We live in a noisy world. Each day, we are exposed to more than 5,000 advertisements. As a managed service provider, how do you reach your audience and break through the clutter? And if you do have the opportunity to capture a prospect’s attention, how do you then convince them to buy? Simply pushing your features, benefits and accolades is a dead-end approach to selling your services. The truth is, buyers no longer have the time or interest to listen to how great you or your offerings are. Buyers don’t want to know about you; they want to know how you can help them. That is why today’s sales prospect generation best practices revolve around one key component – education.
With the abundance of information available through the click of a mouse, buyers are now empowered to seek out information they need, when they need it. As a result, the traditional sales paradigm has changed. The process a buyer goes through now is a much more independent journey, where they proactively research solutions to their problems themselves, rather than relying on a sales person to provide them with answers. Successful sales prospect generation now depends on your ability to create high-quality educational content that speaks to your prospects’ needs first, and the importance of hiring you for your services second.
What is Education as a Sales Prospect Generation Tool?
Educational content as a sales prospect generation tool is about creating informative, value-added content that not only addresses your target customers’ pain points, but also creates a medium to build a trusting relationship between your organization and your buyers. Sales today is about salvation; it is about understanding your customers’ pain and then relieving them from their angst. Instead of focusing your sales prospect communication on your company’s services and features, focus on your prospect’s pain points and the solutions to them. Doing this creates value for the buyer. Value will always win over price – in fact, if you compete on price alone, you enter a losing battle. To win in today’s market, you need to differentiate. How? Get to know your target audience through research and creating buyer personas: understand their challenges, what makes them tick, and how your offering can make their lives easier. When you have a full understanding of your customer and how your unique offering can help them, you can use educational content to attract prospects and ultimately win market share.
Why Use Education?
Buying is a process. It starts when there’s a problem to be solved, which usually means the one with the problem turns to Google to find a solution. Will they find yours?
When prospective buyers discover information on their own, they are much more likely to trust and believe it than if a salesperson pitched it to them. As an MSP, you need to know what problems your prospects are researching, and how your services can solve them. Then you can create content that helps them overcome their obstacles. This is valuable to them, and it showcases your expertise and builds trust in you and your organization, setting the foundation for a solid relationship with potential customers.
According to 451 Research’s 2016 Voice of the Enterprise report, adoption of Cloud services is expected to reach a majority by 2018, which means more workloads will likely run on the Cloud than not in the next two years. This is an enormous opportunity for you to capitalize on the growing Cloud trend. But how? The industry is increasingly competitive. It is imperative that you find your niche, identify your target audience – and effectively educate this new market on the importance of your services. After all, many of them are brand new to Cloud services. When you provide educational content, you help reduce confusion about your services and improve your chances to win new business.
There’s Still Room for Your Direct Sales
The new era of education as a sales prospect generation tool doesn’t mean you have to scrap your old approach in its entirety. There is still great value in direct sales conversations, and they can be critical to refining your messaging. You may have fewer one-to-one conversations, but you can use them to your advantage. Leverage any insights you can glean from conversations with prospects; pay attention to the questions they ask. Doing so helps you understand their pain points – information you can then use to generate educational content to feed to others who struggle with similar challenges.
Educating your prospects means creating content to help them make more informed buying decisions. Great educational content is created when you develop informative pieces that meet prospects’ needs when they need it. TechTarget Media’s 2014 Consumption Research Brief showed that white papers were still the number one type of content that B2B IT buyers were most likely to consume, followed by case studies and testimonials.
Understanding the New Buyer’s Journey
When you create educational content, you need to understand the three stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Develop the content to address your prospects’ pains at each of these stages – your goal is to move buyers through the customer journey funnel to the next stage. Buyers in the decision stage tend to want a direct one-to-one conversation with a sales person. In fact, 70% of the journey is complete before they even reach out to sales – meaning the awareness and consideration stages are highly informed by the buyer’s independent research.
1. Awareness Stage
At the awareness stage, your prospects recognize they have a problem, such as a growing shadow IT issue or poor performance from their web host, and they most likely turn to Google to find a solution. To get your name out there, the best educational content to create at this stage is:
- Informative blog posts
- eGuides and eBooks
- White papers
- Industry research/analyst reports
2. Consideration Stage
Prospects at the consideration stage will have a well-defined want or need for your service. Potential buyers will be interested to discover the managed service options available to them, but this does not mean they want to be sold to just yet! However, they would like your help to learn what to do next, and that’s your opportunity to create more educational content to fulfill that need. Examples of content that can help move your prospect from this stage to the decision stage are:
- Managed service provider comparison guides
- Costs of in-house IT to outsourced service provider
- Expert guides on the value of MSPs
- Podcasts or videos
3. Decision Stage
The decision stage is where traditional sales tactics begin to emerge. Potential buyers in this stage are ready to evaluate purchase decisions and learn more about your services. The best content offerings for prospects at this stage are:
- Customer testimonials and case studies
- Service spec sheets
- Vendor matrix
- Competitive analysis (which vendors for which use cases)
Closing the Deal
When you provide education, you rise effectively above the noise and generate more leads that have a higher likelihood to convert. While there are benefits to direct selling, providing a means for your buyers to discover your services on their own as a solution to their problems will prime them for a much easier sell when they are ready to buy. And with the growing complexity of the Cloud services market, prospects need your help to understand what is best for their business. But remember: the secret to using education as a sales prospect generation tool is helping prospects decide to buy your services on their own. When you create educational content that helps prospects make more informed decisions, they will feel confident in their purchase decision and ultimately stick around longer as customers.
Want help developing educational content for your sales and marketing strategy? At Total Product Marketing, we specialize in inbound and channel marketing for Cloud, hosting, and technology companies. Get in touch with us today – we’ll help you get started on your sales prospect generation strategy today.