Break Out of Your Managed Services Sales Rut
By Jay McCall
This MSP’s willingness to relinquish control of his company and focus on his sales process is leading to unprecedented double-digit growth this year.
Most IT service providers that have been around as long as DeckerWright can look back and recognize specific phases of their business evolution, including those inflection points that happen every five years or so that radically alter the business’ course. Marshall Wright, CEO of DeckerWright, had this type of defining moment in 2010 at a time when the economy was weak and his sales were flat. The catalyst for this MSP’s transition out of this challenging period, ironically, came from one of his competitors who recommended that he attend a Robin Robins event. His unexpected encounter at that event led to several key changes in his business over the past few years that resulted in 8 percent revenue growth last year and a projected 15 percent growth this year. Following are the highlights of DeckerWright’s evolution.
Raise Your Managed Services IQ
One of the surprising twists that resulted from Wright’s visit to the Robin Robins event in 2010 was the fact that he originally attended the event expecting only to learn about marketing, but he came away with a renewed focus on sales. “One of the breakout sessions at the event was led by Alex Rogers, CEO of master MSP CharTec,” recalls Wright. “One of the truths he shared that’s stuck with me over the years is that, ‘You can have a really good marketing program, but without the right sales process you still won’t get the results you’re looking for.’”
This was the exact message Wright needed to hear because he was the primary salesperson involved in every deal, and it was creating a bottleneck for his company’s growth. “Up until then, I had always believed that my business success depended on me having a personal relationship with every customer,” he says. “CharTec challenged me to see sales as a numbers game and to realize that if I had the right sales process in place along with a compelling offering that it would lead to growth – whether I was the one closing the sale or not.”
After the event, Wright was convinced he needed to make a change, but he also knew it was too daunting of a task to do on his own, so he reached back out to CharTec to enroll in further training with the master MSP. Through that process, Wright was introduced to business leadership author and consultant David Russell, creator of the MANAGEtoWIN program. “It was through the MANAGEtoWIN program that I was able to develop a formal hiring process and to acquire basic human resources best practices,” says Wright. “One of the first things I learned was the difference between creating a job ad and a job description to attract the right kind of sales talent. The key differentiator is that while a job description describes ‘what’ the day-to-day activities of the job comprise, the job ad answers ‘why’ the candidate would want to perform those activities in the first place. The job ad also goes beyond the immediate job and talks about the benefits of working for the company,” says Wright.
Wright also learned that the most effective sources for finding new sales candidates aren’t always the most expensive ones. In fact, to date he’s had the most success posting job ads on Craig’s List and using a simple prescreening process. “Included with one of my job ads was a request for interested candidates to do two things: 1. Email me their resume as a PDF, Word, or rich text attachment and 2. Click on a link and take my 10-question survey,” he says. “Out of nearly 100 interested candidates, less than 50 percent were able to follow these simple instructions. I had people sending me cover letters with links to their websites and several others who neglected to take the survey altogether.”
Looking through the responses to his 10-question survey helped Wright narrow down the candidates further. “Questions ranged from ‘How would you remediate a PC with a virus?’ to a few off-the-wall questions like ‘From the list of movies below, which do you like the best and why?’” he says. “Even more important than finding someone who knew how to solve technology issues was finding someone with good communication skills.”
After narrowing down his list to the top 10 candidates, Wright scheduled phone interviews, which helped him pare down the list to the top three, which he then contacted to set up in-person interviews. To ensure he made the best hiring decision, Wright administered the DISC profile test to each of the finalists. “I’ve been amazed at how accurate this simple test is at matching candidates to specific job roles,” he says. “For example, we know that a good salesperson will score high in ‘D’ [dominant] and ‘I’ [influential], whereas when hiring a technician, we want someone who’s high in the ‘S’ [steadiness] and ‘C’ [conscientiousness] categories.” Wright also admits that anytime he’s short-circuited the process either by ignoring test results or skipping a step, it’s always come back to bite him.
Last year the MSP hired a sales administrator who’s played a key role in helping him shore up his sales and hiring processes, and freed up Wright’s time to follow up with more sales leads and implement his new four-part sales process (described below). “In the past, we did a lot of marketing and generated lots of leads, but only ever followed up with a small percent of prospects because we didn’t have a good sales process,” says Wright.
Shore Up Your Sales Process
Shortly after developing its hiring process and training its technicians and sales reps on how to sell managed services, the MSP focused on revamping its sales process, which led to a four-step process. “The first and most important step in selling managed services is to qualify prospects before investing a lot of time marketing to them and nurturing those relationships,” says Wright. A couple of the qualifiers DeckerWright’s salespeople look for include companies that are the right size (e.g., SMBs with between five and 150 employees), governed by industry mandates (e.g., healthcare and finance), and amenable to outsourcing their core IT processes to a managed services provider.
The second step in the MSP’s sales process is the discovery step, which is where the salesperson identifies the prospect’s business challenge to confirm whether DeckerWright is able to help. “Even though the third step, which is performing a site survey, is closely related to the second step, we always perform this step separately from the other two because, to be executed properly, it requires a salesperson and an engineer,” says Wright. “For this step, we use a tool called RapidFire network discovery by a company called Network Detective, which allows our team to quickly assess a prospect’s network and to get an accurate idea about the health of their IT infrastructure.”
After the assessment, the DeckerWright team creates a proposal, and it’s usually a pretty straightforward closing process from there. “If we don’t win the client’s business, we try to find out why, so we can understand where we can continue refining our processes,” he says. “But, if we’re at that point in the sales process, our win rate is higher than the industry average.”
Don’t Turn On The Marketing Faucet Too Soon
One of the important lessons Wright was reminded of a few years ago is not to assume that flat sales are a marketing issue. Even after it first developed its new sales process, the MSP didn’t do a lot of advertising, and Wright insists that was a wise and profitable decision. “Last year we had the lowest new-customer acquisition rate in eight years, but our revenue was up 8 percent over the previous year,” says Wright. “We spent much of our time applying our new sales process to our existing clients and educating them about the many IT services we offered, such as HaaS [hardware as a service] and BDR [backup and disaster recovery], in addition to being able to service their out-of-warranty IT equipment and troubleshooting their PCs,” he says. Selling privatelabeled HaaS and BDR solutions is becoming a growing part of DeckerWright’s business, which is another positive testament to CharTec’s influence in the MSP’s business development (see sidebar on page 24 for more information about DeckerWright’s partnership with CharTec).
“The first and most important step in selling managed services is to qualify prospects before investing a lot of time marketing to them and nurturing those relationships.”
Marshall Wright, CEO, DeckerWright
The MSP now sells a premier BDR solution, which includes a white-labeled CharTec BDR appliance for local image-based and VM (virtual machine) backups combined with a cloud backup for disaster recovery purposes. For its smaller clients, the MSP sells a privately labeled BDR Lite solution, which features lower-priced data protection with less expensive local hardware and an off-site copy of its customers’ data protected in the MSP’s data center rather than CharTec’s cloud. “During the discovery step in our sales process, one of the questions we ask is, ‘How long could you be without your data before it would cause harm to your business?’” says Wright. “If they need to be up and running in less than two hours, we sell the premier BDR solution; otherwise, we sell our BDR Lite offering,” says Wright.
Now that DeckerWright has its sales team, sales processes, and product offering in a much better place than where things were in 2010, the MSP is excited about what this year will bring. “We’re finally ready to take the next step and turn on the marketing spigot,” says Wright. “Like everything we do now, we’re going to be very targeted in who we want to reach, and we’re not going to generate more leads than we can follow up with in a timely fashion. Just like I’ve seen with our sales process over the past few years, marketing isn’t magic. It’s about using various channels to educate your target audience over a period of time with the right message and following up leads with a sales process that can efficiently qualify and convert leads into new sales.”