MSP Sales Funnel Key Terms To Know

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    In today’s post, I wanted to break down a few key terms MSP owners should be aware of when it comes to breaking down sales funnels from online marketing for your MSP. A lot of MSP owners grow initially through referrals and networking and are used to any leads they receive to be scorching hot ready to close leads that come on board with little friction. When you open up your MSP to online marketing things are going to be different and your pipeline is going to need throughput and volume to source opportunities that are similar to those slam-dunk leads that come from referrals.


    When starting out with online marketing you need brand awareness and reach. No one is ever going to visit your website if they aren’t given the chance to. You need to build impressions and reach in your target market. An impression is when someone sees an ad, search result, video, or another form of digital marketing collateral.

    Clicks, Visitors, Sessions, or Landing Page Views

    Next is when people engage with your ad, video, or other pieces of marketing content and choose to visit your website. There are softer forms of engagement, such as likes on social media, but these generally aren’t bid on or optimized for in advertising and the ROI is very hard to prove so we’ve omitted those. Most marketers are looking at clicks or landing page views as a traffic generation metric as the next stage in the marketing funnel.

    Lead Or Raw Leads

    Website visitors “convert” into leads. A lead in an MSP marketing context will most often be defined as someone who reached out to your company. This could be a soft lead, like an email subscriber, or a more firm lead such as a caller or someone who’s filled out a contact form. This number is what’s going to be most easily available to report on in advertising accounts and analytics products, and includes both qualified leads, spam, unqualified leads, and email addresses. Raw leads are what many marketers are going to be referring to when talking about lead generation because it’s the sexiest and most ill-defined and therefore easy to manipulate and sell on. For instance, you might see cost per MSP cost per lead numbers in the $200-$300 range or less reported on the internet, but just consider half of those might be spam, low quality, or otherwise not qualified. This tends to frustrate MSP owners, but it’s just a part of online marketing, and it’s one of the main reasons volume is important.

    Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

    Marketing qualified leads are the next level of specificity but still not always what an MSP owner might think of when it comes to the type of lead they desire. We define marketing qualified leads as leads that are qualified from a firmographics perspective. For instance, if you’ve defined your target market as construction companies with 10-250 seats and a lead comes through looking for IT support that matches those firmographic characteristics they would be considered a marketing-qualified lead.

    Some marketing-qualified leads will be good fits, ready to talk to sales, and will go on to become customers, others will not. Sometimes those leads are not ready to go managed out of the gate, sometimes you might email those leads and they don’t get back to you, maybe tech stacks aren’t aligned, maybe they reject your pricing, or are otherwise not a slam dunk. All of these are temporary circumstances that can be changed over time. People are temperamental, chronically distracted, and change their minds on a whim. However, these are companies in your target market that have indicated some form of interest. These companies can be added to email lists, called quarterly by a rep to check on status, retargeted with pay-per-click ads, and otherwise nurtured over time.

    Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

    A sales-qualified lead is probably the closest thing to a lead that an MSP owner has in their mind when they talk about generating leads. We define a sales-qualified lead as a lead that is ready to talk to sales, and sales have accepted that lead for a meeting. Sales can always disqualify or reject a marketing-qualified lead. When the sales team accepts the prospect and schedules an appointment it is considered a sales-qualified lead.

    Opportunity Or Sales Opportunity

    Once a sales meeting has been had and there is mutual interest in exploring a deal the next stage of the sales funnel is known as an opportunity or opp for short. Opportunities are typically those that your MSP is ready to send a proposal and contracts to.

    Closed Deals

    The close rate is the conversion of opportunities into closed deals with new customers. If you are closing anything less than 20% of your opportunities, you likely have problems with your value proposition, sales team, or market positioning. As your sales process matures, an increased close rate on opportunities is not unreasonable.

    msp marketing and sales funnel visualized

    Plugging Funnel Leaks

    Each stage of the MSP marketing and sales funnels presents a chance for people to “leak” out of it. Working on things like landing page quality to improve conversion rates, sales process to close more opportunities, and sales training to convert more SQLs to opps are things that can move significantly more people down the funnel and turn them into customers. MSP owners will need time and patience to refine their funnels, reduce their costs, and become more efficient at sales and marketing. Savvy MSP owners will also realize that it takes time to fully recover investments in marketing and sales, often to the tune of 6-18 months. Many leads will progress from first contact to close in 90 days or less, however, the long tail of leads may take up to 18 months to get quotes, plan, and make a commitment to a provider. Plugging funnel leaks and putting mechanisms in place to nurture leads down the funnel will accelerate your pipeline and help you close more deals faster.

    Wrapping Up

    Tortoise and Hare helps MSPs and other B2B technology service providers generate more marketing-qualified leads and put their sales teams in touch with more opportunities. Apply for a free MSP marketing consultation to learn more about our services and see if we are the right agency partner for you.

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    Hunter Nelson

    Hunter is the founder and president of Tortoise and Hare Software, a digital marketing agency for managed service providers. Hunter has more than 10 years’ experience building web applications and crafting digital strategies for companies ranging from scrappy startups to Fortune 50 household names. When not on the clock, you'll find him spending time with his family and pups, relaxing on the beach, or playing competitive online video games. See for more.

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