Therapist, Social Worker Or Consultant?

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A significant roadblock to finding success as a managed service provider is hiring and keeping the right sales talent.

For any professional to succeed selling MSP services, he or she must understand and believe in the tangible and intangible benefits. Their imperative is to discover their clients&' real business goals, values and concerns and then develop plans to improve the profitability and the lives of the people involved. I can hear the loud groans, but it&'s the single biggest argument for managed services. From the IT staffer and the administrative assistant to executives and owners, technology can be empowering or a disabling source of stress and lost profits.

>> KEVIN MCDONALD is vice president of Alvaka Networks, Huntington Beach, Calif., which has transitioned into the MSP world from its network VAR roots. He can be reached at

It doesn&'t take a sociology degree to sell MSP services, but it does take a high emotional quotient. With customers who sign long-term, high-value agreements, the single biggest factor seems to be a personal, caring, professional relationship built on a common understanding and concern for the customer&'s business success. Ever heard the saying, “No one cares what you know until they know that you care”? When selling managed services, this could not be truer.

If you are not able to engender trust and maintain an honest dialogue with the client, you will inevitably fail in your promise. In asking Alvaka&'s most successful customers what caused them to buy, they almost universally respond, “You were believable and showed genuine concern for our success.” This says a lot about who you want selling for you. You must find professionals with the background and character to be partners with your customers. They must be able to get down into their client&'s business. Think about who the best representatives at your company are today. In many cases, it is the owner, partner or senior manager. They believe in their promise and have the ability to identify and empathize with the client&'s need to produce profits and stay competitive.

There&'s no better MSP deal killer than what I refer to as “geek speak.” Executives are not impressed by acronyms. They don&'t care how fast it goes, how long it took to develop or how many Ph.D.&'s it took to create—they want real results.

You need people who can effectively communicate and interact with prospects at the executive level. That&'s because managed services are sold to individuals primarily concerned with their business&'s goals. That person is not, in most cases, the IT person. Your salespeople need to be comfortable with the fact that while IT staffers ultimately will become their champions, their true allegiance needs to be to the decision makers running that company.

If your salesperson can have an hourlong sales call without referring to the underlying technology, you may have a winner. If a candidate for a sales position can get honest answers from the client about their core business, future plans, personal goals and the pain they are experiencing, hire them on the spot.

Finally, you need people who are looking for long-term payoffs and annuity, not big, fat commission checks. The MSP sales cycle, as to be expected, is longer and ongoing. If the client buys on trust, and your salespeople are already looking to the next big deal, the relationship will be short-lived. But if your salespeople are doing things right, their real job—and your company&'s—starts the day the contract is signed.

EDITOR&'S NOTE: This is the latest in an occasional series about the MSP business model. CRN welcomes letters on news issues as well as guest commentaries from solution providers. Please limit comments to 550 words. Submissions may be abridged for grammar or space considerations. Send suggestions to CRN Editor Heather Clancy at

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