Q: I just met this small business prospect at a local networking event, and we had a great first conversation. It felt like we had a real connection, but I can’t tell if they feel the same way. I’ve tried reaching out since that initial meeting but haven’t heard anything back. How can I find out if they’re busy or if they’re just not that into my managed service offering?
We get this question a lot (especially around Valentine’s Day—maybe it’s something in the air), so you’re not alone. Many MSPs find themselves searching for a straight answer from their small business prospects—are you into my IT services offering or not? It can be tricky trying to decipher the mixed signals and get a definitive yes or no from the customer.
Each prospect is different, struggling with different challenges and pain points. So, even if this one rejects your offer (this time), know that there are other small businesses out there searching for an MSP just like you to come along and support their IT needs.
In this case, there could be a few reasons why they’re not getting back to you. To help you avoid the pain of rejection, we decided to break down those reasons and then suggest ways to deal with each one.
- They’re stubborn
Like most people, there’s a good chance that the customer is resistant to change. They either have another IT service provider supporting their IT already, or they think they’re able to manage it themselves. The trick with these types of prospects is to get them on the phone so you can ask open-ended questions and uncover their pain points and IT vulnerabilities. Then, make sure they understand what you’re offering them and be clear about how your IT services can benefit their business. You’ll be able to deliver a more compelling case for your services if you can explain how it will help them protect their business. Unfortunately, getting through to a stubborn prospect can be challenging and cause you to leave multiple voicemails or messages with their receptionist.
How to break the ice: When you’re getting shut down by the person answering the phone, act like a party crasher. Seriously. Cold-calling expert and founder of Managed Sales Pros Carrie Simpson puts it this way: “If you look like you belong somewhere, nobody asks you any questions.” Be confident when asking for your contact at the business. Sound as if the person on the other line should already know who you are and why you’re calling.
- They’re annoyed
Another possibility is that the prospect is annoyed with you. This could be the case if you’ve been especially persistent since the first meeting, emailing and calling as often as every day. At this point, you’ve probably begun to feel frustrated, and that feeling can sometimes be expressed in your tone over the phone. While it’s good to be persistent, perhaps you need to employ a new tactic to get them to pay attention.
How to break the ice: Pick up the phone again, but this time think about how you sound and do your best to avoid sounding demanding. How do you go about doing that when you’re determined to get in touch with the prospect? Another piece of advice Carrie offers is to try asking for help instead. People like to help; all you need to do is ask. For example, if you find yourself on the phone with their gatekeeper, Carrie suggests trying something like, “Hi! I really hope you can help me. I’ve been trying to get in touch with John for a few weeks now. Can you suggest the best time to call him or help me schedule a few minutes with him?” This method can be especially helpful in getting time scheduled with the prospect to set up a second conversation.
- They’re playing hard to get
It’s also possible that you’re experiencing a classic case of a customer playing hard to get. They’re interested, but they want to see you work for their business. What you need to do in this situation is catch them off-guard. By reaching them at a time when they least expect it, you’ll be more likely to get a genuine response.
How to break the ice: One method Carrie suggests is calling before office hours in the early morning and using the company directory to reach their direct line. There’s a possibility they’re at their desk getting their day started and available to answer your call. Additionally, you can try calling their office in the evening. Everyone knows that this is the time when most of us are out of meetings and actually able to sit down and get work done. Chances are they’re also working late.
If that doesn’t work: You can take the bold next step of sending the prospect a gift, something as simple as a hand-written note or a Starbucks gift card. The next time you pick up the phone to call the prospect, they’ll be more likely to answer your call. At a minimum, they’ll just answer to say thank you for the gift. They might even reach out to say thank you, and you can use that opportunity to start a conversation about their IT needs.
So if we had to guess, your prospect is likely stubborn, annoyed, or distracted. But that’s no reason to wallow in sorrow. Using Carrie’s tactics outlined above, you can break the ice and open the door to a long and prosperous business relationship.
It can be frustrating when you’re not getting anywhere with a prospect, but if you stay persistent and try asking for help, calling early or late in the day, and even sending a gift—you’ll be more likely to get their attention and get the answer you’re looking for. Prospecting isn’t easy, but it can be extremely effective in the long run, so hang in there!
Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 liscence.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.