By Mike Cullen
A monumental shift is making its way across the IT services landscape and commanding big change for IT service providers. Now, more than ever, it’s paramount that channel partners work harder and smarter to deliver an exceptional customer experience and a clearly differentiated value proposition. With competition coming from nearly every angle including vendors, copier dealers, master MSPs and large service organizations, the time is now to assess what makes your business tick and how you can step up your game when it comes to customer service and support.
To get the customer experience where it needs to be, especially for SMB customers, progressive MSPs are moving away from cookie-cutter SLAs and offerings, and instead building customized programs that fit the wants and needs of the client. This level of customization and service is what the big-guns competition can’t and won’t deliver. It’s also what makes an MSP stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Having flexibility across services, forging meaningful relationships with the business owner, and being able to tailor programs to meet specific client needs separates the good from the great, and gives way to competitive gains for MSPs over these new, larger competitors. With all this in mind, here are four best practices that will help you succeed in today’s changing market:
1. Be Flexible: If an SMB customer just wants their servers and desktops monitored, but not mobile devices, having a flexible business model will allow the MSP to make it happen. Or the client might want the MSP to handle patch management but not AV monitoring. It may not be optimal, but having flexibility enables MSPs to meet clients on their terms, prove their value and provide a competitive advantage where other competitors might not be able to deliver. Flexibility offers a way to get your foot in the door and build from there.
2. Be Strategic: Today’s more successful MSPs are not just “techies." They have taken their practices well beyond to serve as trusted advisers and virtual CIOs who help their clients look at their businesses strategically. They don’t want to simply fix the IT challenges of today, but provide clients with ideas that look farther into the future and set them up for success. Automating more business processes for clients, for example, can go a long way toward helping them get more done with fewer staff.
3. Get Involved: The new crop of big businesses entering the channel to compete with you has big marketing spend behind them. But what they likely don’t have are established relationships with the businesses in your backyard. The onus is on you to stay in front of your customers at every opportunity: attend Chamber of Commerce and other regional business association meetings, join partner organizations and participate in community events. Be where your customers are and make a personal connection with them so that they’ll remember you when their IT service needs are ready for a refresh.
4. Be Personable: To build on the above point, one thing hasn’t changed in business and that is the importance of relationships. If you’re an MSP, being able to look your customers in the eye, shake their hands and get to know them on a personal level can only lead to a stronger relationship and a greater desire to serve them the best you can.
These strategies are simple and proven. In today’s increasingly competitive IT channel, the value-add is the way that you can customize your client relationships and deliver what your customers want, the way they want it delivered. Don’t be intimidated by the bigger competition: get in front of your customers and prospects regularly and remind them you want to build a long-term business partnership built on trust and a deep understanding of their business. Show them you’ve got what it takes to help them succeed.
As vice president worldwide sales and business strategy for N-able by SolarWinds, Mike Cullen brings more than 20 years of corporate sales experience to his MSP customers and has assembled an equally experienced sales force. Prior to joining N-able, Cullen was vice president of sales (Ottawa Branch) and interim president of the Québec region for IKON Office Solutions.