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The Right Questions

Knowing what your client needs as an MSP is important, but getting inside a potential customer or client's head on their technology infrastructure and what the projects they'd be willing to undertake or products or services they'd be willing to buy can be tricky.

You don't want to presume anything or patronize them, so it helps as an MSP to see the advice given to small and medium-sized businesses about MSPs. That way you can know what the client might be thinking.

Here are five questions that MSPs should be asking themselves before they sit down in front of a client; alas, a tech-savvy SMB procurement point person may very well as the same questions:

Do I have my own data center or does I rent space somewhere else? MSPs must offer customers assurance on storage and operations, so if the MSP is using a third-party hoster or renting a data center space they better know that their third-party is up to snuff.

What is my niche? Everybody would love to be a CEO, but the reality is there need to be COOs and CFOs as well. As an MSP you can't be everything to everybody. Some are .Net or Java or Windows or Linux specialists. Some are business continuity, security or backup and disaster recovery specialists. Some are full-service, outsourced IT functions for clients with less than 20 workstations. The point is: Know your niche and know your ledge.

What are the bandwidth considerations? A network administration MSP or Web hosting provider needs to have an idea as to the type of bandwidth needed to maintain client systems or provide Web-based services. It's 2010, so there's no excuse for not being able to account for the right bandwidth to sell through or to foster a hosting situation for clients. In the '90s, people expected pages that loaded like molasses on a winter's day. Now in the world of teleconferencing and breakneck-speed data migration, not having the proper bandwidth is unacceptable.

When I refer potential clients to existing ones as sort of a reference, what will they say? If you're pitching one client and want to do case studies or testimonials, make sure the reference client is either close to or actually in the same vertical as the other client. There's nothing worse than asking a beauty shop owner to talk you up to someone who runs a bar and grill burger stand in which they also sell iPods.

Am I capable of providing service and support to multiple locations and users? It's so important as an MSP to be honest with yourself about this question and act and pitch accordingly. While the main upside to being an MSP is providing enterprise-level services to small businesses, don't sell yourself short by jumping the gun and the discovering you can only host or administer for one location. As they say in comment section parlance, it's what you'd call an "autofail."

Posted by Jabulani Leffall on September 06, 2010