SDB-Consulting is widely known as Autotask Service Delivery experts. We run a successful business and use Autotask as one of our Core Applications. Occasionally we are asked to assist with setting up the Opportunity Pipeline in Autotask.
We are not Sales experts. However, when it comes to setting up the Sales/Opportunity pipelines so that Service Delivery is successful, we have a lot of opinions based on facts and our real-world experiences.
Feel free to reach out to another, more qualified Autotask Certified Consultant Partner (CCP) when looking for Sales advice (don’t worry, we won’t mind). If you do not know who they are, let us know and we can direct you to one of them.
Now, let’s dig right into Datto’s KPI #9, the Sales Pipeline…
To get the eBook from Datto, download it here.
Datto‘s 9th KPI: Sales Pipeline
- A lot of MSPs do not have a dedicated sales team. Oftentimes, there might be one person who is responsible for sales and many other roles within the company.
- Autotask PSA can help simplify this role via the CRM component for sales forecasting and pipeline.
- A forecast offers a short-term view, like what deals are likely to close in the next few months, whereas a pipeline offers the overall view of all opportunities that are still at play at various stages of the buying cycle.
- Be sure to aim for 4X pipeline for each dollar you spend in order to be profitable in your forecast. Why forecast like this? This is because one in four opportunities is likely to close.
- Next, look at the velocity and life cycle of deals. Deal velocity is how long it takes for an opportunity to close.
- A deal lifecycle, on the other hand, is looking at each stage in the buying cycle to understand where the most time is spent or where deals might be getting stuck.
- This provides great insight to help improve the speed at which new opportunities will close for the business.
- Automated workflow rules in Autotask PSA also allow for deal check-ins at 15 days, 30 days, and 45 days, which trigger to-do’s to remind sales resources when to follow up with prospects
Most of the MSPs from around the world, that we are aware of, have only one or two Salespeople. My personal experience has been with an MSP with a very large Salesforce, but it still made up only 20% of the Company.
Interestingly, when the economic downturn hit in 2008, the Company decided to sell its way out of the crisis. They did very well growing the company by leaps and bounds in both good and bad economic years.
Carol, our other Coach, has experience with a smaller shop where the Owner was the only Salesperson (still about 20% of the company). While many, if not most, MSPs have only one Salesperson, they do very well growing and managing a portfolio of hundreds of happy Customers.
Happy Customers** are the golden key as they grow the business by word of mouth referrals along with some automated marketing. One MSP that we worked for about a year ago is growing their MSP with no Salesperson, just word of mouth referrals. The MSP is still growing its business by 20% year over year. That is the power of having Raving Fans. Relying on referrals, it is more along the lines of Getting Naked.
**Note: Sorry, I have to say it…the way to make sure you have Happy Customers is via IT Service Delivery Optimization, which is our specialty.
Using CRM Software: Bust or Must?
Moving the Sales Pipeline from tracking Leads, Prospects, Proposals, and Wins or Losses in Excel to CRM software is very difficult. Excel is simple, you can see everything on one page, and edit the list in minutes. CRM software seems to be very difficult to setup, populate, and actually use.
Autotask is no different, and my concern with moving to CRM software is that I would spend more time updating the information in the software and not really selling**. It makes me wonder how a CRM simplifies the role; however, I do see how it is a scalable solution for one person to manage hundreds of accounts.
**Note: it has taken me a long time to get my head around not selling. Until 2018, I do not think I sold a thing. Thanks to good coaching and reading a few books, I am here to say I am not a Salesperson. Yes, the Company is doing great, but it is because we focus on delivering a great Service Delivery improvement product that people want to buy. We work hard at being real and providing a lot of value along the “Sales Pipeline” way. In time, this leads to people interested in our services and a buying opportunity.
That said, this article is less about selling to new Customers, and more about Account Management. Which means we are not tracking new relationships, but opportunities to existing Customers. Now Datto’s sub-section is starting to make sense…
The article puts forth that the conversion rate is 25%. I am not sure if this is accurate or not. For an MSP that is growing their business from referrals only, the rate is most likely 80% and a much shorter forecast of a 30-day cycle (same for us) which means no pipeline. That is according to the definition for Forecast and Pipeline in the Datto #9 KPI sub-section.
For an MSP that is growing their business by offering free Network Assessments, the conversion rate is round 30%. The sales pipeline for an MSP using Social Media is years (3 years for us) and a conversion rate that is so low that it is referred to as a funnel, not a pipeline.
For in-person networking (which is difficult given the current Stay-at-Home/social distancing environment), it ranges from 90-120 days (or years for us) and a conversion rate that is closer to 50% given time.
The whole 4X spending because of a 25% conversion rate is the break-even point of profitability which is very confusing to me. Since I have no idea what we are talking about, I’m going to pass on making any comments. If someone wants to explain it to me, I would be happy to listen.
The Mystery of Deal Velocity
Deal Velocity is a mystery to me. Yes, I get the concept, but the delta is so broad, I am not sure the average matters.
For example, we all have worked hard – months to build a successful relationship and present who we are and what we do. Then listen for the buying signals, only to provide a proposal and never hear from them again. Or even worse are the ones that lead you along for a year and burn a lot of your time and energy; only to realize that spending $$ was not on their mind.
Just when you get pissed off (because it has now become clear they never intended to buy in the first place), boom: the phone rings from someone you never knew existed and they buy before getting off the phone (yes, this has happened to us on more than one occasion). Can you relate?
The bottom line is that we build relationships with people not opportunities; we are presenting buying opportunities – not selling products or services. This to me means: Velocity is irrelevant– some are ready to buy, especially if you have a great marketing team like we do, and some just need someone to care and love them – and spending money is not even part of the conversation.
The Deal Lifecycle & Why Automated Selling is a Myth
Deal Lifecycle, on the other hand, has come in very handy for us. We have a great following that has been developed over the last three years. Looking at how our relationship with the Autotask Community grows and where there are gaps as to why the relationship stops growing or grows cold is an indication that we are selling or asking for an unreasonable leap of faith.
Like you, we believe in our products and services. We work hard to deliver real value and improve on our offerings all the time.
Automated selling is a myth. It is hard work, it takes patience, and normally you need to let the relationship percolate until there is a level of trust to exchange $$, E, #s, etc. for services.
By analyzing where the relationships pause or grow, cold in a significant pattern, you can fix your communication, attitude, or complementary resource, so in the future, relationships continue to grow.
FYI: I have set the reminders and have become very good at ignoring them. I do review my prospect list daily and look over the list trying to figure out who we can help more. Maybe this looks like a reminder to follow up on Sales, but in our hearts, we are really looking for opportunities to help.
To get the eBook from Datto, download it here.
Thank You today for giving us an opportunity to help us fulfill our mission by reading this article. As always, send us your feedback – we want to hear from you.
P.S. Our Mission is to “teach IT Managed Service Providers how to improve the quality of work-life for their Employees, increase Customer satisfaction, and boost profits, by providing best-in-class Service Delivery improvement online courses, downloadable educational information, and one-on-one instruction.”