The Evolving MSP

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What Does a Great MSP Sell?

Value. Cutting right to the heart, managed services providers (MSPs) sell and deliver value to their clients. Otherwise they don't have clients for very long.

When you restore a user's workstation to full function, you are enabling them to resume work. They then work to deliver value to their customers, which returns value to their company. You created value.

When you're monitoring your client's network and you spot an anomaly that you then act on by reaching into the network and resolving the root cause, you prevent that problem from becoming a full-fledged outage knocking dozens or hundreds of users off the network. You've prevented a huge loss of value.

When you move your clients from the ad hoc level of the IT maturity model to the top level where IT becomes a true strategic advantage, you've created enormous value.

Own It
All too many MSPs make the mistake of emphasizing products they provide and services they perform. When you stop to think about it, that's not what the client is paying for. They're paying for the results they can achieve using those products and services. They call those results "value."

Take pride in that! When you serve your client well, you create more value for them and help them create more value for their customers. You're helping make those lives better. You're improving things for everyone you come in contact with.

Yes, you're contracting services to clients. You're selling products that enable many of those services. What your clients focus on is the value those things create.

Market It
Read your most recent marketing messages -- e-mails you've sent out, ads you've published, Web content you've posted. Who are those things about? You? Or them?

Here's a fun challenge that may also help you dramatically improve the way you go to market. Go to your own Web site. Read the beginning of every paragraph on every page, keeping a count of how many paragraphs you have and how many of them begin with "My," "Our," "We," your company name or any other reference to yourself. It's a good bet you'll find that the majority of those paragraphs begin with you.

Prospective clients who haven't met you yet really don't care about you or what you have to say about yourself. When you talk about yourself, you lose their interest!

Try this: Flip all those paragraphs that begin with you so they begin with your client. Instead of, "We make these things work for you," try, "You need these things working for you, and we make that happen."

It sounds like a simple thing, but once you've done it, read your Web site content again. It's almost undeniable that you'll like your content a whole lot better, and so will your prospective clients. The more you lead with the kind of value your clients need, the better they'll like it, and the likelier they'll engage with you.

Sell It
Especially since cloud put all the technology behind a "layer of abstraction," we really no longer talk with clients about the quality of the hardware we use or the reputation of the software developers. Instead, we talk about what the application does for them, the value they enjoy from using it.

Arm your salespeople to sell this. Gather as much information as possible about the value you've provided to clients. If you can obtain empirical ROI analyses, great! Retrain them to stop talking about how wonderful your solutions are or how talented your team is, and have them focus instead on the tremendous value your team and your solutions deliver.

Talk about value. Evaluate in terms of value. Pitch value. Live and breathe value.

Welcome to 'The Emerging MSP'
One year from now, next August, we'll celebrate the 40th anniversary of the time when the late Philip "Don" Estridge and his skunk works in Boca Raton first introduced the IBM personal computer, the IBM PC.  

That moment also marked the very beginning of the "reseller channel" because only IBM could sell IBM. IBM sold these PCs to Sears Business Centers, NYNEX and ComputerLand, which aggregated purchases from all of their affiliates, who, in turn, resold them to end customers. We didn't "sell" them -- we "resold" them. Thus was born the "reseller channel," from manufacturer to aggregator/distributor to reseller to customer.

For several years, I tracked the growth of our channel in my Redmond Channel Partner magazine column "The Changing Channel" until something changed. For more and more "channel partners," it was not so much about products anymore as it was about services. With the manufacturer and the distributor significantly de-emphasized, it just wasn't a channel anymore. It was more a professional services practice.

Here we are at the tail end of the transition from reseller to MSP. Almost all resellers have become MSPs, cloud solution providers (CSPs), or independent software vendors (ISVs), or they've gone off elsewhere to open pizza parlors because "people gotta eat." Suddenly, there is a downright glut of MSPs.

Some of you have realized the MSP space is just too cluttered and have started moving up the market. Many, many others have seen the problem but don't know how to get started moving past it. This blog is for you. We'll be exploring new paths in which MSPs can take their businesses to continue to prosper and grow -- new practices, new client sets and markets, new verticals. Any and every way an enterprising MSP can continue to rise and differentiate themselves, adding more value to their business until the day they're ready to exit and sell.

We chose not to call this blog anything having to do with the popular "transformative experience" mainly because, frankly, every time I hear that over-hyped, word I throw up in my mouth a little. Evolution is more controlled, more gradual, more genuine and ultimately far more resilient than transformation.

Come join me on this new journey. How are you growing your MSP practice?

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on August 25, 2020