Most companies have felt the negative effects of COVID-19 on their margins and growth goals, and managed services providers (MSPs) are no exception. Luckily, MSPs offer an essential service that businesses need—indeed, they may have even more to offer these days to address the shift to working from home and all the IT complications that come with it.
When it comes to sales, it’s essential to be flexible, creative and people-focused in this brave new world we’re all living in. I recently participated in a Facebook Live chat with Axcient’s VP of Sales Mike Goldberg and ACCi’s COO/Partner Keith Keller, and moderated by Axcient’s Director of Partner Success Corey Banner. Here’s a look at what they and other successful MSPs are doing to pivot during the pandemic and keep sales from going stagnant.
Play the long game to retain customers.
First and foremost, MSPs exist to serve their customers. As a partner, it’s imperative to just check in, let your customers know you’re there for them, and listen to where they’re coming from. You don’t have to offer solutions all the time. Just come with a flexible mentality, so you can both come out of this ahead.
Change your sales process and strategies.
It’s been nearly impossible to forecast in the current environment, but you can at least think through multiple “What if…?” scenarios. A conservative approach has you preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. That might mean going into survival mode and asking, “What’s required to keep our doors open?” Look at the numbers. Trust historical patterns. And most importantly, be prepared to adjust as you go.
Keith and his sales team have approached the ongoing crisis in just this way. Before the pandemic hit, they had a 20% growth goal. However, they’ve had to readjust and accept that, during this unprecedented time that has only happened once in 100 years, that goal will not likely happen.
Instead, they concentrated on what they could control. Keith challenged his team to be laser-focused on the minimal time they had with their customers. He will also review the team’s sales goals and plans every 90 days, readjusting if needed for factors like people going back to work, a second wave of the virus, etc.
Get creative filling in the gaps.
For several months now, MSP sales teams have missed out on trade shows and the leads that come from them, plus on-site engagement like lunch-and-learns.
“Close rates don’t dramatically change, and average deal sizes don’t dramatically change,” Mike said. “So, you still need that influx of leads and opportunities. But where do you get them from?”
For his team, Mike came up with new messaging as well as promotions his sales team could offer customers, providing a win-win situation for both parties.
Keith got creative in a different way. One of his contacts asked him if he could work out a 100% commission compensation plan to bring him onboard, which allowed Keith to add a sales rep without an upfront cost or financial risk during these leaner times. There are many other motivated people out there, and it’s creating a market for these mutually beneficial types of relationships. It’s just a matter of getting creative and a willingness to try new approaches.
Focus on your people and your culture.
Working from home makes for a very fuzzy line between the personal and the professional, and many people are working longer and harder than ever. It’s important to recognize this is happening and manage burnout proactively. Mike recommends making employees take days off, something he’s implemented with his own team to keep everyone motivated and moving toward the same goals.
It’s also a challenge to build your MSP’s culture in a virtual environment. Again, it takes creativity. At Liongard, we’ve spent a lot of time making sure we’re all connecting in meaningful ways. We’re trying to make the most out of what we’ve got. We now have daily Zoom huddles where we don’t discuss work, we just check in on a personal level. We also had a virtual happy hour with the entire team recently, complete with a magician performing tricks live, and it was great—not only did everyone watch together, but their families all joined in, too.
I always say, it’s the human connections—among your own people, your customers and your prospects—that matter the most, in sales and in life. That’s more true now than ever before.
Now’s a great time to take another look at our e-book, MSP Marketing and Sales Best Practices. Adapt it to your current situation, use it to plan for the future, and proceed with both flexibility and creativity when it comes to your pandemic-era sales strategies.