Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Managed service providers (MSPs) employ various sales models to structure their approach to selling services. These models outline best practices to generate leads, convert prospects, and build brand loyalty. Implementing these models streamlines selling efforts, improves efficiency, and ensures a consistent approach to acquiring and retaining clients.

Inbound, outbound, account-based, consultative, and social selling are some top approaches MSPs can use to build awareness, personalize engagement, understand high-value clients’ needs, and leverage social media for relationship nurturing. The chart below compares these models and provides examples of each model.

Sales ModelProsConsUse CaseExample
Inbound Selling Attracts qualified leads organically
Builds brand authority and trust
Offers scalability for long-term growth
Requires initial investment in content creation
Takes time to see significant results
Needs ongoing optimization and analysis
Reach small businessesOffering a downloadable white paper, eBook, or webinar to attract leads
Outbound Selling Enables a proactive approach to reaching potential leads
Provides direct control over target audience outreach
Presents the ability to personalize sales pitches
Has a high rejection rate
Can be perceived as intrusive and overly complex
Is resource intensive to maintain momentum
Target enterprise clientsAdvertising in online or print media and having a sales rep follow up with a cold call
Account-Based Selling Offers a highly targeted approach for high-value clients
Builds strong relationships with key accounts
Aligns sales efforts with overall business goals
Can be time-consuming and resource-intensive
Provides a limited scale compared to other models because of its more specialized customer focus
Focus on attracting midsize companiesTailoring a marketing campaign to reach clients with revenue over $10 million
Consultative Selling Builds trust through personalized solutions
Offers the opportunity for upselling and cross-selling
Has a longer sales cycle
Requires specific industry, competitive, and company knowledge
Custom tailor offering to fit the needs of individual prospectsConducting an in-depth assessment of a client’s needs and customizing the solution
Social Selling Enables reps to gain market intelligence and build the brand on social channels
Creates opportunities for direct engagement with prospects
Facilitates relationship-building at scale
Can be time-consuming to establish the brand’s presence
Requires ongoing maintenance and monitoring
Offers limited effectiveness without a proper strategy
Use LinkedIn posts and advertising and messaging to reach audiencesEngaging with potential customers through influencer posts

Featured Partners: Managed Service Provider (MSP) Software

Inbound Selling

Inbound selling is a method that MSPs can use to attract clients through tailored content and experiences. It offers non-intrusive, educational content and useful information that addresses ways to solve challenges and issues that most organizations have.

When to use this model

Use this model after the organization has established its goals, conducted thorough research, created buyer personas, and decided on the use of outreach methods such as search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, email marketing, or other strategies to boost awareness, engagement, and ultimately, conversions. This model is ideal for achieving the following objectives:

  • Targeting a specific niche: Reach audiences seeking specific solutions.
  • Reputation building: Build brand authority and foster trust over time.
  • Content-driven lead generation: Attract qualified leads through compelling content.
  • Scalable growth strategies: Expand reach and accelerate growth.
  • Digital selling: Create a strategy to find, engage, and connect with buyers online.


The benefits of this model include:

  • Builds organic leads: Attracts good-fit leads organically without extensive outreach.
  • Creates brand authority: Establishes industry credibility and thought leadership.
  • Enables scalability: Provides a versatile framework for long-term growth.
  • Achieves personalization: Enables tailored content and targeted engagement.
  • Creates engagement: Facilitates authentic online interactions and engagement.
  • Improves cost-efficiency: Reduces the cost of client acquisition compared to outbound methods.


The downsides of this model include its:

  • Content planning resources: Requires investment in content creation and media planning.
  • Time-intensive nature: Deals take time to nurture based on the sales cycle stage in the sales funnel.
  • Ongoing optimization requirements: Demands continuous refinement and analytical evaluation.
  • Audience saturation: Faces competition from crowded digital spaces and audience saturation.
  • ROI measurement challenges: Can present challenges in quantifying direct returns.

Example of inbound selling in use

An MSP that has just made the switch to specialize in security offers a gated eBook or white paper on the importance of having multi-level security built into every attack surface. This resource attracts potential clients, captures their contact information, and nurtures them through the sales funnel with targeted follow-up content.

Outbound Selling

Outbound selling uses disruptive methods like cold calling and emailing to reach potential clients. It offers direct control over audience outreach and message timing. This approach allows MSP sales reps to seize opportunities and nurture personal contacts within their account base.

When to use this model

Use this model to reach whitespace prospects who are unaware of the organization’s services, especially during market expansion or to fill pipeline goals and sales quotes. The model is ideal when proactive outreach and direct engagement are imperative, as in the following types of outreach:

  • High-reach campaigns: The approach is ideal for broad audience targeting and mass exposure.
  • Time-sensitive promotions: Use the model when immediate sales blitzes and short-term results are desired.
  • Personalized outreach: The model is also ideal for delivering tailored sales pitches and customized offers.
  • New launches: The model works well in capturing attention when new products and services are being introduced.
  • Competitive landscapes: Use the model when differentiating solutions from competitors using a unique value proposition.


The advantages of this model include:

  • Proactive outreach: Enables direct contact with potential leads and clients.
  • Targeted campaigns: Allows for precise audience segmentation and personalized messaging.
  • Control over messaging: Provides full autonomy in crafting sales pitches and promotional materials.
  • Immediate impact: Delivers fast results and instant visibility in the market.
  • Lead generation: Generates high-quality leads for conversion and sales.
  • Market penetration: Facilitates market expansion and brand exposure.


The downsides of this model include:

  • High rejection rates: Faces potential resistance and disinterest from recipients.
  • Perceived intrusiveness: Risks being seen as intrusive or spam-like by target audiences.
  • Resource-intensiveness: Requires significant investment in marketing materials and advertising campaigns.
  • Lack of adaptability to digital dynamics: Needs continuous optimization to align with changing buying behavior and demographics.
  • Lack of visibility into ROI measurement: Presents challenges in quantifying returns and assessing campaign effectiveness.

Example of the model in use

A sales rep at a new market entry cold-calls prospective clients to create awareness of the company’s debut in the market. This proactive approach helps establish initial connections and can generate interest in the company’s services, especially when special deals are being offered.

Account-based selling

Account-based selling (ABS) is a sales method that MSPs can use to focus on targeting specific accounts with personalized outreach and tailored solutions. It offers a methodical way for MSPs to penetrate key accounts, nurture relationships, and drive revenue growth.

When to use this model

Use this model to separate prospects and customers by geographic region, sales potential, or needed products and solutions. It’s also well-suited for targeting marquee accounts, where it’s advantageous to nurture and expand relationships with top accounts. The model is ideal for:

  • Targeting enterprise-level clients: The approach is suitable for businesses with complex buying processes and long sales cycles.
  • Expanding strategic accounts: The approach is also effective when looking to deepen relationships and upsell or cross-sell to existing clients.
  • Segmenting niche markets: The model is ideal for penetrating specialized industries or verticals with tailored solutions.
  • Focusing on high-value prospects: This approach is highly suitable for accounts with significant revenue potential that warrant dedicated attention and effort.
  • Nurturing brand loyalty: The model is especially beneficial when seeking to build long-term partnerships based on trust.


The benefits of this model include:

  • Personalized engagement: Allows for customized messaging and tailored solutions that resonate with personal contacts.
  • Strategic focus: Prioritizes high-value accounts and allocates the firm’s premium resources for maximum impact.
  • Enhanced alignment: Promotes closer collaboration between sales and marketing teams, leading to more cohesive strategies and messaging to prospects.
  • Increased conversion rates: Generally leads to higher conversion rates and bigger sales volume.
  • Long-term value: Builds stronger, more sustainable relationships with key accounts, leading to higher lifetime customer value and retention.


The downsides of this model include its:

  • Resource-intensive approach: Requires significant investment in research, customization, and relationship-building efforts.
  • Longer sales cycles: Prolongs the sales cycle due to the potential complexity and number of decision-makers involved.
  • Limited scalability: Lacks suitability for mass appeal and broad market penetration.
  • Risk of over-customization: Risks becoming too focused on individual accounts at the expense of broader market opportunities.
  • Dependency on accurate data: Hinges on access to accurate and up-to-date data on target accounts.

Example of the model in use

A sales rep identifies a select group of key accounts within a specific industry vertical and crafts a personalized outreach campaign tailored to each client. This enhances the relevance of messaging and increases the likelihood of converting high-value prospects within the particular industry sector.

Consultative selling

Consultative selling addresses each client’s unique needs collaboratively, prioritizing their challenges and goals over product features. The approach allows MSPs to differentiate their services by offering highly customized solutions and fostering partnerships built on extensive client engagement.

When to use this model

Consultative selling is best in situations where a deep understanding of the client’s business exists and where joint problem-solving and relationship-building form the foundation for the client relationship. Use this model when the following situations exist:

  • Complex buying environments: This approach is suitable for industries or sectors with intricate purchasing processes and multiple stakeholders.
  • Solution-oriented sales: It is ideal when clients require customized solutions tailored to their specific business objectives, pain points, and industry.
  • Long-term partnerships: Use the model to cultivate enduring relationships based on trust, credibility, and ongoing support.
  • Value-driven sales: This method is for clients seeking more than just products or services, but strategic insights and expertise to drive their business forward.
  • Competitive differentiation: The method is especially advantageous when seeking to stand out in crowded marketplaces by offering personalized, high-touch experiences that resonate with clients.


The benefits of the model include:

  • Needs-based approach: Prioritizes the client’s challenges and objectives before proposing solutions to achieve a more impactful sales pitch.
  • Trusted advisor status: Positions the firm as a strategic advisor, rather than a mere vendor.
  • Customized solutions: Enables tailored offerings and recommendations to meet the unique needs and preferences of each client
  • Value demonstration: Demonstrates the tangible value and ROI of the firm’s solutions, making it easier for clients to justify the purchase.
  • Continuous improvement/competitive advantage: Facilitates ongoing dialogue and feedback with clients for continuous improvement and innovation.


The downsides of this model include its:

  • Time-intensive approach: Requires significant time and effort, which can potentially lengthen the sales cycle.
  • Skill and expertise requirements: Demands strong interpersonal skills, industry knowledge, and the ability to navigate complex client environments.
  • Potential for scope creep: May lead to scope creep and resource drain when clients request continual modifications to meet their evolving needs.
  • Dependence on trust and credibility: Hinges on establishing and maintaining trust and credibility with clients, which can be challenging to sustain.

Examples of the model in use

A sales representative conducts an in-depth discovery session with a client to uncover their challenges, goals, and priorities before proposing a purpose-built solution. This approach ensures that the solution is highly relevant and addresses the client’s specific needs.

Social Selling

Social selling uses social media to connect with prospects, build relationships, and drive engagement. It’s a cost-effective method to gain market intelligence and interact with prospects across digital channels such as LinkedIn, Youtube, and others.

When to use the model

Use this model when seeking to build relationships at scale, establish credibility, and cost-effectively build the brand, as in the following instances:

  • Establishing thought leadership: The approach is ideal for relationships based on thought leadership and knowledge sharing.
  • Targeting decision-makers: The model also works well when aiming to reach key stakeholders and decision-makers within target accounts who are active on social media platforms.
  • Building brand awareness: The model is ideal for startups or small MSPs looking to increase visibility and reach a wider audience.
  • Expanding beyond geographical boundaries: It’s also the optimal approach for connecting with prospects and clients globally through online networking channels.


The benefits of this model include its:

  • Relationship-building opportunities: Provides a platform for cost-effective ongoing engagement, thought leadership, and relationship-building. 
  • Targeted outreach: Enables reps to identify and connect with top prospects based on market intelligence, demographics, interests, and online behavior.
  • Content distribution: Enables reps to share valuable content, insights, and thought leadership within their networks.
  • Real-time engagement: Facilitates real-time communication and interaction, enabling immediate responses to inquiries, feedback, and objections.
  • Lead generation: Generates high-quality leads through proactive engagement and networking on social media platforms.
  • Measurable results: Provides analytics and insights enabling the marketing team to track engagement metrics, monitor ROI, and optimize strategies.


The downsides of the model include the following drawbacks:

  • Time and resource investment: Requires consistent effort and dedication to build and maintain an active presence on various social media platforms
  • Potential for information overload: Can be challenging to capture the attention of target audiences with the abundance of content and noise on social platforms.
  • Privacy and security concerns: Raises concerns around data privacy, security, and compliance when engaging with prospects and clients.
  • Reputation management issues: Necessitates careful management of online reputation and image, as negative interactions on social media can impact credibility.
  • Evolving algorithms and platforms: Requires MSPs to stay informed and adapt their social selling strategies to platforms that regularly update their SEO algorithms.
  • Integration with sales processes: Requires collaboration across in-house teams to ensure alignment between digital sales and traditional sales.

Example of the model in use

A sales rep engages with prospects and clients on LinkedIn by sharing relevant industry insights, participating in group discussions, and sending personalized connection requests. This method builds rapport and establishes the sales rep as a trusted authority within the industry.

5 considerations when choosing an MSP sales model

To ensure that the sales model you choose for the specific goal you have in mind, consider the target market, value proposition, pricing structure, customer relationship management, and your ability to resiliently adapt to the particular client’s or industry sector’s needs.

Target market segmentation

Tailor each sales model to resonate with specific client profiles. By segmenting target markets based on industry, company size, location, and unique business needs, MSPs can better address the pain points of each segment. Understanding these nuances facilitates message customization to increase the likelihood of conversion.

Value proposition development

Develop a value proposition that emphasizes the benefits of the organization’s offerings. A compelling value proposition attracts prospects and strengthens client loyalty. An example is: Our dedicated team ensures seamless operations, maximized cost-efficiency, and unparalleled scalability, all while prioritizing robust security measures to safeguard your data. 

Pricing strategy alignment

Consider using flexible pricing models, such as tiered pricing based on service levels or à la carte options, to accommodate client budgets and requirements. Aligning pricing with perceived value enhances client satisfaction. The MSP’s leadership team should regularly adjust the pricing strategy to ensure it remains competitive and aligns with market trends and client expectations.

Customer relationship management

Focus on nurturing client relationships, driving retention, and uncovering upsell/cross-sell opportunities with feedback mechanisms that gather insights into satisfaction levels. Building strong client relationships fosters loyalty and encourages referrals. Consider using a CRM system to help manage client data and provide insights and analytics that support decision-making.

Adaptability to evolving client demands

Incorporate feedback and stay abreast of industry trends to remain responsive to client needs. Flexibility and agility are key attributes that enable MSPs to thrive amidst changing circumstances. By continuously assessing market dynamics and technology advancements, MSPs can position themselves as strategic partners.

Bottom line: Understanding the nuances of each model is key

Plan on understanding the nuances of each sales model, how and when to apply it, and how to tailor it to align with the organization’s business goals, target market, pricing models, and competitive landscape. Ultimately, employing a combination of inbound, outbound, account-based, consultative, and social selling offers the most comprehensive approach to engaging with clients.

Aside from understanding the diverse lead generation techniques and business acquisition models, it’s imperative to cultivate adept pricing strategies for your business. Delve into common pricing models employed by MSPs and explore their pros and cons.