Now I know what you might be thinking, you just read that “cold calling doesn’t work for managed services providers (MSPs)”, but you have personally seen it produce results for your managed services business, or for your clients. Yes, I have too, but I have also seen someone walk into a casino and hit the jackpot on a slot machine. Both playing a slot machine and cold calling on its own can produce revenue, but not with consistency, predictability and efficiency.

SALT Marketing has worked with over 250 clients (including 70 MSPs), ranging from small sole proprietorships to large Fortune 500 businesses. Working across so many verticals has allowed us to experiment with a variety of lead generation techniques, including cold calling. We’ve learned that MSPs are different.

The importance of PIN

Existing pain, interest, or need (or as I call it, PIN) and establishing trust are the two main factors that prevent cold calling from achieving a significant and sustainable level of success for a MSP. Even with the most skilled salesperson or telemarketing service, there must be existing PIN to drive the conversation somewhere meaningful, and there must be trust in order to move forward in the sales cycle.

I recently spoke to an MSP owner, Daniel, who was considering lead generation services from SALT Marketing. Daniel told me “if you can just get me an appointment with a prospect, I can close the deal.” My reply was “I hate to tell you that you’re wrong, Daniel.”. To illustrate my point, I then asked him what his favorite meal is, “steak and mashed potatoes”, he replied. Then I asked Daniel to tell me about the last time he had his favorite meal at his favorite restaurant. He went on and on about how the service was great, the atmosphere was perfect and the meal was top notch leaving him full and satisfied. I then asked him what if upon leaving that restaurant he came home to his favorite home cooked meal hot and ready waiting on the table for him, would he be interested in eating it?

I could see the wheels start to turn when Daniel realized that since all of his needs and interests were met at that moment, he had no desire to take one bite of that home cooked meal. The same general principles that made Daniel want to turn down his favorite home cooked meal is the same philosophy that prevents even the most compelling and attractive sales pitch from producing new business from a cold call.

Volume and timing are the key elements to make any outbound sales approach successful; with enough outbound volume and a strong message, you will be able to uncover qualified prospects with PIN. Rather than relying on cold calling to create outbound volume and fill the top of a sales funnel with leads, leveraging automation tools that allow email sequences, optimizing a LinkedIn presence and outreach strategy, and strengthening your SEO ranking will all contribute to stronger brand awareness. The result will be automated volume with the ability to identify more leads with existing PIN more efficiently and with greater predictability.

Capturing leads is only half the battle

Once a lead with PIN is identified and qualified, there is still a human-powered element that is necessary to successfully nurture a prospect from an initial email response to a signed proposal. Every MSP salesperson has received responses to a sales email ranging from “we’re under contract until next year, you can follow up then” to “we are actually looking into possible vendors, please email me your information to review” and everywhere in between.

The nurturing phase is when the skillset of an effective salesperson is most valuable; the ability to take a prospect that has expressed PIN and make meaningful touchpoints to the decision maker until the timing is right to move into the next stage of the sales process. It is during the nurture phase, especially with a lead that is not a referral, that the relationship is established and trust is starting to be formed. With the right automation tools, strategies to support a sales process, and a skilled salesperson for the nurturing phase, a MSP can collect data, begin to produce results and further understand realistic expectations for their market’s pipeline potential.

Managed technology support requires an exceedingly strong relationship and foundation of trust to create a successful partnership between the vendor and client. Cold calling doesn’t feel personal or reflect the values MSPs strive to represent. Many MSP owners are misled by their experience selling into prospect leads that were generated from a warm referral. They feel that since their message was received well and their value propositions were successful in signing those prospects, the same will be true with any prospect given the same opportunity to meet with them.

This is where MSPs often incorrectly claim, “get me in the room, and I can close.” Referral business and word of mouth leads create a much easier pathway for an MSP to sign those prospects because PIN is already present, otherwise they would not have reached out in the first place. The other reason is what I call second-hand trust, meaning that your client trusts you as their MSP and their referral trusts them. Understanding the dynamics of how each prospect gets on your sales radar and what steps are necessary to have the same success with a referral as you do a raw prospect is critical to gaining even an inch towards the next steps in your sales process.

In closing, MSPs must both first identify prospects with active pain, and then achieve trust to grow their business. Technology assets used to fill the top of the sales funnel, allow an MSP to automate what used to be required by a cold-calling salesperson for lead generation. This volume increases the number of leads generated with PIN. In doing so, shifts the focus of a sales person to nurturing a prospect worth their effort over time in order to cultivate a relationship and grow the business with trust.

Photo: Monster Ztudio / Shutterstock

Tim Hill

Posted by Tim Hill

Tim Hill manages the MSP division of SALT Marketing. Tim's sales experience from working in professional sports and technical background as a Microsoft Certified Professional provides a unique perspective into understanding the specific nuances and challenges that MSPs face. Tim is passionate and dedicated to helping clients create a competitive advantage in their market in order to reach their business goals.

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