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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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How to Build Customer Relationships: MSPtv Navigate Special

Posted September 3, 2015by Tim Lewis

 

 

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Navigate 2015 is less than one month away! In preparation for the conference of the year, we've created a special Navigate series for MSPtv! This series features some of Navigate's key speakers who will share what to expect during their sessions. Continuing our MSPtv Navigate Special series, we have Peter Melby, President of Greystone Technology Group, Inc. At Navigate, Peter's session will be focusing on building your customer relationships from the beginning, even before the contract is signed. This is a can't-miss episode! Tune in now!

Have any suggestions for an MSPtv episode? Want to give us your feedback? Email us at mspnow@continuum.net and let us know what you think!


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Episode Transcription: 

Scott: Welcome to another episode of MSPtv. Today we have a special series. Speakers that will be presenting at Navigate 2015 this coming September 27th and 29th, just a couple weeks away. We'll be in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there. Joining me today is Peter Melby, president of Greystone Technology Group out of Denver, Colorado. How are you today, Peter? 

Peter: Doing great.

Scott: Excellent.

Peter: How are you, Scott?

Scott: Good, thank you very much. You're going to be presenting on four principles to sell for long-term success. You want to give us a little overview about what you'll be talking about?

Peter: Sure. So when we started our MSP, we were young and naive. And a lot of what we learned in the IT industry, and really just business in general, was the idea that there's this temptation to structure your business in a way that is convenient for the business operator. You know, that we structure it so that it's convenient for us, and then we rely on really good sales to convince people that it's going to be really good for them, too. And then that's how we achieve success.

And we've learned over time that that reputation, especially in IT, is well-earned and has turned into this idea that IT people, the IT industry leads with, "We're going to tell you what you don't know." And the important thing to us and the lesson that we learned is that it made all the difference in the world to shift our mentality to leading with, "Tell us what we don't know." And starting to ask those questions. We learned along the way that we're going to make mistakes and we're not perfect, no matter how much we thought we were when we were young and ignorant.

But the foundation that we have with our clients is what's going to help us survive that, help us to progress through that. And really strengthen the bond that we have with our clients, even as we aren't perfect and even as we do struggle through some of the grey areas of business and IT together. So what I'm going to be talking about is the idea that that foundation, building that foundation starts well before the ink is signed on the contract.

Scott: Yeah.

Peter: It starts before they become a client and it starts the very moment that you connect with them. We've learned that it's exhausting to live a lie. It's becoming more and more important to be transparent. Ask anyone whose name showed up in the database of Ashley Madison. That it's more tempting with social media to try to create this image of who we are and who we want to be in this social media-driven world.

But it's also much harder to hide the truth of who we are. And so really pushing to shift that mentality from, "Hey, let's put up this image of what people want to buy," to, "Let's show them who we really are and help them to understand how that's going to benefit them." So we're going to talk about how to compete against the larger organizations and win on merit, not words.We're going to talk about...I'm going to share stories about how we've beat more established organizations head-to-head. I'll tell you how to beat us head-to-head.

Scott: Yeah.

Peter: And I'm going to share the story of how I accidentally and permanently as an IT consultant fired the acting CEO of our largest client. And lived to tell the story. [laughter] So just a little tale of what it means to create a very transparent relationship with clients through that sales process. It's no secret that one of the biggest challenges with MSPs and business in general, especially in technology, is the gap between when you sell something and when you deliver it. You know, the number of client complaints that come in that are, "Hey, the salesperson told me that," or, "Hey, you told me that."

Scott: Right, right.

Peter: And that's not happening. You know, we're going to talk a lot about how to avoid that in the long-term relationship.

Scott: Yeah, that's quite true. And what you're just saying reminds me of the old adage that you never have a second chance to make a first impression.

Peter: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that the idea that from that first impression, starting to build trust rather than starting to build an image is something that has carried us a long way. I think there's a fear amongst companies...especially growing companies, companies that know that they want and need to be larger than where they are...that they're going to put themselves at an disadvantage without spinning. Without spinning their message. Without really embellishing what their capabilities are. Because there are other clients in the market that may more accurately and more truthfully...I mean, sorry, more organizations in the market that compete against them...that may more accurately and truthfully be able to say that those are core competencies.

Scott: Yeah.

Peter: And so as organizations grow up and realize, "Okay, I want to be at this level. I want to be able to compete the 50-person MSP, the 100-person MSP, the $10 million company. But I'm not. I'm the $1 million company. I'm trying to get that first $1 million in revenue." There's still so much that can be drawn out of the character of a company that...you know, they can create a depth in the sales process that makes it a whole lot less like selling and a whole lot more like just engaging and starting that trust from day one. So rather than having this big, loud presentation of what your company is, making sure that that first impression is that first drop of trust. You know, both ways in that connection.

Scott: Yeah. And I think what I'm taking away, too, is that it is probably less about the technology that you're walking in the door with. And as you said, "Tell me what I don't know," and you're really looking to build the relationship with this partner and really listen to them and help them to understand how you might help them improve their business. As opposed to, "Let me come in and solve all your technology problems and this is how I'm going to tell you how I'm going to do it."

Peter: Right. Yes, and if you notice the trends in MSP marketing over the past five years, a lot of it has shifted toward this idea of relationship-oriented IT with personality, things like that. Which is all great. It's great marketing words. It's great messaging. It needs to happen.

Scott: Yeah.

Peter: The problem is is that the industry and services in general are not conveniently and naturally set up to be that way. So we've got to fight against it a bit. We've got to fight against those tendencies. So we're going to talk about just four really simple, specific rules to keep in mind. Not just as you go through the sales process, but as you architect your sales process. As you decide who's going to be involved in it. And making sure that clients don't see that drop-off.

Scott: Yeah. Discuss with me a little bit, you're going to talk about some of the sales processes that go through about launching in this lifetime customer relationship and avoiding drop-offs and such. Tell me a little bit about that part.

Peter: Sure. We're going to talk, as you mentioned, about that first impression. The very first interaction. What that means and what clients want to get out of that. We're going to talk about your sales process, or the MSP sales process, from the customer side. And going through the idea of what a customer is thinking at various points. As we've dug into this sales process for ourselves, it's been really surprising how far off we were when we architected what we thought was just a rock-solid sales process.

Scott: Right.

Peter: So we're going to debunk some of those myths. And then we're going to talk about the idea that selling in a confident, natural, transparent way can be so much more successful. Not just in terms of the long-term relationship, but also in terms of close percentage.

We've learned that by staying true to who we are...and it's certainly different now that we're larger...but when we were three people, it wasn't that different now that we're sixty-five people. It really is talking about our benefits. Understanding our differentiators. And not establishing differentiators as marketing language, but establishing your differentiator as actions. 

Scott: I see.

Peter: And that's something that, you know, we get to be much more relaxed in what we do.

Scott: Yep, good. Any final thought that you might pass along to people viewing this as to what to expect? Or a little words of wisdom to go away?

Peter: Yeah. When these conferences come around, I feel like in many ways, there's a similar trajectory of all conference attendees. We come into these conferences together. We get hyped up. We really enjoy the content of things. We really enjoy the people that we're around. and there's an adrenaline. There's a shared excitement about what we're doing.

And on day two, we feel like we can conquer the world. On day three, we start to feel those feelings come back about, "Oh, yeah. I have to go back to my real job now and the reality of where I am." So what we're going to connect on is really how to take, in simple ways, this back to the reality. How to actually change that. So on the fourth day, the day after Navigate, there are very specific things that can be done that don't require reorganization of the entire business. That don't require going in and ripping apart the whole thing. They will help transition that excitement, that adrenaline, into success.

And so I'm excited about that. There's not going to be a lot of BS in what we're talking about. The other part is that I'm super-excited about the fact that Verne Harnish will be there. I think that he, when I saw that announced...I know that it's often tempting to get an earlier flight, especially if you're on the East Coast, and want to get out of there...but don't miss that either. I think that the world of him and what he's put together, the way that he thinks about business, I think is something that's missing in the MSP realm. With the idea of growth and how to sustain that for the long term. So I won't be missing that.

Scott: Absolutely, yeah. Same here, really looking forward to it. I think across the board, there's going to be some really solid takeaways that hopefully MSPs can take back and feel like they can really incorporate some of the things that they hear about into their businesses and be more successful going forward.

Peter: Yeah, I think that's one of the things about Navigate last year that was so impressive was that it was definitely a well-hosted event. But it wasn't overly polished to the point that you couldn't find the reality in it.

Scott: Yeah, excellent.

Peter: And for anyone who's had more than a five-minute conversation with me about business or even life, for me, it's about bringing things back down to reality. I don't like hype. I don't want to create hype because that puts an artificial bar that we have to reach. And sometimes it's the reaching for that bar that causes the burnout. That causes the stress behind-the-scenes.

Peter: So that's the level of transparency that I'm excited about for just the content and the interactions...

Scott: Excellent.

Peter: ...at the conference.

Scott: Excellent. Well, thanks very much, Peter. Really appreciate you taking the time today, and looking forward to your presentation at Navigate.

Peter: Thanks, Scott.

Scott: Excellent.

Peter: Appreciate it. Have a great day.

Scott: Yeah. For sure. Thanks again, folks, for joining us. And we look forward to seeing you at Navigate. Take care.

 

Your customer satisfaction initiative should begin at the first MSP appointment!
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Tim Lewis is the Producer of Digital Content for Continuum's marketing team. Coming from Emerson College in Boston, he lives and breathes motion pictures. In his spare time he enjoys petting his dog, Duke! Woof!

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