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How Service Providers Can Re-Imagine Sales Enablement in 2021

Published: 19 November 2020

The disruption of 2020 obliges everyone to pause and rethink. At Highlight, we’ve spent two decades helping service providers commercially succeed. Sales enablement is a critical component of what separates high-margin MSPs from businesses struggling to keep their feet.

Sales enablement gives sales teams the resources they need to close deals. These resources traditionally included content, tools, knowledge, and help to sell your product or service to customers. But is it enough?

You need to have a basic understanding of traditional sales enablement — lead qualification and marketing automation. However, we think there are three critical steps to going beyond the basics and improving sales enablement in 2021. Those are:

  1. Consultative selling: Sales teams that understand how services are being used can add real value and use those positive engagements to close more deals.

  2. Targeted upselling: Armed with tailored insights, sales teams can pick the right topics of conversations and back up their suggestions with facts.

  3. Prioritised conversations: Quick insights about clients lets you pick the right conversations to have. This not only means targeting the right upsell and coming armed with the right advice, it means choosing the right clients to speak to — and optimising the timing of those engagements.

All three of these strategies come down to data, analysis and insights. Critically, that means thinking about how information is presented to sales teams, and enabling them to improve conversations with customers and potential customers.

1. Be Consultative and Add Value

Data-driven consulting should be part of your sales process. “Consulting” can be a product in and of itself. However, you don’t need to become a consulting service to benefit from this strategy — and the right insights platform will make the incremental transition to consultative selling a lot easier.

With new customers, that might mean conducting a network audit. By reviewing their existing network capabilities you can make suggestions about how to improve outcomes. The value of an audit, however, goes much further. New business deals are generally very dependent on quoting against requirements that the customer has likely estimated. Your ability to quote based on real data is an important advantage. Not only will the customer trust the quote more, it’s very possible that they grossly overestimated their requirements — allowing you to under-bid the competition simply by providing an accurate quote.

The challenge is simply surfacing those insights to your sales teams in a way that they can turn that information into actions. Fundamentally, don’t be afraid of providing some value upfront — it will help drive sales.

The joys of upselling

There are two ways to grow your business.

  • The first is to acquire new customers.

  • The second is to focus on retaining existing clients and increasing their customer lifetime value (CLV).

On average, signing up a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one. The chance of selling to a new prospect is often as little as 5-20%; for existing customers, that figure rises to 60-70%. Your specifics obviously matter, but these are averages to keep in mind.

You already have reams of information about existing customers. Remember to bring a consultative-edge to the upselling/cross-selling process. The real point here is that you should use insights about customers to provide value-added advice during the sales process, or to start sales conversations.

Going beyond the firewall

Insights don’t have to be limited to external networks and traditional MSP services. Information about the customers’ LAN and WiFI is equally valuable. You can use that foothold to expand what you offer and step up to help customers more effectively manage their entire IT stack. By becoming an integral part of your customers’ IT team, you can drive more sales and deliver a more valuable service.

Pro tip: The right technology makes using insights during the sales process much easier. Traditional monitoring tools will simply flood you with data points. A targeted insights platform with views tailored to the needs of sales teams will make this process much easier. Get in touch if you want to learn more.

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2. Provide Sales Tools that Share Insight with Customers and Prospects

Most service providers don’t provide the right information to either customers or internal teams. There is also a marked difference between what is presented pre- and post-sale. You need to remember that “information” can be broken down into three categories:

  • Data: The raw engineering-level building blocks of information on the components of a service.

  • Analysis: Standardised reports with data sorted into meaningful groups, helping you start to make a decision.

  • Insights: Contextualised analysis placed in the real world and able to be used to create meaningful actions and outcomes

Many service providers confuse data for analysis; and analysis for insight. But only insights are really capable of driving the sales process. You need technology that’s not only able to provide you with those targeted insights, but can also help you share those figures with customers.

Pro tip: Not all insights are created equal. Some tools claim to provide insights, but the insights have to be programmed by the service provider. Particularly sales teams don’t have the time or interest to spend ages making monitoring tools produce the information they need. To be effective, you need “effortless insights” that just work.

Make it easy to communicate

Being on the same page as the customer is vital, and even during the pre-sale stage, you should be able to demonstrate that the customer will have access to the same information as you. You should also be able to explain that you will base service discussions and conversations around this shared, impartial view.

With a collaborative portal view of your service, customers will, literally, be on the same screen/page as you. They know they will be discussing clear service-based insights with sales teams and service managers, not just your engineers. Such tools demonstrate that you will add value, and that you intend to build a relationship with the customer; you understand their world and will help solve their problems.

3. Manage commoditisation

Commoditisation is an inevitable outcome of market and technological maturity. Standards improve to a level where customers assume the results will be the same — and they start looking for the cheapest provider.

Sales teams often make things worse for themselves by focusing on modularity, performance and technology. They go out of their way to sell a “box-of-bits”, making it easier to buy solely on price.

By focusing on outcomes, problem-solving, and being able to convey the experience of being your customer, you can differentiate a commodity product. This will make it easier to close deals and help drive up margins.

Familiarity generates positivity

People like things they’re familiar with. This is so often observed that it has two different names in social psychology: the “mere-exposure effect” and “familiarity principle”. Letting potential customers experience your product early in the buying process can increase understanding and usage. You create greater engagement with your product and make it more likely that a prospect becomes a paying customer.

Focus on the customer journey – manage churn early

One of the critical indicators of commoditisation is churn. But a high churn rate can also be the result of poor sales enablement strategies. Many firms can attract the wrong kinds of customers or oversell themselves.

Share with the customer as early as possible:

  • How you will manage them in service.

  • How you will share insights during that customer's lifetime.

  • How you can change as the customer changes.

Your customers will have a clearer understanding of what you offer, and you will have a clearer understanding of your customer and their expectations. All this will ultimately prevent your service from being seen as a commodity — it will improve your customer experience, increase your customer lifetime value, and help drive sales in the first place.

Using insights to define a new sales process

Change is an opportunity — and 2020 was full of change. A big part of creating a more sustainable future for MSPs is changing the narrative around commoditisation — sales strategies (and the technology you use) will be a big part of that.

Traditional sales enablement focuses on creating a lead qualification process, using case studies and implementing sales automation workflows. These are all important things to get right, and should be studied in detail if you don’t already have processes in place. However, your sales enablement strategies now need to move on to using tools that bring you closer to your customers and better able you to communicate with them.

You cannot differentiate a commodity. But you can distinguish the process and outcome of using a commodity. The strategies we've set out boil down to the better use of data, analytics and insights to drive communication. By using tools in your sales process that show not only how your service works but why it is better, you can create positive customer experiences that will help you win in 2021.

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