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Converting a Sales Process from Packaged to Consultative

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By Shannon Murphy


Shannon Murphy

Few would argue with the idea that your managed service provider business needs a sales process, but opinions diverge on what sort of sales process you should adopt.

Packaged sales offerings have been popular among MSPs because they make it easier to deliver consistent services at set prices instead of one-offs for every client. Removing customizations from the equation and having all customers buy from a small catalog of predetermined offerings sounds like an administrative dream. Taken too far, however, packaged sales practices can alienate customers, making them feel like a number.

To be a genuine solution provider, you must offer consultation and customization — that is the true value add. You provide your customers with much more than managed services; they also benefit from your advice, knowledge and expertise. Or, at least, they should.

Middle Ground on Customization

Is there a middle ground between the efficiencies of a packaged approach and the value of a consultative one? Here are five ways to modify your sales process to do just that.

1. Start with the problem, not the package. A consultative sale starts with a lot of listening. Uncovering your client’s pain points and understanding their needs will help you be more prescriptive. Often customers don’t know exactly what they need, so what they ask for may be too general (e.g., “We need cybersecurity.”) or too specific (e.g., “I want antivirus software.”) and not the best-fit solution. It’s important to ask why they think they need that solution to uncover the root problem.

Based on what you learn, you may recommend a preset package. (After all, your packages were built to meet the needs of most businesses.) The key is articulating how that offering supports their business requirements. Plus, an extensive review of your prospect’s business and, especially, their goals usually uncovers cross-selling or upselling opportunities.

2. Research the customer and tailor your approach. While listening to your customer is vital, you should also do your research – before, during and after the sale. Go beyond basic demographic information so you can tailor your proposal. Here are a few questions to guide your research:

  • Who are its primary competitors?

  • From the outside, what appears to differentiate your customer from its competitors?

  • What can you learn about the space in which the company operates? Are there statistics or news articles about growth and challenges that could guide your conversation?

  • What can you uncover about the customer’s past activities? Were there any acquisitions? Expansions? Major product or service changes? Researching these things could trigger some quality questions about their tech infrastructure.

You will gain a lot of knowledge about their customers, day-to-day challenges and goals for the future when you sit down with them, but these questions can help you better prepare for a truly consultative interaction.

3. Create packages tailored for verticals.

Specializing in serving the needs of companies in a vertical industry is inherently consultative when done right. You can even build offerings that solve pain points for those vertical prospects for the best of both worlds – consultation and packaging.

The key is to get specific. So, instead of specializing in health care, you’ll want to narrow the company profile. There’s a huge difference in needs between a solo dentist office and a regional medical center with multiple branches.

How do you choose? There are a few approaches:

  • One is to follow the money. A little market research will shed light on which types of companies are spending on digital transformation or your specific solution set.

  • Another, more organic approach is to look at your existing customer base and find clusters of similar businesses. The beauty of this strategy is that you already understand and have solved problems in your expert area. You also have a ready referral network that you can activate and testimonials for that all-important social proof, which makes selling that much easier.

4. Personalize proposal materials. This seems like a no-brainer, but one way to assure customers they are buying from you for a reason – that they are getting the added value of your experience, expertise and relationships – is to personalize your sales materials with your brand. This advice applies especially to …

… collateral provided by your hardware, software or service-provider vendors. Most buyers understand that you repackage other vendors’ products, either partially or entirely, but placing your “mark” on these offerings implies that you, as a subject matter expert, are giving them your stamp of approval. Additionally, while you don’t want to miss an opportunity to promote your brand, there’s also the practical issue of ensuring that the customer is quite clear on who to call when they’re ready to move forward.

In addition to branding materials for your company, make sure to personalize them for your prospect. A generic proposal doesn’t assure clients or inspire confidence that you understand their business. Go beyond simply adding their logo to your proposal, filling in their contact information and grabbing verbiage from the company’s website. Instead, customize the proposal by clearly articulating their stated goals and outlining your approach to achieving them.

And to really show some savvy in this area, create a chart or diagram that maps the services you are proposing directly to the specific areas of that customer’s business that those services will address or support. For example, rather than simply listing “mobile firewall” as a line item, show how the mobile firewall will protect the data and endpoints of ABC Contractor’s 156 construction workers who work on remote building sites across three states.

To add detail but keep it concise and engaging, use video to personalize your post-discovery follow-up. Tools such as video messaging service Loom make it easy for you to record yourself while explaining the finer points of your proposal and how they meet the client’s specific needs. At a minimum, your prospects will take note of the extra effort, but they also are more likely to listen and lean into your recommendations.

5. Increase your number of customer touchpoints.  Another way to make your sale more consultative is simply by being more visible and available to your prospects, with scheduled touchpoints for follow-up. Being present and involved during the sales process shows that you’re service oriented and gives them peace of mind about your accessibility post-sale.

While this part of the process may seem a bit “packaged,” you should set up a standard cadence (e.g., sales sequence) for reaching out to customers.

Here are examples of some types of communications for your cadence that go beyond the “checking to see if you had any questions on my proposal” email. (You don’t need to do that anyway because you already set up a meeting to discuss the proposal before sending it, right?)

  • Trends and updates: Want to show you’re the expert to work with? Send your prospect industry news with some comments on what you think the impact might be for their business. Perhaps include how you’ll future-proof or modify their strategy to mitigate any potential risk.

  • Events: Invite your prospects to local events you think could be good for their business, or help them score a pass to a conference. Including them on your list to publicize your speaking events is also smart – they can see your knowledge is in-demand.

  • Connections: A brilliant way to engage a prospect is by helping them solve the problems you don’t own. Business owners are facing complications that go beyond managed services. If they confess other challenges, connect them with others who might be helpful. Perhaps it’s another one of your clients who could be a great mentor, or your ace accountant who can straighten out their books.

Each of these strategies requires some effort up-front as well as sustained execution but will result in a more consultative sales process that’s sure to pay off. With packaged plans, you gained economies of scale. With slight changes to how those packages are positioned and sold, you can command a higher price point. And you’ll improve your win rate. Not only will you set yourself apart from other providers by supporting the customer with your valuable expertise, but you’ll show commitment to a strong customer relationship and exceptional customer experience. Consistency and ownership over the consultative sales process go a long way toward earning your prospect’s trust and their business.

Shannon Murphy is chief marketer for Zomentum, an intelligent revenue platform built to help partners discover, sell and manage services. With more than 15 years of tech marketing experience, Murphy focuses on end-user perspectives to develop campaigns, tactics and sales approaches that convert opportunities and drive revenue. You may follow her on LinkedIn or @zomentum on Twitter.


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