5 Steps to Setup Your Sales Hire for Success

Between the long-time tech shortage and the Great Resignation, finding IT-savvy employees, attracting them, and keeping them is a struggle for MSPs. Hiring sales representatives with both product knowledge and understanding, coupled with sales skills, is a challenge.  No matter how good your solutions and services are, without a capable sales team, your MSP can’t grow.

Additionally, as sales become more digital and less face-to-face, sales strategies must adjust to meet the new preferences of prospects.  If you’re still trying to gain new business using old techniques, it’s not surprising why leads and sales may have stagnated.  With the digital transformation driving the way we do business, it’s time to reevaluate your sales team to ensure you’re keeping up.

In this article…

  • Get 5 steps for your sales hire’s success to ensure you find the right fit the first time to reduce churn and lower hiring costs.
  • Rethink your sales team strategies based on recent surveys that tell us how businesses want to be sold to, and why employees might be leaving.
  • Make sure your MSP is ready to hire the right candidate and foster their growth with a complete picture of who they’re selling to, how they’re selling, and where leads are coming from.

Step #1.  Evaluate Resources vs. Business and Sales Goals

Sure, the goal is to sign more customers and sell more IT services, but how are you doing that?  What’s working and what’s not?  You can hire the best salesperson in the world.  But to be successful in their goals, they need qualified leads, solid product assets and collateral, supportive and trackable follow-up tools, and training to be set up to speak the language of prospects in the manner they prefer.  If salespeople can’t sell, they will quit.  You might be so busy that you are tempted to overlook this first step of mapping sales resources to sales goals, but ask yourself, when was the last time they were updated?

Dave Sobel, a channel voice and leading expert in the delivery of technology services with broad experience in both technology and business, discussed Showpad’s State of Selling Survey on his podcast, The Business of Tech on MSP Radio.  In the episode, he reveals that according to the survey, 86% of buyers now prefer to be sold virtually without face-to-face meetings and says, “the trend is poised to increase rapidly in the near future.” According to Showpad, 8 out of 10 buyers already use or are open to new technologies, and more than half of all buyers want to see physical products before buying them.  Of these, only 34% prefer an in-person demo.  Not surprisingly, the top industry that reports needing to see the product before purchase is technology (64%).

“Digital is the way of the future, and too many providers in this space are not embracing it.  Do so at your peril.” – Dave Sobel, Host of “Business of Tech,” Co-Host of “Killing IT,” and Editor of The Business of Tech

Based on these statistics, you must digitalize your sales funnel for MSPs to gain a competitive advantage in the channel.  Whether that’s through online videos, virtual demos, or the metaverse, it’s clear that traditional in-person office visits aren’t favorable.  Failing to alter your strategies can make your MSP appear dated and incapable of combating today’s cybersecurity landscape.  On the other hand, providing a modern sales experience can impress prospects and build trust for the future.

As you evaluate your capabilities and goals, ask yourself these questions to ensure incoming sales hires have what they need to thrive.  Don’t be afraid to alter what you’ve done in the past, try new things on a small scale, and adjust based on performance and prospect response.

  • Sales Team Capacity: Is it the right time to expand? Can you support a larger team?
  • Organizational Structure:Who should be in what roles for maximum impact based on product knowledge, experience, personality, and sales method?
  • Churn Rate:If sales close but customers don’t stay, what does that say about your product, service, support, and overall experience?  If you gain a lot of leads but don’t close sales, what does that say about your lead generation and sales strategies?
  • Event Impact: What’s necessary to make events “worth it” between costs and expected returns? How might that limit your reach and exposure if you’re still doing in-person events?
  • Market Trends: Are you focused on an underserved or saturated market? Have you considered adopting a target vertical or technical specialty?
  • Industry Happenings: Has a competitor left your market recently or opened the door for you to serve a niche market?  How are you capitalizing on these opportunities?
  • Referrals: If you’ve relied heavily on referrals in the past, can you continue expecting that lead flow? Or do you need to account for the pool running dry?
  • Cross Sells and Upsells: How are you upselling customers at the time they buy and cross-selling existing customers when new products, packages, or services become available?

#2.  Define Your Ideal Customer Profile and Build Your Team Around Them

Your ideal customer profile (ICP) is who you’re targeting and in what market—understanding your audience persona before hiring lets you specify what a sales rep needs to enter those markets confidently.  Obviously, someone familiar with a specific vertical or industry will have a better chance of connecting with those prospects, speaking their language, using the tactics they prefer, and inevitably, closing more sales.  You may have constructed a customer profile in the past, but things have likely changed post-pandemic, and your sales team probably needs to change too.  When building or revisiting your ICP and tailoring strategies around them, consider the following:

  • Persona: Construct a 360-degree view of your target contact, including potential job titles and roles in the company, who they report to, their motivation, pain points, likely hierarchy of products and benefits, and deliver sales information based on these factors.
  • Preferences: Preferred methods of contact and frequency, communication style, and sales collateral types.
  • Business Demographics: Highlight packages, products, or services based on the size of the business according to the number of employees or yearly profit, region, verticals they serve, and end-user profiles.

#3.  Always Be Measuring

You can’t replicate sales that you don’t measure, so while the classic line is always be closing, always be measuring is an updated mantra.  How will you know if your sales hire is doing well or needs improvement?  Are existing strategies successful, or is it time to try something new?  How is the rapidly evolving cyber climate impacting sales?  Regularly measured KPIs, data from sales platforms and email service providers, and toolsets around engagement, usage, response, and so on should be used to gather insights into performance for intentional optimizations.  Standard KPIs include:

  • Number of outgoing calls vs. number of leads
  • Number of meetings booked vs. email response rates
  • Number of closed sales vs. meetings
  • Number of in-person demos and virtual demos vs. closed sales
  • Time and number of contact points from initial call to close

MSPs need to know how many touches a sales rep should have to make before closing the sale or moving on.  Tenacity and persistence are necessary traits for sales, but there comes the point when time and effort outweigh the return.  Failing fast is essential for agility, but you also want to provide enough time and resources for sales reps to build the territory, develop the pipeline, get to know prospects, and become familiar with existing customers.  These introductory tasks can take up to six months, but those timelines always depend on your vertical and industry.  A dental office, for example, will move slower through the sales funnel than a manufacturer because they demand quick fixes to keep the business running.

Demand Waterfall®: 8 Ways to Optimize Your Sales Cycle

#4.  Align Compensation and Commission with Sales Goals

Cash is king, so how and how much you pay sales reps is vital to maintaining your team.  Based on a new Pew Research report, Dave Sobel says, “Most people who switched employers between April 2021 and March 2022 saw an increase in their real earnings – despite surging inflation.  60% of people saw an increase in real earnings after they switched employers, compared with 47% of those who remained in the same job, Pew found.”

“The message to employees is loud and clear – there is money to be had in a new job, and with a quarter of the workforce looking right now, take a look around your office.  One of those four people is probably looking.”– Dave Sobel

To keep the good sales hires you have, you need to be conscious of their bottom line.  The total compensation, including base salary and commission, must align with reachable goals.  If possible, incentivize your sales rep with a motivating commission structure.  Money is obviously the best incentive and motivator, so if you can cut your reps in on the profits, that creates a direct tie from their effort to their bank account.

Incentives look different across MSPs.  It could be a limited scope incentive, where reps are paid after six or 12 months from the close date – to keep reps engaged with new customers.  You could implement clawbacks where the commission payment has to be returned if the customer leaves within one year of signing.  A basic compensation plan built on activities is that if the rep makes X calls, generates X meetings, and X deals close, then the rep gets X percentage of the deal.  Whatever your incentive structure, it needs to encourage the behavior you want to see from reps.

Of course, your MSP has to be profitable enough to handle whatever compensation plan you offer.  Do the math to determine your sales reps’ cost/benefit analysis.  What’s the average customer deal?  How many new customers do you need to add each month?  And/or how many existing customers need to add X amount of services.  A good salesperson figures out how to beat the compensation plan.  They think, “What do I have to do to make sure this works in my favor?” Lucky for businesses, the answer is typically to sell more.

#5.  Provide Comprehensive Onboarding and Sales Materials

Once you’ve figured out your what (goals), who (ICP), and why (compensation), it’s time to answer “how.” A sales playbook and/or training set should be created to onboard new employees, highlight brand identity, provide resources for outreach, and so on.  How do you want your reps to sell?  What do they need to know from prospecting to closing?

This includes sales resources and marketing strategies.  Salespeople need specific assets such as…

  • Gated content like one-pagers and eBooks
  • Engaging email campaigns
  • Free assets like case studies, SMB-specific business helpers, product data sheets
  • Invites to demos, trials, and events
  • Talk tracks to keep conversations going by phone and via LinkedIn

If you’re a home-grown MSP and much of this type of information lives in the head of the owner, it’s time for it to come out.  Without these things, your sales reps will certainly not be able to reach established goals, and you’ll have to deal with the mess of high turnover and low sales.

MSP Marketing and Sales Guide: 4 Ways to Grow Your Business on a Budget

Download Axcient’s comprehensive, 4-part guide created to help MSPs maximize marketing and sales channels for easier growth.  Covering everything from events and social media to referral programs and cross-selling, this simple guide provides actionable takeaways you can put into practice almost immediately.  Make the most of a small marketing and sales team with simple, straightforward tactics to move the needle on generating growth for your MSP.


Download the MSP Marketing and Sales Guide


Liz Mellem

About the Author:
Liz Mellem // Technical Copywriter, Axcient

Liz Mellem has been a freelance copywriter for over three years in the technology, education, and alternative medicine industries. She produces content, sales collateral, and email marketing campaigns that contribute to digital marketing strategies for sales growth and brand awareness. In her free time, Liz enjoys reading, exploring Austin, and Netflix with her cat, Harlem.

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