No business owner wants to be thought of as an opportunist during a pandemic. MSPs work hard to build a reputable name and, in most cases, go out of their way and over-deliver on commitments made to their clients, employees, and community. That dedication drives sales and customer retention and can help providers get the attention of the best candidates during the hiring process.

However, after three-plus months of supporting the pandemic-related needs of clients, helping many companies and end-users through “not so common” issues, it’s time for MSPs to put on their sales hats again (for those who haven’t already). Many IT services firms are experiencing or anticipating reductions in their revenue streams and cash flow in the coming months and cannot afford to hold back.

It’s time to overcome that natural tendency of burying your head during uncertain times. Why are you in business? The answer may involve several factors and can get more complicated every year as you add employees and clients and develop relationships with new suppliers. A lot of people depend on the success of your managed services business. Now is the time to refuel your sales engine to spur growth and head off a potential longer-term drop in your company’s cash flow.

Rip off that band-aid

Over the past few months, MSPs have been busy triaging client issues, configuring work from home (WFH) options for virtually everyone, including their teams, and tightening up cybersecurity measures. Some experienced short-term revenue increases with customers acquiring and setting up remote worksites, but most providers scaled back proactive sales and marketing activities.

No ethical business owner wants to be thought of as opportunistic or insensitive during a national (or global) health emergency. Carrying on a traditional sales conversation when people are struggling can be uncomfortable. However, MSPs control the narrative as respected advisors and trusted business partners and should always be willing to offer insight and advice that will improve clients’ operations and financial situations.

If you haven’t already had a profound “heart to heart” conversation with customers about their pain points and plans to move forward as states reopen for business, it’s time to “rip off those band-aids.” Even those clients experiencing cash flow issues may be looking for help. They may have substantial decisions to make to keep their businesses running and could be quite receptive to discussions on automation, revenue-enhancing technologies, and other cost-saving ideas.

Take your discussions onward and upward

A proactive conversation is the best approach for engaging clients and walking away with new business. If your team is not discussing current problems, future plans, and new opportunities with customers and prospects, someone else may step in and fill that communications and sales void.

In most cases, decision-makers are ready for those conversations, especially with MSPs who can adjust their objectives and tailor the dialogue to meet their needs. Inject more empathy and reduce the sales talk. That’s not rocket science, just human interaction.

Good discovery statements can help your sales team get useful information from clients and prospects. That approach encourages the other parties to talk more, to agree or dispute the comment, and expand on or support their position. Here are a few examples of good discovery statements:

  • It seems like things are going well.
  • It sounds like your company plans to boost its remote work capabilities.
  • It looks like your company is expecting to continue expanding after the pandemic.

The trick is to phrase the statement as a question, in which case most people will offer up more information to prove or disprove the comment and move to the next step or topic. If you let the other person drive the conversation, they will sell themselves on the services or solutions you came to discuss. Not only does that show empathy for a customer or prospect’s situation, but it will encourage engagement and get them to open up and present new opportunities outside the original scope of the call or visit.

Evaluate each situation

The COVID-19 pandemic affects every business differently. Companies that produce disinfectants and hand sanitizers are having record years (and we’re not even halfway through June), while many restaurants and hotels are struggling to pay the bills. Your sales approach will need to vary based on the economic prospects for that specific client, so uncovering that information early in the conversation is a crucial first step.

Flexibility is key. Tailor sales conversations to address each business’ technological and support needs, as well as its current and future financial prospects. Don’t assume their condition will remain the same. Owners could leverage government stimulus checks and low-interest loans to rethink and retool their operations and might require more support from their IT services partners than larger clients.

That scenario illustrates why MSPs need to have meaningful conversations with all their customers as soon as possible. Find out how the organization is doing and determine if there are any technological solutions or support programs you could offer to improve their situation. With that information in hand, consider following one of these three sales approaches with your clients and prospects depending on their current condition:

1. Business is crushing revenue projections. Go all-in on your IT services proposals. Push projects and new workspace options that can help those clients continue the momentum and assume the close. Take a more aggressive approach to get the business and grow your firm’s wallet share of their budget, fall back to address any objections, and then close the sale.

2. Struggling business. Reinforce and reiterate the value your firm provides and how instrumental your team has been in preventing additional losses in the current environment. Assure decision-makers that they have your support and offer up cost-saving solutions that can boost profitability and speed up their recovery process. Be as supportive as possible. Uncover objections with good discovery statements (refer to the list above) and assume the close.

3. The business has no hope. The reality of the situation is that a customer who cannot pay is a liability. The objective is to find a way for both organizations to get through the situation without hurting one another. In some cases, you may need to negotiate a graceful business exit, which, if done with compassion and empathy, could lead to new opportunities in the future. You never know where principals and employees may end up after a business closes, and they just might appreciate your company’s capabilities and care.

Final thoughts on proactive selling

If you do these things well, your clients will never leave. Be a partner in their profitability and focus on the bigger picture. The key for MSPs is to do everything possible to ensure that every one of your clients successfully makes it through the pandemic.

That philosophy applies to your business, too. If you have not restarted the sales process and began having more meaningful future conversations with your clients and prospects, what are you waiting for? Get the answers to those burning questions today. Without that much-needed information, how can you project cash flow, make key financial decisions, and build solid plans for the future of your MSP business?

You can’t.