NEWS: Global Mentoring Solutions is now part of the Sherweb family. Click here to read more about the acquisition.

In the early days of managed services, one of the biggest obstacles to selling the innovative IT management program was the business community’s concern over losing control of its systems. “Outsourcing,” with all its negative connotations, was a touchy subject for many prospects. Even when they were already clients of a solution provider, they were skeptical of the changes required for a managed services implementation.

In addition to those business owners who avoided the “risk” of early technology adoption, others expressed apprehension to opening up their networks to non-employees, especially after seeing an escalation in security breaches. Hearing tales of compromised data and other compliance issues tends to rattle management teams and it may have contributed to misconceptions surrounding managed services. Like any innovative concept, especially those that require a change in the “status quo” for business customers, the acceptance of this new delivery system has been slower than expected.

Though managed services (to my best knowledge) haven’t been linked to any illegal activities, the misconception about security risk still exists with some business prospects. In addition to concerns about working with a third-party on their technology, allowing others to remotely access and control critical business systems can also be a sensitive issue.

Just a few years ago, most internal IT departments followed a lock down method, restricting virtually all outside access to their networks and data. Few visitors could use a business’ wireless network and any remote workers had to follow an extensive authentication process to get account information and send email. Smartphones were strictly a personal or consumer device, with the exception of the management and sales teams Blackberries.

While the security concerns continue to escalate, most IT departments loosened the rules a bit to adopt new technologies and procedures that allow their organization to better compete. Cloud and mobility solutions can’t operate within the confines of the old philosophy, requiring new security policies and technologies that allow more open network access. In many cases, the management team of larger businesses drive this change over the objections (or at least reservations) of their IT departments. This isn’t a subtle shift in control of a company’s networks: it also signals an opportunity for managed service providers who can sell the benefits of proactive, remote management.

Mobility is now commonplace, with a number of companies offering these devices to their field staff and travelling employees to ensure they remain productive wherever they are. Some businesses have adopted BYOD (bring your own device) policies, allowing workers to use personal smartphones and tablets to access critical systems and data. If you presented this flexible device option to a security-minded CIO in 2000, they would probably have laughed you out of their office.

When an MSP sees a larger prospective client’s IT team implementing cloud or mobility solutions, they can assume that the management team has some input on their technology infrastructure decisions. If the CIO or tech team is using a third-party company for those services, they may be open to outsource other parts of their operations. That same scenario plays out in the SMB space, as the ownership team looks to get more productivity from their employees and reduce their costs wherever possible.

That’s where a skilled managed services sales professional takes over. As the more difficult barriers to remote management come down, the conversation with prospects gets a little easier—but they still need to close the deal. The discussion shifts to uptime and performance, rather than reactive break/fix services. No two businesses are the same, and each company typically has particular needs that an MSP will have to address (or at least consider).

Watch for cloud and mobility use with prospective clients, especially those larger companies who may have been reluctant to consider a managed services partner in past years. If they have any of these technology programs in place or signal an interest in either, the barrier has either come down or is about to. That means it’s time to have a much deeper discussion.