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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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3 Ways to Upset Competitors and Achieve Your MSP Goals!

Posted May 3, 2016by Ray Vrabel

In my previous blog post, I discussed how to change how you measure technical staff, sales/marketing and help desk staff benchmarks. However, while it’s important to set measureable benchmarks, that’s not enough. You also need a plan to overcome obstacles that could prevent you from meeting or exceeding your goals. Let’s discuss three best practices to succeed in this new managed IT services business model.

 

1. Ensure an Operationally Sound Business.

After a few measurable quarters, evaluate how your company is running with your new managed IT services business model. Be sure to keep in close touch with clients, and remember to frequently check in with employees. Ask how they’re doing and if they have run into any hurdles. Ensure that both employees and customers understand why you are making business changes. Ask for their trust and buy-in.

It’s important to practice what you preach, especially when it comes to that buy-in and trust. This means more than paying “lip-service" to employees and clients. I have mentioned this in previous blog posts — you need to show them that you’re serious about making positive changes, rather than just telling them. One way to start is to tailor your marketing and sales messages. “What am I trying to sell?" Any of your vendor partners can help kick-start rebranding and re-messaging. The better your messaging matches your target markets, the more positive responses you’re likely to receive.

2. Act on Measurable Results.

Evaluate results after you have one quarter under your belt with the new model. Metrics and staff are in place, so now what’s next? Start by keeping a close eye on answers to the following questions:

  • Are employees and customers truly buying in? Are employees getting acquainted with selling services rather than a break/fix model?
  • Do employees have the sales tools they need to close new business and upsell to current clients? Many IT management platform vendors equip their clients with remote monitoring and management (RMM), backup and disaster recovery (BDR) and cybersecurity sales success kits. If you're a Continuum partner, you've likely already leveraged these to win new business.
  • Am I setting up quarterly performance reviews for employees?
  • Are customers happy to sign services contracts for one or two years, or are they hesitant because they think it’s too much of a financial commitment?

Most importantly, consider the whole picture. You must be prepared to take a hard look at your company and come to terms with components that might not be working with the new business model; these will vary depending on company and customer base. This can also be a good exercise to expose weak areas, such as process or employee breakdowns, that might be holding your business back. It’s a simple equation in that both employees and customers are committed to embracing change (or not).

3. Deal with “Rebuttals."

As mentioned earlier, buy-in from both employees and customers is key for the new model to succeed. One common roadblock I’ve seen is pushback from customers who are not onboard or are apprehensive about spending additional money for an “as-a-service" model. Some of the responses you might receive are:

  • I won’t consume all of these services; I’d rather just have everything a la carte.
  • I won’t see you as much on-site; everything is remote. How will that work in an emergency?
  • I don’t need disaster recovery, just backup.
  • I don’t want or need mobile device management because most of my employees just use their own devices.

Train your staff to treat these rebuttals not as roadblocks, but as opportunities. Teach them to turn the conversation around, do some education, drive home that changes are happening within both IT and managed services, and that this is where the industry is headed. For instance, if they say they don’t want or need MDM, explain how there are security issues with BYOD, especially if an employee is now downloading company files to a personal Dropbox account. Reinforce that there needs to be a separation of “church and state" for some data.

Another response that can be easily justified is the need for both backup and disaster recovery. Sure, it’s responsible and prudent to back up your files, but what if there’s a power outage, natural disaster or some other situation that causes the loss of all company systems? That data will need to be recovered and restored, quickly. Most customers don’t realize how much of a travesty this is until it actually happens to them.

The bottom line is that whenever there is change, there are reactions of varying degree as well as criticism. It is your job as the MSP and business owner to ensure that employees and customers trust that you practice what you preach and that new recurring revenue is the best business model for the future. It’s up to you to become more efficient and profitable; remember to streamline operations along the way.

The preceding was adapted from Ray's Channel Partners guest blog post.

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Ray Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives, and also manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team, which supports over 3,500 partners worldwide. Prior to Continuum, Ray joined Zenith Infotech in 2005 and held several positions including Service Desk Manager, Sr. Technical Account Manager and Sr. Manager of Service Operations. He currently has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in Managed Services, Disaster Recovery, and Cloud Solutions. Prior to Continuum and Zenith, Ray worked at ANH Refractories, a world-class provider of Refractories products, in their Service Desk Department supporting 53 locations and 1,500 employees. Ray also worked for a startup venture at Body Media a pioneer in wearable body monitoring systems as a technical lead in their Technical Customer Support Department. Ray holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Technology Support and Training from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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