Of course, these approaches are not mutually exclusive. All MSPs require a website, it would be a mistake not to allow for off-the-page buying to capture passing trade where possible, and emails are a decent way of raising the MSP’s profile – if targeted correctly.

However, as an MSP, you should be looking at where the focus is placed – and how each approach applies to your business model.

Photo: Billion Photos / 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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