Sometimes the most tedious and laborious tasks can have exceptional results for your IT business if carried out correctly.
Prospecting is one of these tasks.
I'm going to disclose a few simple steps that will transform the understanding and future growth of your technology business.
All too often, I see MSPs buying lists or getting some poor grunt to generate a list of prospects.
The reality is that an initial list of 150 prospects should be created by those within the business that have a stake in the future success of the business.
This list will soon become your reality.
You need to have a vision for your business that is clear. Why 150 and not 1500 prospects? 150 is a manageable and realistic number to work with. It's also known as "Dunbar's number" which in essence is the number any one person can have a meaningful relationship with.
Robin Dunbar who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.
150, in essence, allows us to focus.
If you can create a crystal clear list of prospects that you would love to do business with, then that takes you one step closer to a future of predictable growth.
The goal of prospecting is to have a clear understanding of who you wish to do business with.
If you are a member of IT Rockstars, you already know this is one of the 1st tasks we take you through - holding your hand to make a simple list.
When the list is created, we can then apply our msp marketing material to it.
This is what I call a targeted approach to marketing. Why bother marketing to everyone when all you need to do is market to the people you want to do business with?
Not only can you budget better, you have a far higher degree of success in making your marketing work as part of your sales process.
Remember this: People buy from people.
If you can target the right people in this prospect list with personalized marketing material (something we offer our members at IT Rockstars)
Then there's a far higher chance they will be responsive to your sales process and eventually sign that managed service contract or cybersecurity audit.
As mentioned, there are a few simple steps you can take to create this list, and it should not take more than 1 hour of your time for five days.
Once complete, you'll have a clear understanding of who will receive your marketing material and who you will eventually be courting.
There are four primary sources of data that we can use to build our list.
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator
- BNI Directory
- Chamber of Commerce
- Failed Proposals
All of these data sources are "live", meaning that the data held within is them is valid and up to date. Best of all, some of the sources are paid, meaning it's businesses only with cash to spend that are listed.
There are many sources of data online and data brokers; however, the integrity of the data from other sources not listed here should be questioned.
To give you an example of this. I owned a break-fix computer & laptop repair shop in 2007 - I paid for ads in the Yellow Pages at the time, and Yell.com - the listings for this business are still live in their database and many other online directories that replicate date from these sources.
This is the perfect example of why many online data sources cannot be trusted.
The data is out of date.
Linked, BNI, Chamber and online groups and associations, however, are user-generated. If something changes within these sources, the change is carried through almost instantly.
An example of this on LinkedIn - if you've ever changed job or started a new company, one of the 1st things you do is update your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
At the time of writing, LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers a 30 day trial of their service. They have a few paid options of which you should choose Sales Navigator.
For the purpose of building out our list, the 30-day trial is more than enough time to extract what we need.
The main benefit to the paid version compared with searching for companies on LinkedIn for free is that you can perform deeper searches of the database.
The same searches on the free version, and you'll soon run into roadblocks due to either limitation on the size of your network connections or search limits put in place on the free version.
The other benefit is the ability to search LinkedIn sales navigator by company headcount, industry and geography.
At this point, it's probably worth asking the question, what types of businesses does your MSP work with? This will give you some insight into who you should be targeting on LinkedIn sales navigator.
Here is a quick video on how we perform searches on LinkedIn sales navigator, including some more advanced tips on how to find the "IT Buyers".
Like it or loathe it, BNI has a fantastic feature that you can take advantage of even if you are not a paying member.
It's a bit under the radar - meaning not many people know about this, but they have an online directory of all their paying members.
The great thing is that the directory is always up to date - if a member leaves, then they are removed from the directory, so it only includes active businesses that have money to spend.
In the USA & UK, BNI is split into regional areas owned by franchise holders.
USA Regional Site list: https://bniamerica.com/en-US/regionlist
UK Regional Site list: https://bni.co.uk/en-GB/regionlist
These regional sites list out all the chapters in the region - you can quite quickly drill down into your local area of operation and find a good few chapter directories.
Most members update their own profile, which also includes their cell phone number! Gold right there, but it's worth noting that those individuals may not be the best people to speak to about your IT service offerings.
Use the BNI directory as a guide with further research on the company in question performed using LinkedIn sales navigator.
Chamber of Commerce
Similar to the BNI directory, almost all local chamber of commerce organizations have an online directory of their members.
Again this is paid membership, and the date is live with old members removed from the directory when no longer paying for membership. Most chambers include a publically accessible version of the member directory on their website.
You will tend to find more established businesses are listed in the chamber of commerce directories. If you are a member, then you may even have the option of receiving the data in excel format or something easier to work with, so it's worth asking your chamber representative if they can help you with their directory.
Keep an eye on new members to the directory as you'll sometimes find this is established businesses entering the area and expanding - always an opportunity to lay some CAT6 or let their internal IT team know about IT support options that are local.
As the world goes digital, both LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups have sprung up to serve niches within industries.
Have a good think about where your prospects might hang out online.
Let's say, for example, you are niching down to provide IT Support for accountants that run Xero - a quick search on Facebook tells me that there are over 20 associate Facebook groups dedicated to Xero.
This is just one example but a good place to start if you know what line of business apps your prospects use on a regular basis.
If you are not niching down, then you should seriously consider creating your own local business owner Facebook Group. We have a whole masterclass on this topic in the IT Rockstars member area.
Being the owner of a local Facebook group that helps promote local businesses is one of the quickest ways to grow your business network and at the same time be perceived as an established local business.
I highly recommend you check out the masterclass as part of our trial at IT Rockstars - it is an invaluable resource, and the group will become an asset to your business over time.
Data to capture
Now that you have an idea of the data sources that are available to you need to record information about your prospects.
This is a basic simple step in the process, but we must make sure we're doing it correctly.
In an excel list or your CRM of choice, you want to capture the following details:
- First & Last Name
- Job Title
- Company Website Address
- Company Name
Optional details include email address and cell phone number. There are a number of data enrichment services that will allow you to extract more information on a LinkedIn connection however, I tend to avoid these as you'll be tempted to spam your prospect, which is not the path we want to go down here.
Your task is now to populate a list of 150 blank spaces in that excel spreadsheet.
Sounds simple right?
If you get stuck, there are some other sources you should include in your list:
Failed quotes - check your email sent items - the last 36 months worth of quotes you have sent that have been unable to convert to business - these contacts should be on your prospect list.
Lead enquiries - if you have a contact form on your website or if you've had prospects email/call you, they should also be on your list. We regularly get facebook messages/LinkedIn messages from prospects. All of which are added to our list.
Local business celebrities - I'm sure you are aware of people in your local business community that have an almost celebrity-like status - they may not buy your IT services directly but can act as a good referral source and should be included on your list.
The final source is past referral sources -people that have either referred your business or acted in a way that has helped you win business. These contacts should be added to your prospect list.
At this stage, your prospect list is more than just prospects - it is a valuable insight into opportunities that will present themselves over time. Each name on the list is like a door of opportunity that eventually will open.
Getting a feel for the company.
This process is not just about building a list - it should be deemed research and development. When you start building a list, one of the first things you should do some simple research on the company.
I tend to visit each prospect's website and check out their services, about page and any other relevant information. LinkedIn and Facebook are also good places to stalk and research the activity your prospects get up to online.
You'll soon get a feel for the type of business if you spend just 5 minutes doing this for each name on your list.
When your list is finally built, there are a few things we can do to help enrich the quality of the list.
The first is to record the postal/mailing address for each of the prospects. This will be a valuable coloum in your list when it comes time to market to them.
It is, however, a fairly laborious task of visiting each prospects websites, recording and entering the contact address. I usually outsource this to Upwork.com - for $20, I can have all the addresses recorded on the list within a few days.
The second enrichment of the list is to qualify the list - some questions that have to be asked of the prospects by either yourself or again someone from Upwork.com:
- Are they the IT buying decision-maker?
- Do they have a current MSP, or is IT an internal resource?
- If they do have an MSP, what is the contract end date?
- Who is the incumbant MSP?
- Who many users are within the company, not employees, users.
- The address on your website, is it the best address to send you the results of the survey? If not, please provide.
These questions can be framed in a way that it's deemed as technology research - you can quite easily hire a "student" to do this research as part of their project into local business IT support.
Or if you are brave - do this research yourself. I'm not going to give advice here as I'm the worst at cold calling - but if I had to, I would outsource it to a "student" with a local accent.
As you can imagine building the list is somewhat of a tedious task - the qualification aspect scares this shit out of most, and they turn off to the whole idea of creating a list.
However, students and Upwork are great resources to help you through this process.
To round this up:
- Build a list of 150 names
- Enrich the list with postal/mailing addresses
- Qualify the list using your best phone manner or give a student a paid research project.