It’s never easy to win a customer away from a competitor, but there are a few ways to make the sales process of unseating an incumbent more effective.
When your MSP is well-established and you have fleshed out your ideal prospect – meaning that you have moved beyond taking any and all business that comes your way – the bigger opportunities often come with a difficult reality: Your best prospects are already working with one of your competitors. To close the sale, you not only have to convince them to work with you, but you also have to convince them to leave behind an existing relationship.
You are likely well aware of this already, but too often we see MSP sales teams and MSP business owners failing to incorporate this understanding into their sales processes. If you know an incumbent is already in play, you should address that with your approach and with the prospect; otherwise, you will find it difficult to drive a wedge (a term we borrow from the book “The Wedge” by Randy Schwantz) between the incumbent MSP and your prospect.
Left unaddressed, prospects will likely take the easy road: taking your insights back to their current provider to avoid the messiness of changing contracts, transferring systems, and learning an entirely new set of processes. That path has the least conflict and the least friction, and it allows the prospect to stay in the relationship where they are already comfortable.
To close the sale, you not only have to convince them to work with you, but you also have to convince them to leave behind an existing relationship.
When we talk to MSPs about these sales opportunities, we highlight four key steps:
- Sharing insights is important, but don’t do so without first establishing expectations of what comes after those insights. Address the incumbent’s presence head-on, and be candid with your prospect that you know how these things go. You know that the incumbent will get to see the proposal, and you know that incumbent will insist that they can do what you have proposed. Something along the lines of: “I want us to be able to have a candid conversation about why my firm was the first to bring these points to your attention. Can we agree to that?”
- Develop leading questions that guide your prospect into reconsidering the effectiveness of their current solution. Attacking a competitor is poor form and rarely reflects positively on you; in fact, it can make the prospect feel like you are attacking them (since they chose to work with their current MSP). By asking questions about how they are overcoming certain challenges or if they are using particularly innovative solutions – when you likely know that they are struggling or have fallen behind – you can bring the prospect on a journey of discovery where they feel more informed instead of attacked.
- Be prepared to overcome “lock-in.” In your business, you likely employ systems that make it difficult for clients to leave you – the systems are too good, migrating data is difficult and the features are unique to your solutions – but those same advantages you enjoy are the roadblocks incumbents use to derail your sales process. Beyond that, the current MSP solution provider in place will likely throw in last-second discounts and upgrades and cash in all of its built-up rapport to save the account. Don’t leave your prospect feeling as though they have to address this alone. Coach them through it, and arm them with the tools, processes and responses they need to separate from the incumbent as painlessly as possible.
- Understand that a “no” today is not a “no” forever. High-value prospects rarely convert quickly, and even prospects that immediately see the value your firm could provide will move carefully and deliberately before making a change; after all, you would hope that they would behave the same way when they begin working with you. So be respectful, be patient and have a positive attitude. If you nurture these prospects over the long term, you will likely discover that you close more business overall and unlock a new pipeline of high-value referrals along the way.
(Related: Webinar – The 7 Deadly Mistakes MSP Salespeople Make)
The incumbent will never be an easy challenge to overcome, but you can more consistently convert these opportunities into clients if you adapt your sales process accordingly. If you address the reality directly, you can have the kinds of conversations that are necessary for the prospect to understand your value, what makes you different and why they should reconsider the status quo of their current MSP choices.