Podcast

Scale Your Revenue: Insider Strategies from a 20-Year MSP Sales Veteran

In this episode, we’re joined by Michael Fowler, Chief Revenue Officer at Fuse.Cloud, and a seasoned industry veteran with over 17 years of experience in managed services.
Michael shares invaluable insights into building and leading successful sales teams within the IT and managed services sector. From overcoming challenges in educating clients about new technologies to navigating the competitive landscape, Michael provides practical advice for driving revenue growth.
Join us as we uncover the secrets to building a thriving sales team and achieving predictable revenue growth in the ever-evolving IT industry.
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➡️Transcript: 

Welcome to the Know Grow Scale podcast. We have one of my personal greatest friends and a wonderful person, but also who happens to be the chief revenue officer. At a managed services provider, Michael Fowler at Fuse.Cloud. Michael, thank you for coming on today. I love all the football and Alabama tribute behind you.

That’s that goes to show that you’re a winner both in your company and you’re a winner in life as an Alabama fan. That’s right. So we’re going to talk today about a lot, you know, a lot of folks that we work with and a lot of people that listen to the podcast are either building a sales team for the first time as an it company or managed services provider.

They could have built one and had things that are and aren’t working. I know that you’ve been doing this for 17, 18 years. How long? Yep. 17 years. So you certainly have a lot of experience and stuff to tell us about, as it relates to revenue growth and getting a true kind of [00:01:00] blueprint in place so that you can be predictably successful.

So today, we’re going to talk about real tactical strategies to help grow your managed services provider revenue from you, an industry vet. So when you look back on your sales journey as a leader in this industry, and it’s not easy, I think that everybody can attest to that, especially There are CEOs listening who are trying to be sales leaders right now until they can afford to hire their own.

What would you say some of the biggest roadblocks? to driving revenue for the business have been in your career? I would say really just, um, well, let me take you back to when I started, so when I started at Fuse.Cloud, you know, we didn’t really have a lot of, I guess you’d call it competition out there.

And we also didn’t have, And started as a voice-only provider, correct? Voice only. When I started, we were just educating people on this new technology. So,[00:02:00] so I would say at the very beginning, that was one of the biggest challenges is just making people aware of the technology that makes the sales process that much longer because it’s not like you can go in there. There’s already an understanding of what you even do.

You’ve got to start from the very beginning. It kind of works both ways. So we had an advantage because we were one of the first providers out there doing this. but then on the flip side, nobody really knew about it. So we were caveat. You’re also in Mississippi, where we are not known to be early adopters of anything.

Other than really good recipes, but outside of that, we’re not known. So that was a challenge in itself for sure. That’s right so, as people started to adopt this technology. Yeah. It was an advantage because, like I said, we were one of the first to do it in the state. On the flip side of that, is the fact that as we moved along, through the years, we started to see more and more companies, selling the [00:03:00] services we sell.

So. It made it; the challenge we face today is that voice and the internet have really become a commodity. And so, really, the challenge is, how do you separate yourself? Because everybody is selling what we sell or a lot of people, you know, in the area. So. What makes us different than the other providers.

And when you find the differentiators, you know, that’s really the key. That’s what you’re selling. It’s not necessarily as much the commodity, even though they’re getting that they can get that anywhere. Yeah, that anywhere. Yeah, that’s good. So it’s common from what I see that I see companies and MSP.

Owners typically get stuck in this like feast or famine. it either the getting’s good, or, you know, it’s a really bad month. And we know, I mean, just from having worked together in our careers that we, we know to expect what, you know, which [00:04:00] months are going to be down months that you kind of, you know, still to prepare around that.

But, you know, how do you, like, what do you believe is like the cause of that roller coaster? And I think, I think it’s pretty much industry wide, but I’d be interested to hear your perspective on particularly for I. T. companies and what’s kind of the cause of that roller coaster. And then how do you really make that shift for your team to move toward that sustainable pipeline growth?

Because you’ve got a number to hit regardless of whether it’s a, you know, a good time of year or bad. So, Correct. I mean, I think that it’s really important as you’re building a sales team to, find people that can relate to other, other people who they’re going to be out in front of. It’s very important to, know, number one, as you’re building out a sales team to have patience, as the, you know, new sales rep coming into the company, to make them understand, hey, this is not, something that’s going to happen [00:05:00] fast, is something that takes time, but you have to put in, the effort, Really be patient with yourself, but work hard every day to establish those relationships out in the community and, and really build that trust, I would say, is probably the most important thing, because you have really one shot when you walk in, you know, the first impression, so to speak, when either, you know, someone likes you in that first 10 seconds or someone Or they don’t and that’s probably where, where you really, you can lose it, you know, really quick from the start or, you know, you can have that good first impression and, and build that, relationship over time.

Yeah. So that, so you’re saying that the key to sustainable pipeline growth is really making it more about a relationship than as much a number, because the better relationships you have, the more you’ll be able to, to find that. It is about, you know, just the [00:06:00] number of, you know, quality opportunities that you have that you can put into the pipeline.

But that starts with, you know, the relationship with you. Yeah, they don’t trust you. They won’t buy from you. Yeah. So it’s, it’s really important to find people that, I guess can handle a No. yeah, because there’s gonna be a lot more nos than yeses. yeah. They’ll, they’re, they’re driven. they’re motivated, you know, by whatever it is in inside of them.

You know, there’s only so far. That we can take them as managers and leaders. you know, they still have to have that extra, that extra step, you know, to get up themselves and do it. What do you I mean, I know we we’ve journeyed through some good ones and some bad ones. So, like, what do you what would you say?

Or like. Those things that pretty early on, you can tell either it’s going to be a win a winner, or it’s not going to because that’s another thing too is [00:07:00] like, you know, I know I’ve made the mistake in the past of, you know, hiring too fast. They say higher, slow, fire fast, you know, that type of thing, particularly in sales.

Like, it’s known to be higher turnover than probably any other department. What are those like key indicators those first couple of months that that you see or do you put anything in place to make sure that you know if somebody is tracking in the right direction. I think activity I mean you have to have the activity, you know, where I think, you know, if I’ve failed anywhere as far as on the hiring side it’s.

Not holding people accountable to that activity piece because like I said, you’re not going to see the results. very quickly. You have to know that that’s a process. It’s going to take some time. But if they’re not putting in the daily activity, pretty quickly. Yeah. Yeah. And do you say, so I love that you said it’s not going to happen that quick because I get, of [00:08:00] course, in, in marketing and trying to drive leads for clients, I get that same question all the time.

How quickly are we going to start seeing leads? And most of the time it’s with owners like Gary at Fuse.Cloud and, and others who have started the business off of handshakes and built it off of referrals. And then they’re going online digital to try to create. Leads from totally cold to burning hot. And that’s not something you do even in one on one relationships you can do really quickly.

So what is the, is, you know, what have you seen is the, the sales cycle kind of timeframe? from relationship building to close. And I know it varies, you know, based on how ready they are to buy. But correct. It’s, it’s a lot about timing, but I would say, you know, 90 days, 60 to 90 days is, is a pretty good gauge.

But I will say, you know, going back to like, how do you develop, you know, the leads and the opportunities to fill a pipeline? I think it’s a combination of things. I think you [00:09:00] have your marketing piece. that’s important. That will, you know, feed you warm, lead, so to speak. Then I think you, you know, have your reps out there that are Going door to door, getting in front of people.

I think that’s something that we don’t see a lot of anymore brought that up because that’s very much still a strategy that you use that works and you’ve got to do it. Yeah, that’s a strategy that works. and, you know, I’m a testament to that. That’s how it worked for me. And, you know, like I said, I’ve been doing this for 17 years and really nothing has changed in regards to that.

You still have to get out there and get in front of people and talk to people. But I do think there’s, it’s a balance. You, you do have, you know, the days where you need to sit back and you need to follow up with emails, pick up the phone, do follow ups. I think on average it takes, you know, probably between, you 8 to 10 touches to really even set a [00:10:00] meeting.

So you have to really stay. I’ve heard like 12 to 17. so I’d say 8 to 10 is good. But I think, I mean, I’m pipeline right now. And if it’s sitting in cold lead, you’re if you’re going from totally cold, you’re definitely going to have to, be committed to the touches. Yeah. So I think it’s finding the, the people that, will stay committed to that and not get frustrated.

I think the people that, have not worked out, you know, in our company are the ones that, you know, they, they just given up, they might, go out and see some prospects and, but they’re not doing the follow ups and the things that take really develop. you know, and nurture, those leads to, you know, move them over into, you know, those opportunities that you, I think, I think it’s a really, really important thing to focus on for a minute is that one, there’s not any one strategy that you just use this one thing and it works and that’s all you do.

I mean, we’ve learned and [00:11:00] you’ve learned from pulling in marketing automation, like you still have to have that go getter. Or, you know, that person who’s going to do the followup, the same, same thing. If you just count on that one tactic, then that’s not really how, that’s not a way to build a, a system that, that hits a number every time that’s, that’s putting all your eggs in one basket.

And the same thing for like, in my opinion, and I think you’ve seen it like from, from sales reps is you can’t, you can’t just hire. one personality type and expect that person to be able to do everything from nurturing to close. I mean, you kind of have to, figure out personalities of the reps and know who’s willing to do able who’s best equipped to do what?

Right? You kind of have to. Yeah. And we’ve tried different things. I mean, and, and you do have to change it up. You know, I think that’s the one thing that has helped me in terms of managing a team is I, you know, [00:12:00] started out there just like they, they do, door to door. so I understand the, you know, the grind that it, that it is.

There’s psychological stuff that happens when you do the door to door that teaches them a lot more than anything else, I think. For sure. So I think that that has helped me. In terms of understanding, like what they go through day to day, because it’s not easy, but it is important to have different personality types on the team that everybody has their strong points and their weaknesses.

And sometimes, you know, we’ve even sent people out together because I was going to ask, do you support the team selling approach? Do you feel like that’s worked better? Or do you think Yeah, it just depends. It depends on the people you have on your team. But the team approach does work better. we have some success in the team approach.

So we mix it up and that’s good for, you know, our team and itself. It changes it up for them. It’s not the same thing day to day. So we’ll do some things, you know, you know, in different quarters and [00:13:00] things like that throughout the year that change it up for them and allow them to, do some team, you know, activities.

Yeah, yeah. The work together on opportunities and whatnot. Yeah, that’s good. Is there a secret for, and again, we, we win some, we lose some, but do you feel like there’s a secret or a tip that you could provide somebody that maybe hasn’t started building a sales team yet as far as how to attract and retain?

Talent or how to make sure you don’t hire the wrong person or anything related to that, that you could could provide some wisdom on when I just think that when you’re starting out, you do have to understand there is going to be some turnover. that’s just, you know, what’s going to just happen naturally over time.

Until you find those right pieces, I’ve never been the one to, you know, a lot of sales companies, they understand. I mean, they’re constantly churning reps in and out. And I’ve never been one to really do that. I want [00:14:00] to find the people that are going to stick with the company can grow with the company.

Because I think it’s important when you can show You know, your prospects out there that have been at your company for, you know, years that says something about, you know, what you’re doing, it probably sets them apart from the competitor that’s walking in that hasn’t been, you know, maybe that keeps sending somebody different and everybody that is somebody different.

And that builds trust. So I think that it’s just, I would say to somebody building, from the, from scratch that. Yeah. it’s going to take some time, but just find those people that are, that are going to be driven, that are motivated to go out there because this is not easy, and it’s something that, is going to take time.

So I would say you’re going to have to be patient, but understand that there is the activity piece that’s really important. Yeah. They’re not putting in the activity daily, to build the pipeline. Then it’s okay, then it’s okay to get rid of them early. Yeah, [00:15:00] it’s just not going to work. And that’s okay because this, you know, line of work is not for everyone.

And it’s, it’s important that you find the people that are going to do what you need them to do. Right, right. And with the 90 day sales cycle too, I think it’s hard to bring somebody in and allow them to have a quick win. because not the winds aren’t really all that quick. so that’s what kind of leads me to motivation.

Like, how do you 17 years of doing this like that? It says something. How do you stay motivated? What, you know, what kind of gets you, outside of money? I guess, you know, money is usually a motivator for salespeople. I just think that, for me personally, I’ve always been very competitive. So, you know, you can have a, a healthy team, but at the same time, I think it’s good for them to, have that competitive drive and want to, you know, want to, but you can do that in the right way.

You can also. Be teammates at the same time and pull for one another. [00:16:00] but that probably for me, I remember back when, you know, I was door to door and it was, you know, at times it would get tough because you get way more nose than yeses. And so. I would just, you know, use different challenges, challenge myself each day, each week, with something different, some goal that I wanted to meet for myself.

I mean, I couldn’t rely on my manager to, get you out of bed every day. Yeah, really that piece of it. and then that’s what we’re doing. Do you feel like having a goal, like, I know every individual sales team member obviously has their own goal, but do you feel like having, I mean, have you, do you have a shared goal to where it’s like, we all went individually if we hit this, but if we hit this, like, is that something.

A carrot that you dangle for a big goal, or have you done that before? And we do, we have our overall, you know, team goal and then each individual rep has their own goal, but we’ll put [00:17:00] that team goal out there and incentivize them, help one another, because if, you know, one person can’t do it all, so they really have to.

you know, support one another to, have everyone get to those goals. So the, the team goal can be met and then incentivize them with, you know, maybe an extra bonus for that. I think we could do a whole nother podcast on episode on just like goal setting and that type of thing. That might be our part too.

But, as we kind of wrap up, if you could offer one piece of advice for, so the, you know, typically IT company owners or MSP owners. start by hiring a salesperson that might eventually become a sales leader like you did. You were the first, you know, the first sales people that the CEO hired and now you’re a sales leader.

if you are talking to an owner, of an IT company or MSP, and they’re looking to hire a sales leader or their first sales person, what piece of advice would you give them? I would say that you probably would like to find [00:18:00] someone that has, you know, started, I guess you would say from the bottom and kind of work their way up because it’s important for them to understand, the experience that the people they’re going to hire are going to be going through is if you bring someone in who’s never really done it, not to say that that that can’t work, but it’s hard for You to really be a leader.

In my opinion. you know, one thing that I think makes it, you know, easier for me to manage them is saying, Hey, I’ve done it. I know what you’re going through. I know the challenges that you’re facing. And so, I think that builds some trust, with your team that they understand you’ve done it. And if you know what I’ve always told people is, Hey, you know, I’ve been there, done that.

If I can do it. You can do that. That really helps. Yeah. That’s good. A good leadership quality. And, and always, I mean, it’s really hard to not just to trust, but to look up to [00:19:00] someone or be motivated by someone who’s never been in your shoes. So I think that, I used to have a track coach that I’m not sure ever ran track.

And so it was always like, Oh, you know, do I, is there, am I really motivated to push harder for this guy or not? So. all right. Well, any, any parting words of wisdom. I feel like this has been a really good kind of first step for somebody that’s looking to start a sales team. But I think that I want to get maybe deeper into on the next one, get deeper into goal setting and figuring out how to know how much you can expect out of someone to close in this industry, you know?

Yeah, I would just say. if you’re just starting out about to hire a team, just you’re going to have to have patience. It’s know what to look for. I think the, like I said, the most important thing is it’s the activity piece early on. you know, but just have patience with it and understand that, every day is really a new challenge in itself and just embrace it.[00:20:00]

Awesome. Well, thank you for being on the podcast today. I know that we’ll have a second one soon. I appreciate you being here today. Thanks so much. Thank you.

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