Do salespeople help grow MSP businesses? For anyone who is considering the best route to growing the managed service provider or MSP side of your IT business, the answer may be yes. A salesperson can be an important part of your growth plan. At New Zealand Computer Solutions this kind of thinking had been largely set aside. Like many IT businesses, we always considered our techs to be the best initial contact for our future customers. But we recently did a three month experiment bringing in an outside salesperson and found the experience was well worth the time, effort and cost. In fact, we will probably do it again in the future. Along the way we learned a few lessons about effectively making use of a salesperson to get the best value for your investment.
How Many Clients are Too Many?
One of the first things we saw was that bigger isn't always better. If all we wanted was a larger client list; that was easy. But the real trick is to have a list of "A+"clients. You know the kind I mean. These are the clients who value your service, follow up on your advice and understand that good service takes intensive labour but is worth every penny. These are the kind of clients who work with you year round, instead of simply calling you when something breaks down. This kind of slow growth with the right client base can be achieved with the right salesperson, but they need to understand your priorities as well as your business.
Salespeople Can Open Doors
When we started in this business 10-15 years ago, the IT business was like the Wild West. It had plenty of cowboys offering service who might have had the tech skills, but no understanding of business needs or any real people skills. That has changed, but some of the problems they brought into the industry haven't gone away. We continue to see competitors who make basic mistakes when it comes to servicing their customers. In fact, if you read our earlier blog post about this, you will quickly see why our salespeople use this weakness as a way to open doors for us. Having someone who has these business and people skills on staff is a killer combination for your business when combined with your techs computer know-how.
The Work of Turning Prospects into Clients
Although we knew that this is a laborious process and can take a lot of time, we didn't always have the time we want for courting prospects. This is where having a salesperson to follow-up and keep the connection flowing can make a real difference. Some of our best clients have come from these long standing connections, as the prospect changes from someone you just met to a company whose problems you understand and can help them to solve. To do this, you need someone with real people skills who makes staying in touch part of their job description.
The Cost of Conversion
It is never cheap to convert a prospect into a client, but when they come to you via a recommendation you can at least lower the bar. We have found that audits are one of the best tools to show a prospective client why they may need to consider changing providers. Quite often when our salespeople meet with them and go over our audits these prospects are shocked to discover their current situation. Everything from backups being non-existent or set-up incorrectly to features in their current agreements being completely ignored. Some didn't read through their agreements and were bitter about paying for services they wrongly thought were part of the agreement. We found having a spokesperson that is knowledgeable but removed from the tech, such as a salesperson, during audit reports gave us new clients that started from a place of trust. Some of our best clients have come to us as a result of this type of preparation.
Paying Techs to do Tech Work
The bottom line, of course, is always profit. Some see a salesperson as someone who doesn't contribute to the bottom line because they aren't producing a product you can sell. But the reality is you want your highly skilled techs to be spending their time doing what you hired them to do. A salesperson on your team, even just a part-time person, can free them up for this. They can help you to manage growth at a rate you are comfortable with so you don't become the MSP that never has time to care for his customer base. They can be part of the reason you can grow your MSP business at a rate that increases profit without losing that customer service edge. In the end, everyone wins with this type of salesperson on your team.