MSP Corner: 8 Lessons Learned from the NextGen + MSP Conference

This article was written by Christopher Walker, Strategic Enterprise Consultant at TD SYNNEX.

For many managed service providers (MSP), the search is constant to understand how others are finding success. Before the pandemic, many stakeholders at MSPs would glean how to improve performance by meeting with others in similar businesses. These conferences were unbelievably valuable, but these opportunities have dried up over the last year and a half.

Now, in-person gatherings and conferences are slowly starting to happen again. Late last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Channel Co NexGen conference held in Anaheim, CA. For most of the other attendees and myself, this was our first chance to get together in person since the pandemic. It was a wonderful experience and I could sense a huge need for the attendees to connect to others who are in the same collective boat of running an MSP.

Each MSP is unique, but they are the same in many ways — all companies started for distinct reasons, yet they all wish to solve gaps in the marketplace. There were a handful of unique origin stories in which ownership of an MSP — via succession from one owner to another — happened unexpectedly and quickly, and each had incredibly unique challenges to overcome.

The overall theme of the conference was that MSPs are first in the business of customer service; customer service is just being performed by a company who happens to provide IT solutions.

Confucius famously said: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” I want to share a few items of interest to MSP stakeholders in the hopes of acquiring wisdom:

1. Selling Excellent Service

To sell excellent services, we must remember that it’s important for your customers to understand that your service offering is really all about the “service” aspect. That might mean outlining the level of support and availability you will provide, or it might mean translating clearly what service terms mean in an agreement.

Plus, if you have a history of accomplishment, show it off: put clients, partners and prospects at ease by discussing success stories and challenges you have overcome with other customers. This will establish you as an experienced solution provider in your field, which leads to peace of mind.

2. Speak to Your Clients on a Deeper Level

Express to them how they can focus on other things or even relax knowing you will be on top of any security or technical issues before they become problems. Giving your clients peace of mind about technology so they can focus on other aspects of their businesses is a massive undertaking and part of the value proposition for your monthly service offering.

Many MSPs have found that a quality remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool can help deliver peace of mind to clients. The ability to really understand and utilize your companies’ RMM will pay huge dividends for your business. You can proactively monitor your client’s network environment and provide alerts when things are wrong. You can also set up your remote management and monitoring to automatically resolve routine issues before your client even knows about them.

3. Break Down the Numbers

Once you have provided the service with great execution and your customers have achieved a strong peace of mind, it’s critical that the numbers are explained in detail. It’s easier for most people to digest the cost when it’s presented in terms of monthly payments rather than an annual lump sum. Present the costs of your as-a-service offering in the context of the value and service levels you are delivering and provide the monthly total the customer can expect to be invoiced.

There can be a fear of ‘profit guilt,’ where you are nervous to share with the customer that you are making money from the transaction. But anyone who has overcome this understands that it’s acceptable for clients to know that we are providing a service and we are in the business to make a profit. Of course, no one likes hidden fees, so make sure your monthly total is accurate to help establish trust and enable your customers to budget accurately for your service.

4. Talk About the Results, Not Just the Technology

Sometimes, it is tempting to talk about all the bells and whistles of the technology, but what good is it if it doesn’t solve underlying problems? In a sales conversation, do not sell technology, sell the benefits. Most of your customers do not understand business technology and do not have the time to figure it out themselves — they want to see actual results in their businesses. Sell business owners the ability to refocus on their core business and more easily achieve business goals.

5. Follow Up With a Definition of the Real Costs

Once you have shared the benefits and tangible results from the technology, it’s unbelievably valuable to highlight that the biggest cost of poorly functioning technology is what it costs in people and productivity. Paint a picture to reframe how your services would benefit the client and attach a value to it. Ask tough questions to help tip the balance for your client from the emotional, irrational fears that lead to “no,” towards the logical, rational decisions that lead to the sale.

6. Establish Yourself as the Trusted Vendor or Partner

If you work in a vertical market, you’re in a great position to sell yourself as a trusted vendor for their niche, which is a big part of your value. Clients want to simplify and focus on their businesses — technology is not their core mission, it’s only a tool. What should relying on you as their one and only vendor mean for your clients? It means they don’t need to worry about technology anymore.

Explain the amount of time and energy you will invest to understand every piece of their business and how you will help them choose the best technology to support their business objectives. If issues come up, they only need to make one phone call.

7. Facilitate the Shift to the Cloud or as-a-service Offerings

Moving your business or your customers business from a rip-and-replace model to an as-a-service model is a challenging proposition. Make sure you have equipped your business to make this transition as smooth as possible for yourself, your business and your clients.

You must believe in your own expertise and skills to make a convincing pitch to clients. Technology automation is the key to delivering efficient, profitable managed services. In the future, the most successful solution providers will offer clients more services and manage these services with fewer employees. This should be ingrained in your company culture.

8. Provide Security-Based Services

Many MSP’s are successfully acting upon this option and moving towards becoming a managed security service provider (MSSP). An MSSP is an external partner who manages and monitors cybersecurity solutions for an organization. Moving into the cloud/security realm might seem daunting at first, but we’re seeing this move is the natural evolution of many MSP companies.

Managing more technology with fewer and fewer people is the inevitable path of technology solution providers. Wrapping an MSSP program into your catalog of services might be the ticket for continued robust growth for many years to come.

My hope is that this article will provide some ideas to help you move your business forward profitably!

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