What do customers want from their suppliers? If you could reliably answer that question, sales calls would be a whole lot easier, right?
Most MSPs and IT professionals, when approached with this question, and asked to think about their differentiators will talk about a few common areas of their business strategy. This is usually their brand, their reputation as a service provider, their great service and skills, or their industry-leading price tag. However, according to Matt Dixon, author of “The Challenger Sale, Taking Control of the Customer Conversation“, at the latest K1 conference, more than 53% of the contribution to customer loyalty comes down to sales experience.
Why is Sales Experience Such an Important Differentiator?
Interestingly, when Dixon describes talking to customers, he comments that all of those differentiators that we mentioned above, from service offering to price point or customer service and reputation, mean very little when you get down to the shortlist. Of course, a poor product, or negative brand reputation is going to hold you back from getting ahead as an MSP. But once you’re in a company’s top 3 or 5 service providers, these aren’t as important as you might think. Most businesses see very little difference between good MSPs, all of whom are likely to offer 24/7 service, a competitive price point, similar service offerings, and have raving customer recommendations to back them up. As MSPs, we work around the clock to compete on price, brand, quality, support… and actually, these aren’t what closes the deal.
What does help set you apart, is your sales pitch. Those few minutes that you have in front of a prospect, where you can truly make or break a relationship.
What Does a BAD Sales Experience Look Like for an MSP?
So, now that we’ve seen how important sales experience is, let’s understand what a ‘poor’ sales experience and a ‘good’ sales experience really means, and how that applies to attracting new MSP clients, as well as how YOU can use sales experience to win out against the competition.
Dixon calls poor presentations “time vampires”, and we love it! It’s true that when someone is standing in front of you and wasting your time, you’re never going to get those minutes back. There are two main kinds of sales conversations that destroy value.
The first, the ‘Show up and Throw up’. Here, the salesperson acts as a kind of talking brochure, simply regurgitating a sales pitch that could well be copied and pasted from the company website. As an MSP, this would be a sales call where you tell your prospects how long you’ve been in business, who your satisfied customers are, how many offices you have, and list the add-ons and services that you provide.
Interestingly, in research with many c-suite decision-makers, the other kind of negative sales experience comes from when a salesperson comes through the door and asks an open-ended question like “What’s keeping you up at night?” As many Heads of Sales consider open-ended questioning to be a great sales approach, the problem with this needs more thought.
How to Curate a GREAT Sales Experience
The truth is, it isn’t the open-ended questions that are the problem. Obviously, as an MSP, you need to know what your prospects are looking for. It’s the kinds of questions that your salespeople ask.
Your biggest competitor is your customers’ ability to learn on their own. So, ask yourself – what can’t they learn on their own? As a salesperson, you’re meeting with dozens of CIOs and other high-up executives every single week. That’s probably more than the average buyer will meet within a year! You’re in a unique position of expertise and knowledge. So YOU tell THEM what should be keeping them up at night!
This position of expertise should be informing the entire sales meeting, and that’s what will drive a positive sales experience. We’ve all had those meetings that are so valuable in and of themselves, you would have paid for the sales pitch! Those are the meetings that lead to the sale. Ask yourself, how are you going to use the sales call or the meeting to provide one or more of the following:
- A unique or valuable perspective on the market
- The ability to navigate alternative options for customer challenges
- Insights into how the customer can avoid issues or poor outcomes
- Workarounds for common industry pain points
- New ideas that the customer hasn’t heard before
- A surprising or an insightful conversation
If your sales pitch can bring together these variables, you’re providing value during that initial conversation that becomes your true differentiator. Rather than rely on what the customer sees as the ‘sameness’ between you and your shortlist companions, the brand, price, service, or reputation, you’re highlighting your expertise as a way to stand out from the crowd.
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