Customer Evolution and the ‘New Normal’

In March 2020, we all went home for two weeks. Two weeks and 14 months later, most of us are still at home.  During the past 14 months, most businesses have been able to adapt thanks in no small part to the MSP community. Rock stars, every one of them.

But What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Author: Corey Bloes, Zix
Author: Corey Bloes, channel marketing specialist, North America, Zix AppRiver

As delighted as your clients were when you worked around the clock to help them switch things up as quickly as possible, a year later their gratitude is beginning to fade.  Customers in all industries are no longer willing to tolerate “COVID-19” as an excuse, and they will soon begin voting with their dollars.  Essential companies did not have to face the devastating financial losses that other businesses did, and your customers know this.  The economy is stabilizing for the companies that held on through the pandemic. The “new normal” is now just business as usual, and the market has no appetite for complacency.  Your clients are changing the way they do business, they’re changing quickly, and you’re going to have to change right along with them.  

New Services for a New Way of Working

If you downsized your team through the pandemic to maintain your margins, your reduced capacity could now be causing customer dissatisfaction.  They were more tolerant of sub-par support and long hold times for a while, as their own businesses were also experiencing employee churn, high levels of sick leave and a lack of candidates for entry- and mid-level roles.  They had the same conversations with their clients, but the easy access to inexpensive cash from the SBA combined with the expiry of unemployment benefits has allowed many companies not only to recover, but to thrive.  Business owners are looking for ways to manage their workflow and workforce.  Soon, providing great IT support will not be enough of a differentiator to win new business or keep current business.  To compete, you have to find new ways to give clients what they want:  increased levels of profitability and productivity with less overhead, fewer man hours and no headaches.   

That may seem like an impossible tasking, but there are many MSPs who changed right along with their customers and found ways to increase revenue in the process.  MSP business owners are offering their clients applications for curbside check in, patient health monitoring, instant online reviews to fix online ratings that are less than favorable, appointment scheduling and “queue management,” contact tracing and more.  Some built their own; some went looking for partners.  They’re using these services to differentiate themselves right from the initial sales meeting.  

Now is the time to innovate.  Being an “IT guy” isn’t enough to win or keep clients. Customers go to Best Buy and Staples for IT Support, they come to MSPs for transformative change. Now you’ll need to show customers that you understand their challenges and suggest ways that technology will increase their customer satisfaction, improve their customer experience, streamline their operations, and support their new and complex HR challenges.  Appealing to the business owner who wants a strategic partner will be essential to thrive as more and more companies move to the cloud, eliminating complex network environments.  

Competing for the Cloud Land Grab

A sales land grab doesn’t come along very often in I.T.  

Land grabs are unique opportunities to sell something innovative, and to sell it first, securing a client base before your competition adopts the offering as well.  It’s hard to bump an incumbent provider, so when you win a cloud opportunity, the odds on losing it afterwards are minimal. With every company you want having “IT support” already, approaching prospects to talk about the cloud – something new to them and something that will change how they do business – will be survival strategy number one for MSPs competing for wallet-share in 2021 and beyond.

If you are a provider who’s lucky enough to still have managed network customers, beware your customers are being targeted by Cloud First MSPs. If you haven’t talked to your current client base about their options, your clients may believe they don’t have any.  Cloud sounds very attractive when presented properly and you are absolutely at risk of losing a managed network customer to a competitor with a great cloud sales pitch.  However, learning to effectively position cloud services while enabling your customers with information can reverse the tide. 

However, don’t fall into the trap of information overload. Most business owners in the managed services sweet spot still do not understand what “the cloud” is, and your company website and marketing materials describing “the cloud”, “digital transformation” and “modern workforce” should err on the side of simple rather than complex.  People rarely buy things when they are confused by them and technical jargon to the lay person is a deal killer.  The descriptions cut and pasted from your vendor documentation onto your websites were created for you and your support team to understand – they were not created for end-user business owners. And they’re not helping you win business.  

Simple is better, so while you consider how you can innovate for clients by adding new products and services, also consider how you can adapt your marketing materials and sales conversations so that your discussions talk about business problems and how the cloud solves them – without adding tech jargon.  Making things sound more complicated than they are will not help you close business.

New Normal, New Workforce

It won’t be enough to change how and what you sell.  You’re likely going to need to explore who’s selling it for you.  One need only to look at how poorly big box retailers and office equipment resellers did when they used their current workforce to sell new solutions.  If your sales team is filled with dinosaurs, well…you know what happened to the dinosaurs.  

Many companies were wooed by the idea of monthly reoccurring revenue, but were unable make the required changes to their sales teams to support the new offerings effectively.  There are new people coming into the workforce all the time, and many of them have never used a land line telephone.  They were raised in the cloud.  Young business owners may never even consider buying a server; the cloud will be the norm for them.  Your sales team will need to adapt to win business, and it’s time to start training them to do so.  

Change management is always difficult, and it will be even more difficult for sales veterans who thrived in one single environment.  You’ll need to make hard choices if your sales team can’t pivot along with your business.  The new normal requires new sales playbooks and new processes.  The faster you, your business and your team can change, the more likely it is your business will not only survive, but thrive through these monumental changes.

Author Corey Bloes is channel marketing specialist, North America, at Zix AppRiver. Read more guest blogs from Zix AppRiver here.