By Andrew Moon, Founder, Orange Nomad
By Andrew Moon, Founder, Orange Nomad
"I need more leads!" "I need more sales!" I hear these phrases a lot when working with MSPs and other IT Solution Providers. I’d be a gazillionare if I had a dollar every time I hear these phrases.
Everyone is looking for the latest sales gadget / software / whatever that is going to help them get more leads and close sales. Unfortunately, getting more leads doesn't always equate to more sales.
CAUGHT IN THE FUNNEL
Most of us that have come up in sales and marketing were taught the traditional sales funnel. That's how we were supposed to think of people as they traveled the layers of the mythical sales funnel. They went from a hot lead to a prospect, and, hopefully, to a new client. That's the hope.
This method has served us well for quite some time. Unfortunately, a little thing called social media changed the game. Social media has shifted the information and control into the hands of our potential clients.
The traditional sales funnel focused on sales and conversions. As I mentioned, this has served us well for many years. But today, 60% of sales decisions are made before potential customers ever enter our sales funnel.1 Consumers are prepared and educated well in advance. Trusted referrals are more powerful than ever.
74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions.2 People want to do business with people, not companies. That's become the new mantra for consumers.
Selling IT services or Managed Services is no different. It's a long, complicated process for consumers. They don't understand it so they look to other people that have been through the process, to recommend someone they know, like and trust. It's typically about the relationship.
A TOOL THAT CHANGES THE GAME
Building relationships comes way before the sales process. Developing relationships is even more important in the sales experience.
One of the most powerful tools for creating and building relationships is LinkedIn™. It's sitting right in front of us. Unfortunately, most people, including IT folks, don't know how to properly utilize it. It's often the most under-utilized and abused tool in the market because we can't seem to figure it out.
The good news is that we're IT folks. It's an online tool, and we understand that pretty much everything is about systems and processes.
LinkedIn™ is no different. We need to have a system and process for being able to create relationships. This will allow us to have a consistent flow of relationships coming in which will eventually lead to sales.
Having a roadmap would really be helpful. Below I outline the 5 step process for becoming effective at LinkedIn™.
STEP 1: OPTIMIZE YOUR PERSONAL PROFILE
Your personal LinkedIn™ profile is not your online resume. Most of us are IT business owners or executives, and we likely aren't looking for a job.
Too many times I see IT folks have a ton of techie speak on their profiles. We tend to get enamored and caught up with all technical bits. However, we are trying to attract and connect with other CEOs and decision makers. They don't care about all the tech stuff. Sorry to break your heart.
Your personal profile is the chance to tell your origin story in the Profile Summary section. Why did you get in business? What challenges have you faced as a business owner? How did you overcome these challenges? Better yet, how can you help other small businesses overcome their business challenges? That's the stuff people want to know about.
We want to be seen as a peer to the folks we are trying to connect with. They don't want to connect with another IT tech.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY OUR TARGET MARKET
Many IT folks I talk to are either clueless as to who their target market is, or they are afraid of being too narrow in their focus.
Having a defined target market is essential to having success on LinkedIn™. Otherwise you will be wasting time and effort, and end up frustrated. This is where I tend to find most folks. They don't know who they are looking for, and wonder why they can't find them.
A defined niche or vertical is the foundation of searching for people on LinkedIn™. We need to know as much as we can about who they are (i.e. job title, geographic location, etc.) These things are readily available on LinkedIn™.
STEP 3: INITIATING THE RELATIONSHIP
A lasting relationship starts with connecting with people in the right way. We've all had this happen: you connect with someone on LinkedIn™, and you immediately get a sales pitch. [/face palm] We all hate that. Your ideal clients do too. Don't be that guy or girl.
Taking the connection offline is extremely effective in building the relationship. Informal, in-person coffee meetings were the best way I found success while growing my MSP. This allowed me to learn about them. Finding out their frustrations with their industry, as well as the IT industry, proved invaluable in helping me craft our service to solve those needs.
I want to be clear about one thing. These offline meetings are NOT sales meetings. Let me repeat that. These offline meetings are NOT sales meetings. You are there to create a relationship. You don't do that by coming out of the gate selling stuff.
Let's face it, not everyone has an immediate need for IT services right now. Most people eventually will. If we have developed a proper relationship with them, you will be the first person they think of when they, or someone they know, need IT services. Closing business in this scenario will be more akin to a referral. We all like referrals!
STEP 4: CREATING CONSISTENT VALUE
Many IT folks think that the right way to do social media is to just post the same tired content out there in hopes that it will lead to a sale. I've got bad news for you. This will never lead directly to a sale. Yes, I said it. Just posting on social will not lead to sales.
"So, why should I even bother then?"
Creating value using social media will lead to sales. People want to see that you are contributing to conversations, helping people solve problems and being a thought leader. The folks that have the most success online are the ones that do this consistently. They write articles, post videos, and participate in groups or discussions where their ideal clients hang out. Yes, this takes time. But it will go a long way to helping establish trust well before the sales process begins.
STEP 5: DEFINE AND MEASURE
As with anything in business, we can't improve and gauge success on things we don't measure.
A simple goal for LinkedIn™ is to reach out and connect with 5-10 people every day. Once you are connected, follow up on the conversation a few days later with an invitation to meet for coffee/breakfast/lunch. This strategy typically leads to 2-4 meetings per month.
You don't have to be fancy with the tracking system. A simple Excel spreadsheet with the following columns will suffice: First Name, Last Name, Company Name, LinkedIn™ profile link, Connection Sent, Connection Accepted, Meeting Request Sent, Meeting Accepted. (Put the dates in the last four columns)
Consistency is key! Your goal is to create the habit of daily creating new relationships. This formula worked for me as an MSP, and continues to work for countless IT providers today.
THE FUTURE OF IT SALES
The future of sales in the IT industry, in my opinion, won't be about more paid ads or puking out more irrelevant content. I think it will come down to who is the best at creating relationships. Lasting relationships are forged well before we get into the sales process. Be sure to use the most powerful
sales relationship tool that's hiding in plain sight, LinkedIn™.
Andrew Moon aka the Orange Nomad is a serial entrepreneur who has launched and run several successful businesses since age 8. After running a successful MSP for 10 years, he founded Orange Nomad to help MSPs, small businesses and entrepreneurs bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Andrew enjoys the challenge of working with the smaller firms, and spent his life building something from nothing, and is really great at scrappy, creative and really, really smart strategy coupled with hard work. Feel free to contact Andrew.