By Tim Conkle, CEO | The 20
Sales cadence is a new buzzword in B2B sales, but it’s really just a new name for an older concept brought into modernity. Sales is traditionally viewed as a transactional process rather than the development of a relationship. Sales cadence is the process by which you transform a transactional paradigm into a scalable, reproducible methodology to foster lead development and growth. Done right, it increases the volume of successful leads while reducing their relative cost.
Sales cadence is about contacting a lead and nurturing the relationship to where they’re ready to buy or ready to part ways. It takes 10-12 touches to get the average lead in most B2B endeavors, but managed services can take closer to 14-18 touches in our experience. You’re trying to get someone to trust their business to your service, so they need to see more than the brochure. They need you to remind them of your existence and service without becoming intrusive. You need to show them what you offer and how it can help them as well as understanding the specific challenges they face.
Let’s see how sales cadence works with the B2B process, how to build a script, what technology can do to enhance your results, and how it works for an MSP (or other managed service). The process is nothing new, but there has been a paradigm shift in how it is approached. You can sit and cold call over and over, or you can choose to create a process that makes each call worth something while saving you time and effort.
Sales Cadence and the B2B Process
A business relationship is still a relationship, the difference is the whims of the individuals are more muted by the goals of the business. You work with people and sell to people, but you also need to sell to both the individual and the company to make B2B actually work. People don’t remember the vendor that gave them a card once at a show, they remember the vendor which reached out (for better and for worse depending on the approach). How are you making potential leads aware without scaring them away? You don’t sign a potentially life changing contract on the first email, so how can you make your lead trust you and your process to make the right choice for your business and theirs?
The sales cadence process for B2B sales breaks down into several factors. You need to know who you’re addressing, where to find them and what they need, how to contact them, how often to do so, and what to do to either seal the deal or move on without hurting anyone’s feelings. How you balance the importance of each factor or what will work for you and your industry is something which you need to iterate on and improve. We’ll touch on how to draft your content after going over the general stages.
1. Who Is Your Target Lead?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Who are you targeting with your current sales process? What do they do? What do they need? How can you deliver it? To sell something, you need someone to sell to and someone who will buy.
You need to create a persona of who you’re trying to sell to that matches what you expect from their industry. If you specialize in servicing the hospitality sector, you’re not going to get the same requirements, or even trends and personalities you deal with as the energy sector. You aren’t necessarily targeting the individual, but you do want to be aware of who you’re reaching out to at a company. They aren’t the final target, but they can act as the gatekeeper as well. What is your ideal lead and what do they look like from an abstract perspective?
2. Where Are They and What Do They Want?
Now that you know who you’re trying to work with, where can you find them? What do they want from a business like yours? You need to find where your leads are and know what they want (if anything). These factors go together since you may know where a bunch of ideal leads are, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t want or need anything from your business.
If you work well in an industry with heavy channel connections, shows and conventions can be a way to generate leads, but so can something like LinkedIn (which is also a lot cheaper). Where are your prospects and how can you get in touch with them? It doesn’t matter what system you have if you can’t get in touch with leads to actually get movement.
3. How Do You Contact Your Leads?
While we’ve touched on finding where leads are and how to potentially make the first contact, the whole point of establishing sales cadence is to establish a line of communication rather than a one-off outreach. You have to identify your prospect, then find a way to establish first contact, but how do you reach them and keep the cadence going? Some people want email only, others want to hear a person on a phone, and others are a complete mix. Who are you dealing with and what works to get in contact with them?
If your prospect’s primary contact is busy, how do you get their ear without wasting their time or making a negative situation for either of you? A phone call is more personal, but some people don’t want to deal with personal. Every relationship has boundaries, and you need to find a safe balance where you don’t push too hard and don’t hesitate too much either. Either find out the ideal communication method for your client, or try to anticipate it based on the persona you assume for the industry if nothing else.
4. How Much Should You Reach Out?
You want a cadence and not a cacophony of communications. Don’t hit your prospect up every single day (unless they’re receptive to it), but don’t let them go too long without reminding them of your existence. For most prospects, this is going to be once every few days or a few times a week. Sometimes it pays to start slow, then increase frequency, but sometimes the reverse is true. It can also help to vary up the methods of communication.
What works depends on who you’re working with. For most prospects, you’re going to spend around a couple weeks to a month with correspondence every few days. You want to ping the prospect and get their interest, not bug them or waste time calling when they aren’t available.
5. Moving On
There is a point where you need to either seal the deal or move on with your process. Once you’ve hit a dead end or gotten the client’s interest, you need to move to the next steps.
If a client isn’t interested, you want to send them a “breakup” message of some sorts. Something along the lines of: We’ve tried to contact you a few times, but haven’t heard back. Flesh this out with how your solution could be of help to their business and leave the door open in case they are interested or receptive down the line.
6. Iterative Improvement
Why didn’t your sales process work out? Ideally, you can ask your prospect, but this may alienate them down the line or they may ignore it. Another way to approach this is what did your new client like as a prospect, and what did they wish you did differently?
You aren’t necessarily looking for them to give exact suggestions, but what did they like and dislike about the general process? How does this correlate with other input from other prospects? Is there a specific message or step where prospects drop off? What can you do better the next time around and how can you test it?
Building a Script
The general process for building a sales cadence with your “script” is to focus on creating a scalable and reusable process rather than a singular script. Having a script or base to work off of just makes this process easier.
When establishing a sales cadence, you have 3 main steps. First, you need to get the prospect’s attention or reach out. Second, you need to build rapport and gauge their interest. Finally, you need to steer them to the funnel or let them go.
The first cold interaction is about them. What do they do and how can you hook them? Establish your understanding of their business and dig deeper while introducing why they should spend time even talking to you. If you have multiple parallel processes, this can help you gauge what the individual and the business are like and provides a way to steer closer to what should work.
For instance, we may start a cold call with something like: Hey [name], we haven’t had the pleasure to meet yet, but can you give me 2 minutes to share something with you that could increase your revenue and profitability by 3x to 10x? This sort of wording gives them a reason to want to listen. How can you distill your service down to something accessible and advantageous for them?
Most businesses are looking to use a service to either improve revenue and profitability, or to reduce costs to enable the same. Who are you and how do you help them hit their goals? What challenges do they face and how can you address them? We follow up an introduction with something like: I am part of the expansion team for [your company]. We are a group of MSPs across North America who came to together to form a national footprint and we focus on three things: lead generation, sales and scale. We enable our members to grow top line revenue and profitability by 3 to 10 times in a short period of time.
Provide data and statistics for what makes you the right choice for them. You may touch on their specific business or you may work from a script or a form email. What works depends on the clients you’re hitting and what they’re expecting. A focus on you and how you help businesses like them can make for a more scalable process rather than focusing on each company from the very first introduction. You’re going to hear “no” a lot at this stage, so the easier you can make the initial touch, the more success you can get long-term for your lead generation.
Once you establish a basis for rapport, you need to build interest in your service. How does your service fit into their business? How could your service fit their business? What could you do to make their business work better? Where are they potentially lacking? Transition from focusing on them to focusing on how you fit into their future. Evolve your strategy from expressing what you do to what you can do for them, and try to get commitment for either a call or a meeting, or a similar commitment.
This is where marketing collateral starts to get even more useful for the sales process. What do you have that showcases your successes and your specialties and how does it fit with the potential client? No one is expecting you to custom-make pieces for each individual prospect, but the right piece on hand can seal the deal. Get your one-page sheets ready about how you saved clients money or how you improved revenue. Start with the more general pieces tailored to what they mention (or you gather) as an obstacle and grow into what they mention as their pain points or in the direction they ask questions.
Get communication going at this stage. Get them involved and asking questions. The more the client is curious, the more likely you are to make it to the next step. What data or nice pieces do you have or can you make to forward this branch of the relationship? Take note of what the clients ask and have it ready for the next pipeline. This is also the stage to push the prospect a little harder to connect so you can try to seal the deal.
We already talked about the breakup itself, but as you try to build rapport, you also want to set the stage to exit or to seal the deal. Target their pain points, target their issues, target the problems in the industry, but don’t preach to them. You want to push them to the naturalness of your relationship with their business without them feeling pushed. If that doesn’t work, you want to leave them with something to ponder and an open door to come back to.
Try to get commitment to move forward with the process if they seem receptive. Are they interested in your offerings or is there a specific offering they’re curious about? What would it take to get them to sign? This is the stage to get a little more aggressive so long as you don’t get too aggressive.
Leave the ball in their court if things aren’t working. It can help to push potential times in the future to reconnect, but this tends to work best if the prospect has shown some interest so far. Leave them with some food for thought and wait a healthy amount of time (several quarters or even a year) to revisit the prospect unless there’s a reason to be more aggressive.
Technology’s Role In Sales Cadence
Technology facilitates the communication itself more often than not, but how can you use technology to do more? Are you sending emails out directly or are you automating this process to have more insight into where the process works or doesn’t? It’s not enough to measure a response or not.
Is your prospect opening your email? Are they reading some and not others? What is working in the process and what isn’t? Are you controlling for these factors and fixing them as you can codify the issues? Modern marketing platforms provide these tools in various formats, but you need to make sense of the data. Analytics don’t mean much without an understanding of the implications of each data point and an understanding of how they’re measured.
Are you using Hubspot or Mailchimp? Do you use an email list through a CRM or are you keeping it in Excel? Some things work, but they can inhibit you from reaching your potential. We know in tech that: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” just doesn’t cut it in most technical enterprises, so why should it apply with your sales process that leverages technology? How can you enhance your process to shave off the inconvenient bits to make it more scalable?
How Sales Cadence Can Work for Your MSP
Most people who start an MSP aren’t business types. It’s hard to run a technical business with only business and sales knowledge, but more than a few MSPs have made it off of a good technical basis and word of mouth. The problem is, while you can subsist with this method, you hit a wall for growth and scalability.
Many MSPs join groups like The 20 just for the sales and marketing offerings (though our technical offerings are a great hook too). We are able to grow because we can keep selling. You may have enough clients now, but what happens if an industry crashes, an owner sells, or similar? If you aren’t continuously adding prospects, you’re probably going to shrink and hit a less ideal equilibrium sooner than later.
Sales cadence is about acknowledging that a sale for a “big item” isn’t necessarily a single transaction, and a way to scale this process and make it reproducible. Sales scripts are popular because they work, but sales cadence takes this to the next level. You aren’t reciting a script, you’re touching the prospect in certain ways, seeing what happens, and using this to grow and improve your process.
What are you doing to ensure your MSP succeeds? What are you doing to make sure that you have an exit plan when the time comes? Do you want to run each bit of your business forever, or do you want to be able to hand it off? The simpler you can make your business needs in terms of their time and effort costs, the more you can focus on scaling the rest of the business. Even if you don’t feel the need to grow, being able to have a more results-oriented process should the need arise can pay dividends to your security. What are you doing to establish a better sales process to ensure your future success?
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