Over a 20-year career in sales, Carrie Simpson always worked with a wide variety of industries. But the Winnipeg entrepreneur’s new company, Managed Sales Pros, takes a different approach, zeroing in on the tech sales niche.

Carrie Simpson. Photo: Managed Sales Pros

Carrie Simpson. Photo: Managed Sales Pros

A third-party sales prospector, Managed Sales Pros connects IT manufacturers and distributors with IT re-sellers, and the re-sellers with businesses looking for IT services and support.

Two years after starting the firm, Simpson is on a roll—she was named one of the Rising Stars of the 2016 W100 Ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, and her company posted year-over-year revenue growth of 413% for the last fiscal.

Simpson talked to PROFITguide about how she built her business, what makes tech selling special, and why cold calling still works.

PROFITguide: You’d worked in sales for a quite a while before starting your latest business. Why did you decide to sell exclusively for one industry with Managed Sales Pros?

Carrie Simpson: In my first business, Cold Call Lead Generation, we worked with anybody who would pay us. But I’ve learned that niche specificity is a much better way to grow quickly.

Instead of trying to become an expert in 10 different verticals, we became experts in one. The story is far more compelling, and an easy one for our clients to understand. If you’re an IT company, instead of being the company that supports all of Toronto, you want to be the company that specializes in law firms with at least 20 employees in the Toronto area, or non-profit firms with between 20 and 50 employees in the Toronto area.

The more niche specific you can go, the less money you have to spend to promote yourself. Now instead of trying to go to every tradeshow in the world, we go to very specific shows where we know our client base is going to be.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced selling to these clients?

Our biggest challenge is: How do we reduce our sales cycle? The cycle is either really short, and people see the value right away and sign up, or they go try something else and it fails and they come back to us in a year.

People always want something faster and/or cheaper. In-house would cost a third or less of what we charge, for example. Or they may try a company with a different pricing model. Our’s is an annual flat rate, so that no one is encouraged to schedule a lousy appointment just to make quota. But many companies look at “How many appointments will I get?” versus “What will my ROI be?”

We are also very upfront with clients. It takes 12 to 18 months to realize your ROI on telemarketing. A business owner who wants results now won’t find that message compelling. So often people will go try a less expensive route in the short-term where they are promised better results, faster. As my lawyer always says, “Pay me now, or pay me later.”

You’ve said before that cold calling is the only way to close sales. Is that unique to your business model, or is it true for B2B selling too?

There’s a place for both, but I personally feel you make more impact talking to someone one-on-one. As a third-party prospecting company, outbound leads are especially important for us. When a company replies to our website or an email blast we send, or attends a webinar we’re hosting, quite often they aren’t qualified. We might spend a couple hours with that inbound lead, only to identify that it’s one guy with a part-time tech and they can’t afford our services, and won’t be able to for the next five or 10 years.

You don’t ever want to tell someone you can’t afford us—you really want to keep them engaged. But when we’re calling outbound, we can be a little more aggressive in our screening process. We can easily identify if this going to be a good fit for us. If it’s not, they’re not upset if we cut bait, and we’re not upset either. When someone’s coming to us, you really have to handle it more delicately.

Cold calling is also the most measurable method. It’s either working or it isn’t and there’s no fancy metrics you can look at that will tell you otherwise. With digital marketing, a company can say, “We sent you 500 leads,” because 500 people visited your site. But if you break that down, these 10 ended up there accidentally, and these 10 were your competitors, and these 10 were looking for something you don’t do. But they’re all being counted as leads.

Your company grew over 400% in the last year. How did you create such massive growth?

We hustle. We found strategic partners in our niche and offered them free work in exchange for their testimonials at completion. We also created referral networks with companies that offer things that we don’t, and we constantly refer business to anyone and everyone we can. We cold call all day, every day for our own services. It works. Why would you work with a telemarketing company that got your attention using an email?

And most importantly, we chose one niche and we became experts. We went to every conference and tradeshow and learned how to sell everything our clients sell. Also, I hired the smartest people I could the minute I could afford them.

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Does cold calling still work? Have you tried the niche approach? Let us know by commenting below.

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