I travel frequently – for business and pleasure – and I enjoy it.  I enjoy it so much I don’t even have a house or apartment any longer.  This made shelter in place a little awkward for me, as I didn’t have a place.  I stayed with friends, never fear, and I’m healthy and our business is stable.   Our employees transitioned to their homes before the shelter in place order was issued.  As I’ve mentioned previously, we ran a completely remote call center for many years prior to opening Everywhere Managed LLC in Las Vegas.  We were no strangers to remote work, remote meetings, remote hiring, remote training.  However, it’s not our preferred way to operate, and we are excited to announce that the Las Vegas call center will begin phased opening on May 18, 2020.

Phased opening for us means supporting the team members that have potential exposure to Covid-19 (essential worker partners for example) to continue to work from their homes for the near term.  We still don’t know how safe public transportation will be, so our team members who do not have private transportation will also stay home and stay safe.  Child care will be a challenge with our schools still closed, so some of our team will need to continue working from home while they find appropriate support. (We tried in-office child care, we all agreed the risks outweighed the rewards at that time, but we may revisit this for the summer months as our team have fewer options with closed schools, closed day camps and child care facilities) Our call center will open first to new agents for training, and then we will add more team members back as it becomes safer to do so.  We have a lot of space, we can effectively distance all team members at this time, but we are still trying to create a practical and safe return to work plan.   I’d love to hear what measures others are putting into place to keep their teams safe.

As MSPs, you were all essential businesses – we have spoken to many of you over the last months,  learning more about how Covid-19 affected your businesses, and identifying ways that we may provide meaningful support to you over the next months.  We remain committed to helping the MSP market recover.  Here’s what we’re trying for our managed services clients:

  • We’ve lowered our rates for new MSP clients through the end of Q3 – new clients can step up to our full rates in Q4 if they wish, or discontinue service at that time.
  • Our campaign language has changed to reflect the more delicate approach required to prospect through a national crisis.
  • We are offering month-to-month engagements instead of our usual annual commitments.  If you’re ready to start marketing again, we’re ready to help you get out there in front of your prospects, but we also understand how quickly things can change.
  • We have small block of time engagements available for those who would like to see what 500 or 5000 calls can do for your MSP when they are combined with other marketing initiatives like webinars, emails or direct marketing.

Clients that continued their campaigns through Covid-19 saw no slow down of opportunity.  I maintain that anyone who can afford to be marketing right now has an extraordinary advantage over their competitors.  There is a real “sweet spot” for outbound calling right now, with many phone systems forwarding to the business owners or decision makers in their homes instead of being funneled through multiple gate keepers.

There were challenges moving teams remote.  There will be challenges moving teams back to the office.

Already strained relationships will be exacerbated as I.T. companies continue to reduce headcount and their support agreements suffer.  In month one people were understanding of the challenges you were experiencing – “it’s a pandemic, after all, so let’s be kind to one another”.  Month three will not see these kinds of “gentleman’s agreements” stand, and people who are dissatisfied or cost-conscious will begin making the hard cuts.  I’m not alone in believing this.  Most of the MSPs I have spoken to predicted that they wouldn’t start seeing drop off in their retained base (vs. project income) until the third month of the crisis.  As we head into a recession and a hard “U” shaped recovery period, people will be making choices – good or bad – about what vendors they’re going to keep, and what vendors no longer serve them well.

After the PPP loan requirements are fulfilled, more layoffs will begin – these will include in-house I.T. team members.  There will be a “decision maker scramble” as people who were previously points of contact are made redundant.

All of this creates a perfect storm for telephone prospecting. 

People will answer their phones. Small businesses will no longer have the luxury of letting even one enquiry get past them.  There has never been a more important time to have your lead management process dialed in and your sales approach documented, standardized, and followed by all.   If you’re not sure where to begin, we offer sales and marketing process consulting by the hour or by the day.  Email hello@managedsalespros.com  to book some time to start fixing your sales process.

What can you do right now to create a better sales and marketing approach while conserving your cash?

  1. Have someone answer your phone live.  It gives you a competitive advantage when everyone else is dumping people to voicemail.  This is a good plan for winning new clients and retaining current clients.  Remove all barriers to entry, be the company that understands that the client’s convenience and satisfaction trumps everything else in your business.  Having someone answer a phone live is rare right now – use this to your benefit.
  2. Create simple scripts that standardize the client or prospect experience.  Does everyone answer your phone the same way? Do your techs provide a consistent user experience both on and off-site? This is a simple and effective way to begin standing out.  Think about Disney World.  Visiting Disney World is expensive and exhausting.  It costs more than going on pretty much any other vacation in the world. You wait in lines for everything, it’s ridiculously hot, and yet, we all still love it.  Why?  Because it’s always the same.  We spend more every year to go on the same rides we went on last year.  The park gets more crowded, you can’t even get a cup of coffee without a 20 minute wait and a 20 dollar bill.  It’s ridiculous.  Yet, we go! And we go because we enjoy the familiar experience and excellent service that Disney uses to create multi-generation repeat visitors. You don’t have to be Disney-level fanatical, but their commitment to consistent experience is what keeps families coming back to do the exact same vacation year over year.  Creating consistent customer and prospect experiences will benefit you in the same way.  It doesn’t have to be complicated – but it does need to be trained and adhered to!
  3. Submit content to publications, associations, clients – anyone who will take it.   This is the time to be visible both as an expert and a thought-leader.
  4. Check on your clients.  All. The. Time.  Retention is essential, and you want to have a week by week understanding of what your cash flow may look like in the months to come based on what decisions or changes your current clients are making.
  5. Start using social media in less passive ways.  We’re all at home, we’re all online.  Spend time engaging personally with potential prospects on social media.  If you’re new to social media, go check to see what your competitors are doing.  Don’t be a sales guy, just be curious and interested about what people are talking about online – make friends, then make deals.
  6. Find free sales and marketing courses online and learn more about the methods available to you.  There are so many courses available online for free right now – not all of them are amazing, but you may pick up a few good ideas!  Many subscription sites have free content available for limited times.
  7. Cold call.  It costs you nothing but time.  If you can introduce yourself at a networking event you can cold call.  It’s exactly the same.
  8. Check in with your vendors.  Many channel vendors have free sales and marketing content, materials and training.
  9. Engage.  We’re all sick of virtual happy hours, virtual conferences, virtual everything – but you play the hand you’re dealt.  We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing where we’ll meet our next prospects.  That virtual happy hour may be the place you meet your next client – suit up and show up, even if you’re tired of it.
  10. Commit.  Are you in or are you out?  It’s a question I’ve had to ask myself every day of quarantine.  I have the spiral down to five minutes now.  Yes, it’s hard.  Yes, it sucks.  But I’m in it to win it, and I hope you are, too.

As always, I remain happy to kick around ideas with anyone who wants to.

Every Tuesday, I host an online webinar with Jim Turner from Hilltop Consultants.  We talk about the changing landscape, brainstorm ideas, and interview other CEOs..  Join us as a guest and share your thoughts, or join us as an attendee and learn form other MSP owners.   You can register for one or all sessions here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/6601794774230560523

You can check out previous episodes of Wartime CEO, and all kinds of other MSP specific sales and marketing content, without sharing your personal data with us on our Youtube page.

Our rallying cry through Covid-19 has been “til the wheels come off” – and I’m happy to say that the wheels stayed on.  We took a hit and stabilized, and while my year may not end the way I hoped it would this year, I’m grateful for the commitment and drive of my team through this very weird time in our business, and we remain ready and able to help your business grow.