After conducting over 1,200 secret-shopper calls to MSPs, here’s what I know:
- 11% of MSPs have “bad” phone numbers on their website, which means when you call, you get a fast busy signal, you hear an “out of order” message, it’s a wrong number, or it just rings and rings with no one picking up.
- 56% of the calls go straight to voicemail.
- Less than 2% answer properly, know how to ask good diagnostic questions, and do a proper lead intake and qualification.
All of this is horribly unproductive, anti-sales, and anti-success. How you answer the phone and interact with a new prospect calling for the first time is one of the MOST important aspects of having successful marketing and generating new sales.
It is the FIRST impression a prospect has of your organization and sets the tone for your responsiveness, staff professionalism, training, and preparation (or lack thereof) and is the FIRST example of what it will be like to work with your organization. You SAY you’re responsive, but when I call, I get voicemail. You SAY you have a well-trained, professional staff, but when I talk to someone about my issue, I’m told, “We don’t do break-fix, bubba” (more on this in a minute).
Get a local friend or colleague to call your office and play prospect when you aren’t there. Tell them to pretend they are the operations manager of an organization in your area with 80 employees that has a down server and cannot get ahold of their current IT company (that sucks). Here’s the script: “Hi, we have a server down and need help. Is that something you can do, and what do you guys charge?” I can practically guarantee that one of these things will happen IF they can get ahold of someone:
- They might be told, “I don’t know if we can help you. The guy who handles that isn’t here,” and then they are put into voicemail.
- They will be asked ZERO diagnostic questions such as, “Do you have an IT person on staff or do you outsource? May I ask why you’re calling us instead of them?”
- They will be asked technical specs on the server or other techie questions that most prospects (CEOs) wouldn’t know. Yes, this is bad when you couple it with ZERO diagnostic questions. No one likes to feel stupid, and a prospect in that situation will already be frustrated.
- They will NOT be asked for name, company, phone, and email. (Example of the proper response: “Well, Mr. Prospect, before we discuss your server issue, let me ask you a few questions and take down your contact information …”)
- The person who answers will tell them, “We don’t do break-fix. We only do managed contracts,” and hang up. What’s wrong with this? Well, how in the heck are they supposed to get on a contract in the first place? You mean you wouldn’t make an effort to meet with this company and attempt to open the discussion about hiring you to manage their network? You call an attorney’s office and say, “I have a case I need help with.” They say, “Sorry, we only work with clients under contract,” click. Huh? Well, how does one get under contract? If you don’t see how that is a total failed opportunity, there’s no hope. Get a job.
- Worse: The person who answers will say, “We don’t do break-fix. We only do managed contracts,” and THEN proceed to give the name of a competitor.
- They will VERY likely let that prospect off the phone WITHOUT closing a sale and WITHOUT booking an appointment (minimum).
So, What SHOULD Happen?
For starters, the phone should be answered LIVE and within three rings by a professional, trained individual who is either an employee or outsourced answering service and says something similar to “Thank you for calling ABC Computing. This is Mary, how may I help you?” They should be told, “Yes, we can help you with that. May I ask your name? Hi, Bob. I’m sorry you’re having trouble. Before we talk about your server issue, let me take down your contact information. Is your phone number XXX-XXXXXXX (pulled from caller ID)? Perfect. And your company? Email address? Is your email working right now?”
Almost NONE of the MSPs we’ve secret-shopped will confirm cheerfully that the prospects had called the RIGHT place and that you CAN help them. Silly? Not to a prospect who’s desperately calling around to find a responsive, professional IT firm to help them and is getting the standard hot mess of a response from most of the MSPs they call.
In the case here, this is an urgent matter and should be handled differently than someone calling your office for a quote (non-urgent problem). So, in the event someone is simply calling or emailing your office to talk to you about outsourcing their support to you, here’s a general list of items that should be asked about in addition to their full contact information:
- WHO is it that you’re talking to? The owner? The operations manager? Someone else?
- How many locations and employees do they have?
- HIGH-level technical details, such as whether they have an on-premise server, what tech they use (Mac, PC, or both), or any other details that are highly relevant to their being qualified.
- What situation or event(s) is causing them to call you? What problems are they having? What are they frustrated with?
- Who currently does their IT? In-house or outsourced? To whom do they outsource now?
- Are they in a contract, and if so, when is it up or when can they cancel?
And here’s the MOST important outcome of that call: Get an appointment booked with a sales professional. Never let a prospect call your office without having this as an outcome. Prospects can search and find every IT company in your area in a hot second. If they call you first and get voicemail or they’re told, “I’ll have someone call you back,” guess what they do? They search and call the next company on the list. IF you get an appointment on the books, nearly all of them will stop their search, AND it ensures you get a seat at the table for that opportunity. Various studies over the years have shown that 35%–50% of all sales go to the vendor that responds FIRST, so answering your phones live and THEN getting on that prospect’s calendar FIRST will give you a strategic advantage in winning that deal.
Have the same friend play prospect with the three biggest firms in your area and see how they answer the phone. If you’re lucky, they’ll be as screwed-up as you. If you’re not so lucky, they’ll have their act together and will reveal the importance of upping your game on the inbound lead answering.
To download a FREE Inbound Lead Intake Form, go to MSPSuccessMagazine.com/leadintake.