How to Build a Better MSP Sales Plan

Written by Bimal Modha

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    IT and network services are highly competitive and increasingly commoditised. Standing out, growing margins and closing new deals are all interrelated challenges that require dedicated answers to improve outcomes and create a sustainable future. 

    As we move further into 2021, there are examples of positive change. The growth of IT service requirements caused by the remote working shift of 2020 has allowed some industry frontrunners to enjoy as much as a 300% increase in uptake. Again, industry leaders also pull in higher profit margin — 18% despite an 8% industry average.

    Transparent and value-led services open the door for differentiation in MSP business strategies, particularly for those aiming to sell interconnected, sustainable outcomes. Trying to incorporate this mindset into your sales plan is key to creating better outcomes. 

    Here at Highlight, we’ve worked with service providers for more than 25 years to forge better customer relationships, improve sales strategies and create positive commercial outcomes through the use of network data and, more importantly, insights. Fundamentally, we believe that a more focused and creative use of data is critical to reimagining the managed services sales process. Here, we are going to look at 3 proven ways to improve the standard MSP sales plan in 2021 and beyond. 

    Suggested reading: For a detailed guide on how to combat service commoditisation, check out our eBook — Transforming the Value of Networks.  

    Strategy 1: Quote using real numbers

    Too often, new business proposals are driven by estimates of what capacities the network will require, and not very reliable ones at that. This makes it difficult to prove value that customers can see, and it’s certainly no way to set yourself up as the strategic leader that 2021 requires you to be. 

    By comparison, the ability to quote real numbers ensures provable value on the ground, with context-led projections that show not only what your managed services stand to do, but also why you’re charging what you are for them. 

    This proof-first approach is far more compelling than an estimated figure on a page. It might help you underbid the competition, and is guaranteed to help demonstrate the value of your operation. What’s more, conducting a quick network audit can reveal gaps and help you bring a consultative edge to the sales process — delivering further differentiation. 

    Strategies to help

    On the surface, deep-diving into real numbers for every qualified lead can seem challenging. But the right process and technology can create transformative outcomes. For example, using Highlight, you will get intuitive and non-technical interfaces that allow your sales teams to conduct an audit and (critically) review results themselves — and then share directly with the prospect customer. 

    By enabling rapid-fire network audits and presenting your findings in simple, intuitive visualisations that your leads can easily access themselves, Highlight ensures that real numbers are always within easy reach for even non-technical sales teams. This enables differentiation in and of itself, building trusting client relationships at a time when companies are already seeking remote solutions that they can rely on in the long term. 

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    Strategy 2: Sell outcomes not commodities

    Ultimately, commoditisation occurs when the products within a given market are good enough to basically do the job, and customers just end up focusing on price. Although commoditisation likely cannot be reversed, it can be sidestepped — at least in part. 

    If you look at examples from across other industries, what you see is the ability to differentiate within a commodity market by selling something in addition to the commodity. For service providers, this means moving away from a “box-of-bits” approach and focusing on the seamless outcomes that an effective partnership can deliver. Realistically, remote working trends (and the reliance this placed on network services) creates opportunities to connect managed services with core business priorities. Consider your ability to deliver: 

    • Tailored solutions that prove why your services are a good fit.
    • Personalised experiences for closer relationships with in-house teams.
    • Unquestionable value based on real numbers that clients can see at the click of a button.

    The blurring of service providers and in-house teams, particularly, makes it easier for you to understand a company’s inner-workings and continue to provide value-led services that meet pain points as they arise. Their priorities will be very similar to yours, so prove you understand that and you’ll start to earn their trust.

    Strategies to help

    Real numbers definitely play a part when it comes to planning how you can demonstrate outcomes and the value they offer, but you also need to think more broadly.

    An improved sales plan needs to factor in how customers engage with their networks, as well as considering how you can provide the tools they need to improve that engagement. In other words, your sales plan needs to see you becoming a part of how customers review your performance, creating an all-important positive feedback loop rather than an unremarkable one-track service that stops once the contract is signed. 

    Improved communication is, ultimately, the only way to achieve that, and customer-facing tools bring that goal within easy reach, even in this age of physical distance. Specifically, non-technical platforms like Highlight ensure that you can integrate yourself in-house without complex landing processes, instantly enabling your sales teams to plan for differentiated outcomes in the form of:

    • Network audits
    • Same-page conversations
    • Data visualisations
    • Easy status reports
    • Predictable costs
    • And more

    Strategy 3: Focus on upselling and gain insights from existing customers

    An MSP marketing plan with differentiation at the forefront also relies on a sales team’s ability to continue adding value to existing services. As well as being faster, and cheaper, upselling is between 60-70% more likely to land. What’s more, the relevance that forward-thinking sales and marketing approaches bring ensures that you forever stay central to a company’s inner-workings, especially if you utilise white space analysis to spot ongoing gaps in the moment. 

    It’s also worth noting that this ability to offer ongoing value provides the opportunity to repurpose information that could generate future sales. Specifically, a sales team’s ability to understand and improve services within existing accounts opens the doors for a wide range of valuable sales benefits, including:

    • Improved services
    • Consultative selling
    • Prioritised conversations

    Strategies to help

    The integrations we’ve already spoken about are critical to success here as well. A single-source-of-truth, simple analytics, and clear communication enable you to understand what your customers need. That said, insights in themselves don’t create sales opportunities. Rather, continued success and relevance rely on your ability to turn knowledge into action, and to ensure that your clients are forever kept in that loop.

    Far from relying on long-winded manual processes that leave services behind before research is even complete, fast-moving modern markets require automated audits and the ability to implement actions and improvements in real-time. 

    Of course, sales are most definitely not a silo, and even valuable actions may fail to prevent account stagnation if you don’t also plan ways to keep customers updated. Yet again, this means that you need to communicate your every move as you make it with the help of customer-facing platforms that enable you to stay on the same page — literally. Consultative communications are especially valuable for keeping clients onboard, ensuring that you can avoid ‘pushy’ sales techniques, and instead prove the real value of a paid service.

    Insights make it easier to add value

    In an increasingly commoditised landscape, better MSP sales plans undeniably rely on a provider’s ability to prove value over and above the raw technology and, ultimately, differentiate outcomes from their competition. Holistic services and in-house collaborations are a crucial part of that. However, having analytics capabilities that can focus your commercial teams on actionable insights sits at the centre of making this approach a reality. Too many toolkits leave this valuable information only in the hands of engineers.

    Here at Highlight, we’ve been helping sales teams get value right for three decades, meaning that, even before remote work became a norm, we were developing a tool that made all these modern service provider requirements possible. Far from overly technical integrations that leave sales teams and their clients out of the loop, our non-technical, customer-facing platform keeps everyone in the know, leading to sales-based benefits that include:

    • Tangible offerings based on real numbers
    • Trust-building network audits
    • Same-page communications
    • And much, much more

    If you want to learn more about how Highlight can transform your MSP sales process, get in touch, or check out our eBook — Transforming the Value of Networks.

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