Navigating the New Normal: Five Actionable Insights for MSPs

Author: Amy Luby, chief channel evangelist, Acronis

Apple Founder Steve Jobs was known to frequently quote the phrase “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” While the origin of that line is in dispute (Jobs credited Picasso, others point to Igor Stravinsky or W. H. Davenport Adams), the idea of taking the best ideas and making them your own is solid. When it comes to running your MSP business, that approach should be considered 100% gospel.

Thought leaders and channel experts often share tips that, if used by an MSP, will strengthen the business – and there were several actionable insights shared at the recent Acronis Global Cyber Summit that fall into that category.

As we head into 2021, here are five of the top tips that channel pros can immediately make their own.

1. Karl Palachuk recommends only working with customers who fit your model

The cyberthreat landscape has changed dramatically during the past five years, but has the way you design and sell services evolved so you can keep up?

As 2021 approaches, channel expert Karl Palachuk recommends MSPs rethink and refresh their approach towards positioning and marketing security offerings. Part of that exercise should be to identify who your ideal client is in terms of revenue, headcount, industry, or whatever other metrics are relevant to you. After clearly defining your target, if you have a client that doesn’t fit your business model, get rid of them.

Too often, service providers end up trying to sell a high-end product to customers who can’t really afford it. “You don’t have to work with people who don’t fit your model,” says Karl. When he was building his MSP business, on two separate occasions Karl fired his largest client.

While it seems counterintuitive to drop a client to build your business, he says if someone doesn’t fit your model, letting them go frees up resources for more productive, more profitable clients. That can make an immediate difference for your business’s revenue and operations.

2. Amy Babinchak says forget the sales pitch when meeting prospects

When you walk into a meeting with a new client, what do you talk about? For most MSPs, the answer is “what we can do for you” — services, benefits, and pricing structures. While that’s the common approach, Amy Babinchak of Harbor Computer Services says there is a better way.

When it comes to meeting new clients, Amy recommends tossing the sales pitch out the window. Instead, she suggests talking to the prospect about their business — learning the details of their various departments, the issues they face, and the pain points they’re experiencing. Getting an informal tour the office to chat with individuals in different roles is time better spent than telling them about your pricing structure.

“By the [end of the office tour], I’m now like part of the team … because I understand something about their business that no other MSP that’s walked in that door does,” Amy says. It’s a subtler but more effective way of making customers feel warmly towards you while also displaying the unique value you can bring to their organization — no salesy language required.

“Seven out of 10 times,” Amy said, “we’ll walk out that day with a contract signed.”

3. Jeff Ready urges MSPs to share real stories to show the real-world impact

When talking to clients or prospects about the risks they might face, it is understandable that an MSP may talk about all of the different threats from a very high level. Unfortunately, psychology has shown that most people will fall victim to optimism bias – meaning the natural reaction for most people is to think “that will never happen to me.”

Optimism bias is the same reason three-quarters of people surveyed think they are above average drivers. Clearly 75% of people cannot be above average.

How can you overcome that reaction?

Scale Computing’s CEO Jeff Ready strongly recommends using real-world examples of business resiliency. As an MSP, you likely have had a client face the kind of situation you’re trying to get a prospect to avoid. Use those personal stories to illustrate the real risks that happen.

Jeff stressed that “if you’re an MSP, you have to talk in terms of concrete examples and anecdotes because it’s much easier for [clients and prospects] to see how these things can happen to them.”

4. Jay McBain advises MSPs to understand where clients are investing now

Being informed about changes in client interests and spending habits helps an MSP ensure she is bringing the right services to the table. The IT channel has evolved during the past few decades and now the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trends toward automation, multi- and hybrid-cloud acceleration, and support for a work-from-anywhere model.

Is it any wonder that spending habits have changed in this time of uncertainty?

Forrester Research’s Jay McBain notes that clients are being careful about spending. When they do open their wallets, they are buying differently. He notes there’s an emphasis on investing in automation of workflows, processes, and business logic, and in cloud initiatives. Addressing the work-from-anywhere model will, of course, continue to be essential in the new business landscape, so MSPs can expect continued demand for remote work security, compliance, and redundancy protection.

5. Alex Fine notes the edge creates opportunities for MSPs

As organizations need to make decisions in real time from anywhere, the edge – powered by the emergence of 5G – is making that possible. There are now more than 30 billion devices collecting data worldwide and with the projected edge footprint of $700 billion by 2028, the opportunity here is huge.

Virtuozzo’s CEO Alex Fine believes that is particularly true for regional service providers. “They know the end customers. They know who will be using that data. They understand the people, the culture, and the language so businesses know they can get the support they need.”

“Local support, locally-provided infrastructure, and data sovereignty is everything,” he said, and no one is better positioned to deliver on those than regional MSPs.

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As an IT service provider, your clients expect you to deliver the strategies and solutions that will keep their organization productive and protected. That’s the job you sign up for as an MSP. But let’s be honest: no one can know everything.

Gathering actionable insights from experts is the best way to keep yourself ahead of the competition and your clients’ needs. Sometimes those tips are small suggestions on how to better close a deal. Other times those insights are bigger picture visions of what’s happening in the market.

The key is recognizing the lessons you can use – and then make them your own.


Author Amy Luby is chief channel evangelist at Acronis. Read more guest blogs from Acronis here.

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