MSPs: Before that All-Out Sales Push, Make Sure You Have a Customer Success System
Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to lead a sales training with a group of five different managed services providers that are located across North America. I always value these experiences because it gives me a chance to get different perspectives on the industry, how far it has come and where it might be headed.
Naturally, they all had their own different philosophies about the current and future trajectories of their businesses. But when we started to talk about the various approaches to sales that are out there, that's where things got really interesting.
Two of the MSP business owners actually got into a little bit of an argument. One believed that there was virtually no reason to get too aggressive with your approach to MSP sales, as if you do and a prospect does become one of your customers, your aggressive selling could cause unrealistic expectations. This particular MSP owner feared that if you go "too hard" during those early stages, you risk setting the wrong expectations and that your customer will eventually become too difficult to handle.
The other believed in a very, very aggressive approach to sales because their goals were the exact same way. This customer said that they wanted to grow their business tremendously in the next five years and to get to that point, they had to approach any and all sales opportunities with the same amount of enthusiasm.
As someone who has dedicated himself to solving the MSP sales and marketing puzzle, I have my own thoughts on the matter – which I shared with the group as I mediated the argument. I'll tell you right now what I told them:
They're both right.
What’s Your Sales Approach? Do You Have to Choose?
A laid-back approach to sales will work fantastically for some organizations.
Especially those organizations that have more sales opportunities coming in than spots that they have available for new customer onboardings; waiting for those just-right customers and never pushing too hard during the sales process will ensure that you don’t create a situation where any one of their customers ends up having buyer's remorse.
It's a great strategy to set the expectation early in the process that your MSP is exclusive, and that the customer is the one who is fortunate to have found you. This will ultimately lead to a great client relationship that just “clicks” without necessarily requiring a coordinated strategy to make it happen.
This approach may keep your business going, but it's far from purposeful.
However, for some MSPs – the ones who are looking to scale from $1 million in revenue to $5 million in revenue in just a few years, for example, or the ones who don’t yet have a mature enough marketing system to completely fill their pipeline – you're not going to be able to take that same laid-back approach to sales. There will be times when you need to have an active sales process that encourages people to make hard, firm decisions as quickly as possible.
Yes, there is a consequence of that – sometimes you are going to have customers who come in and have unrealistic expectations. They may very well feel like they've been oversold. It may end up increasing the number of customers who leave you.
Having said all of that, there is a solution to these issues and it's a lot more straightforward than one might think.
It's the concept of having a coordinated and deliberate approach to "Customer Success" – the science and art of retaining customers – and it's something that I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about right now.
The Relationship Between Customer Success and Sales
At its core, Customer Success is the business organization responsible for retaining customers.
Many MSPs today can be overly reliant on a “whale client,” where losing a single contract could devastate the organization, or face situations where customers are unsubscribing at a rate faster than they’re subscribing.
Customer Success is about making sure that those customers that you’ve worked so hard to sign up via your marketing and sales efforts stay long-term.
When you start to ramp up your organization quickly, it's inevitably going to put some strains on your business that you never knew existed.
The cracks are going to start to show - it's no longer a matter of if, but when. At that point, you need to make sure that your customers continue to have the amazing experience that they did before you ended up setting these goals for yourself, and that you are aggressively working to guarantee that those customers have the level of success that you promised them in the first place.
Customer Success is about taking action.
In some situations, it will come naturally – you obviously want to make sure that all your clients have an exceptional experience no matter what.
But as you continue to grow, it's something that you're going to need to become proactive about. You may go so far as hiring a dedicated customer success manager, or you may begin with a smaller step like integrating a customer feedback loop into your onboarding process. In any case, Customer Success will need to become a focus of your organization that itself is a byproduct of the recurring revenue revolution that we're all a part of.
Can Your Customer Success Plan Respond to Your Growing Sales?
Getting back my sales training with those five MSPs, here is the lesson that may have provided the most value but no one was expecting to learn on that day: yes, it's always important to make strategic decisions within the context of winning new customers, but if you allow yourself to lose sight of the customers themselves, you'll never get where you need to be - because you never got them to where they need to be.
Sales and Customer Success are linked. You simply cannot have one without the other and the sooner you realize that the two are intrinsically linked, the sooner you'll be able to accomplish incredible things.
Did this make you start thinking about your plan for growth? How will your current sales approach will take you where you want to be? Do your marketing, sales, and customer success processes need to shift?
Attend Zomentum’s Live Webinar: Sales Approaches - Consultative Strategy or Packaged Process? on Thursday, Oct 28th, 1 PM EST. During our chat, we’ll discuss how different sales processes can be used to maximize business efficiencies while converting clients consistently. It’s a process we’ve perfected and systemized at Tech Pro Marketing - I can’t wait to show you how. Register Here.
Nate Freedman is the CEO and founder of Tech Pro Marketing, a featured author and trainer throughout the MSP industry, and a private sales and marketing coach. Nate has dedicated himself professionally to solving the MSP marketing problem, helping MSP owners across North America and the UK scale their lead gen and win more customers. Connect with Nate on LinkedIn.