If I say the name CompTIA, the first things that likely come to your mind are IT training and certification courses. Both are a big part of what the organization is about, but it also operates a thriving global community of peer groups for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) spanning North America, the UK, Benelux, and Australia.
I recently headed to a community meeting with over 200 MSPs in Bristol, UK, where I moderated a panel discussion of three well-established MSPs talking about the challenges they face around cybersecurity, recruitment, and growth. The panel provided so much value in their responses that I felt the need to share their wisdom with the Linode partner community, so here’s my roundup of the highlights both in video and written form.
First up was the topic of cybersecurity. Here are the top tips from the panel.
- Be specific. When selling cybersecurity, avoid talking about products and features – that’s our world not that of your customers. Instead, look closely at their businesses and be specific about the ways they’re exposed so you can advise based on their needs.
- Keep it simple. Think about getting away from lots of product options and variations. Consider a single option that you’re fully behind. It’s your recommendation for how to do things properly. You have the expertise, be confident in that recommendation.
- Walk away if you need to. If there’s pushback in the sales process, consider walking away. Cybersecurity is the number one challenge for MSPs today and your role means you have the keys to many kingdoms in the form of your customers. The risks are too great for somebody who isn’t going to trust your advice.
- Get away from being viewed as a “supplier.” Every customer you work with needs to look at you ultimately as a partner, not a supplier. If it’s still the latter, do everything you can to move towards being viewed as a true partner of the business to minimize pushback over details such as pricing and new solution recommendations.
- Avoid shiny object syndrome. Avoid jumping to the next product and the one after that. Keep a streamlined stack and favor implementing stringent technical processes instead of piling solutions high so you can focus on developing a deeper knowledge of the ones you do offer.
- Lean on the vendors. A common cause of MSPs to start looking for the next silver bullet in security tools is improper deployment of the incumbent. Make sure your team is completely up to speed with your solutions and use the vendors to make sure you’re implementing things properly – they have more resources than you and are tripping over themselves to help in most cases.
- Communities rock. Want to find out warts and all about a vendor? Communities are the perfect place to hear those vendor pitches, but also to then go on and find people who are making solutions work (or not as the case may be). CompTIA Community Meetings, Tech Tribe, ASCII, and even Reddit and Facebook are all places to hear real-world impartial feedback from peers.
The next topic on the agenda was recruitment, one of the major challenges for MSPs over recent years.
- Recruit for people. You can teach the tech, what you need is the right people with the right attitudes and soft skills. Don’t make the mistake of trying to pinch the ready-made third line tech from a competitor. They will a) probably move on and b) need reshaping!
- Think long-term. Don’t start thinking about recruitment when you need somebody. Try and take a longer-term view of your strategy for attracting talent. Think of it as a sales and marketing exercise, talk to university graduates, family friends via social media, and even get out there into schools. Again focus on people, not experience.
- Fix your retention issue. If you’ve got a recruitment issue you may as well have a retention issue. Be conscious about fostering an environment where there is skill progression. It’s not easy for smaller MSPs but wherever possible provide the time and support for your team to learn new skills, train, do their research for self-improvement and enjoy downtime occasionally.
Finishing up the panel was the topic of growth.
- Become uncopyable. Stop and think about what you do for your clients. Think about not only your services but your approach. Package that up with processes, and build a marketing and sales narrative around it. Andrew at Aabyss went as far as trademarking it to be the only people in the world offering that exact service. That’s how you fend off the competition by becoming uncopyable.
- Charge your worth. When you’re offering a unique service, don’t be afraid to charge a premium. Easy to say of course, but it should be your goal because with more money coming in, that’s more to spend on training and developing your staff – ultimately providing a better service for customers and they’ll love you for that.
- Sell your culture. That old adage people buy from people continues to hold true. Concentrating on getting across the warmth of the relationship you have with your customers is a far better sales tool than technical specs your customers won’t understand.
- Listen to your clients. Give your clients what they want, and don’t follow other IT providers blindly – they might say all the right things but not really have the answers. One thing is for sure, your clients definitely do!
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