The MSP sales cycle doesn’t begin at the appointment, and it doesn’t end at the close. 

Once upon a time, before there was internet, selling was a far more aggressive game. Persistence and volume often won over skill and fit.  Clients couldn’t explore every option available to them with the touch of a button.  The amount of time it would take to identify and screen new or replacement solutions was significant.  Now an unhappy client can have three RFPs on their desk the minute you fail to provide what they have decided – rationally or otherwise – is the “right” amount of support.    They can like your idea, but hate how you delivered it, and evaluate all of your competitors by close of business.   Like it or not, the prospect now controls the sales playing field.

How does that change how we sell? 

First, it means we examine how we sell and what our sales activities look like.

Your sales cycle begins the minute a prospect indicates interest.  Instead of that interest coming from a keen sales rep dialing the phone all day, it will often come in from many different channels – educational content, social media updates, emails, web form — your prospect can choose how they want to be sold to.  Your job is to support them through their chosen path, while respecting their indicated preferences.  You’ll lose clients by emailing the ones who hate being emailed.  You’ll hurt your chances of success when you are cold calling customers who ONLY want to be emailed.  You need to actively listen to your prospects at all stages. Then you determine your best course of action, and create processes that nurture those prospects through their chosen paths, not the paths that your sales reps want them taking.  This will take practice, patience, and a lot of trial and error.  If you’re not developing and testing multiple types of outreach, you’re missing a huge opportunity to win business from prospects who don’t like how you’re trying to sell to them today.  Even if they want what you have, you can lose their attention quickly if you are using the wrong approaches.

How do you know what the right approach is?

You start by asking the right questions.  It can be as simple as “How would you prefer that we contact you moving forward?”  Another question?  “When should we contact you again, and what else would you like us to provide you with to help you make your decision?”  Then, honor their decisions and provide what they ask you to.  An introductory call when your prospect is ready for a technical demo sours them on your ability to support them properly.  Ten follow up calls when someone prefers to get emails turns a prospect off.  Making a prospect talk to three separate people because you’ve sorted them into a sales bucket (by size, by territory, by product or service) isn’t a great customer experience.  Make it easier for your prospect to buy, not easy for your team to sell.

Do interested prospects have to fill out a million forms to read your content?  Pass.  Do they have to jump through hoops to get a sales rep on the line?  No thanks.  I guarantee you your “amazing automated sales and marketing system” is hurting you as often as it helps you.

How do you fix that?

First, instead of “starting the sales process”, you begin a relationship. You begin your sales cycle by being a source of information, not an always-be-closing-selling-machine.   Once you’ve established rapport – and you do that by showing interest in their business and their challenges, not telling them about your amazing solution – you can begin earning trust.

How do you earn trust?

Well, we’re all going to take a shot now, but you become a “trusted advisor”.  The term is overused and we all hate it now, but that’s the short answer.  You become a trusted advisor by educating people, sharing best practices and being responsive, not aggressive.   Once you’ve earned their trust, the next natural step in the process is asking for the opportunity to earn their business.   And provided that you’ve engaged, educated and supported this prospect well through your relationship with them, there is no reason they won’t allow you that opportunity.   Then, once you’ve earned their business, the real work begins.

Then what?

The first 90 days are crucial to your ability to renew a client.  A poorly handled on-board means your clients are going to continue to take competitor calls.   If there is one main takeaway from this article, let it be this:  more renewals are lost in the first month of an engagement than in any other part of your relationship.   Nail down your on-boarding process and aim for delight, or prepare for ongoing churn and a stagnant revenue curve.

We teach our callers to ask questions about what the on-boarding experience with their current provider was like. Nine out of ten times, this is where we start hearing the first indications that all is not perfect.  Even when companies have improved, the bitterness of a poor start lingers.  A few other wedges and we are well on our way to a sales appointment for our client.

60 percent of your growth should be coming from within your client base.  Sadly, once you’ve signed that new business, you could be halfway to losing them if you’re not paying attention.  All of the things that you did to win their business you need to continue doing.

How do they like to be contacted? Keep doing that.

How do they like to be educated?  Keep doing that.

How can you improve their experience as your client?  Ask them.  Repeat.

Pay attention to all of your clients, not just the noisy outliers.  Create a feedback system that allows them to honestly and quickly alert you to issues, and remember that only 1 out of every 26 people will actively complain when they are disgruntled.   Get your entire team involved in the customer success feedback loop, and ensure that your internal team is acknowledged and praised for their participation in delighting your client base.

Your ultimate goal should be a poach-proof roster of long-term happy clients who will reward you with more of their business, and a steady stream of referrals.

Want some help building a feedback and customer satisfaction process that retains your customers, keeps them happy and even gets them filling your sales pipeline with warm referrals?  Call us anytime to discuss at 1-844-466-2624 or email hello@managedsalespros.com.