IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Getting Sticky with IT : Page 2 of 4

MSPs can foster long-term client relationships through documented processes, value-based communications, and a culture of problem-solving. By Geoffrey Oldmixon
Reader ROI: 
CHANNEL PROs develop long-term clients with services, processes, and a culture that makes doing business with them easy.
LOOK FOR CLIENTS that want a true partner, seek to solve their pain points, and continually convey the value you provide.
ESTABLISH SERVICE DELIVERY processes that are aligned and documented, and are supported by a customer success-focused team.

“Don’t mess around. Know your stack, and know the cost of goods,” he says. “When we start taking away pieces people need [in order to reduce down], we ultimately give them a bad experience. My price is my price, and if we’re not going to deliver something good, then we shouldn’t even do it.”

Patent recommends keeping a handy list of referral partners for needs outside your own competency. “If my clients are looking for a service I don’t specialize in providing, then I provide a list of already-vetted companies,” she says. “And there I go again, adding value to our trusted relationships.”

Choosing the Right Clients

Once the scope of services is neatly bundled and clarified, channel pros need to home in on the right clients with which to build a deep engagement. Not every MSP-client relationship is meant to be, points out Craig Pollack, who has come to that understanding after running Los Angeles-based FPA Technology Services, the company he founded, for the past 31 years.

Craig Pollack

“We do have a base foundation and certain minimums,” he says. “If we’re going to have to twist your arm to put in dual authentication or backups, then it’s not for us.”

Pollack continues, “We want people that we’re going to work together with. If you’re going to view us as a vendor, this isn’t going to work. If you’re just going to call us when things break, this isn’t going to work. If you just want to see IT as a cost center and not an investment, then again, this won’t work.”

Clients who view their MSPs as long-term partners don’t want slick sales presentations either, but rather sincere and honest discussions about their needs, according to Coppedge, whose career in IT is more than 40 years mature.

“What keeps me up at night is, 'Am I a commodity?’” Coppedge says. “Am I something that can be easily duplicated and competed with? What’s my unique value?”

That unique value, he believes, is empathy.

“We always talk about listening skills,” Coppedge explains, “but we also have to talk about demonstrating empathy to client pains. The more you can show that you understand, the more the client will accept that you’re listening and working to improve their organization.”

For Coppedge, empathy doesn’t come easy. “I have absolutely horrible empathy skills,” he confides. “But I can fake it.”

It’s a skill Coppedge learned doing improvisational theater through a technique called “Yes, And.” The concept is that you build upon the ideas being presented rather than redirect them. If a client is concerned that too many emails are being filtered out of an inbox, for example, Coppedge would say, “Yes, and that could cause you to miss critical messages.”

He continues, “You want the [potential client] to know that you do get it. Offer an insight or an extension of what they’re sharing.”

In her consultancy, Patent calls this “understanding the buyer’s journey.” MSPs can empathize by understanding what a client is trying to achieve and what their goals are, she says. Probe for, “What are they thinking? What actions are they taking?” Patent advises.

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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