I’ve picked up a great book called ‘Stop bitching, start pitching’ by Marty Kellard & Ian Elliot. It’s forced me to really stop and think about how we pitch our managed service product, B.E.S.T. They claim it’s not enough to have the best solution and the best sales message for it. Instead you really have to do your homework and analyse the wants & needs (written and unwritten) of your customer and the key decision makers and influencers, then ensure that you are addressing those. Especially for new business, a customer needs to be able to picture you working with them to solve their business problems, and taking it much further than just replacing the current IT guy that they are unhappy with.
So, if we’re not selling managed services, what are we selling? Ourselves, ultimately, and trust too. We have to position ourselves as the ‘solution providers’ for their company, not just for their specific IT problem. And that involves empathy, treating everyone in that company with respect (right down to the security guard if they have one), and a whole lot of research and listening.
MSPs know that some clients just aren’t worth the hassle. It sounds like a harsh truth, but any business owner can identify clients that are very, very hard work. We all want clients who trust and value our advice, appreciate that we have their best interests at heart (pun intended) and pay their bills on time. So why do we fall over ourselves trying to sell to every client that calls, without qualifying them first? Well, small business is hard business and the pull of the almighty dollar is a strong one, especially when there is a chance for a new invoice. Long term though, it’s been proven that clients that ‘fit’ our model are going to be easy to manage and far more profitable than the next client with a 10k project that turns out to be a nightmare. In fact, many books out there suggest a ‘proving ground project’ of something small, so your new client can evaluate if they’d like to continue to work with you … and, more importantly, vice versa, without the stranglehold of a 12 month contract (not that we do 12 month contracts anyway).
Instead, should our pitch be aimed at ‘we know we have a great solution, it’s just a case of whether it’s the right solution for you’, then work to see if the client’s situation really would benefit from our product? And if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Unfortunately this takes a whole lot more work than saying to them ‘sure, we can come in and give you a presentation on our managed services product’, then turning up with your standard powerpoint slides. Theory is, your success rate should be better though.
I like the theory … I’ll let you know how it works out in practice.