A friend recently sent me a copy of an article I wrote almost five years ago when I was editor of Business Solutions magazine. My commentary covered two topics that were near and dear to my heart, managed services and pizza, which served as an analogy that helped me to understand the needs of this evolving IT services delivery method. After reading the words I wrote back in 2007, I came to the realization that little has changed for successful MSPs since that time. The best clients for managed services are still those who were your best clients before managed services, and an MSP’s ability to anticipate the need of their customers is still one of the most critical factors in building a successful practice.
Successful service providers appear to be clairvoyant to their clients, offering solutions and support to work them through issues they haven’t encountered yet. Most savvy business owners understand their company’s potential threats and opportunities, typically after performing a thorough SWOT analysis, but a most of them are common to the industry or their particular market or region. With a little homework, MSPs should be able to anticipate a majority of their prospective clients’ needs before setting foot in their office. That’s not telepathy, just due diligence.
Obviously, each company has its own unique needs and processes that an MSP has to address. A standard cheese and pepperoni pizza does not satisfy everyone. Some will want to add peppers, onions and even anchovies to their pie; while others will go for a more basic recipe and skip the meat. In a similar manner, MSPs should have a good understanding of the minimum services a law firm would need, and tweak their initial proposal to include ancillary offerings that will address local and individual needs. Of course, the plan can be adjusted after an initial face-to-face discussion with the prospect, but by asking for a few questions prior to that meeting a managed services provider can engage a potential client like they’ve worked with the company for years.
What should you know about prospects before making an onsite visit?
- The nature of their business (what they provide and who their customers are)
- Divisions, partners and other locations
- The number of employees, both in house and remote (note each)
- Challenges they face (in their business as well as technology)
- The stakeholders and influencers ( the ultimate decision maker to start)
- How long the company has been in business
- The systems currently in place and who provides/supports them
Is this all you need to know to make a successful proposal? Of course not, but these details are extremely helpful when looking to make a first impression. After securing the business, a well-designed managed services plan will allow you to increase communications with the new client and become even more in tune with their operations and objectives. Over time, they should be able to anticipate their MSP partner’s capabilities and understand the benefits from including them in future business planning.
To ensure long term success of the relationship, each party has to communicate clearly with the others, including outsource partners such as helpdesk support and other third-party organizations. That helps to increase client trust and improves an MSP’s long-term recurring revenue potential.
Take care to note the little things about your clients’ wants, needs and desires. Most providers lose a number of important details, simply because they don’t write them down or enter them in their account information. No, MSPs don’t have to be fortune tellers to be successful, but they should emphasize the importance of client notes and ensure that important points are well documented. As I stated several years ago, “…a little extra attention can be profitable for IT providers, as well as pizza shops.”