Monday, 6th April 2020

Whose Customer?

Cloud services now underpin every aspect of IT investment. From office applications to core business systems and, increasingly, artificial intelligence, a robust cloud service offering is a fundamental component of any MSP business model. But how much trust do you have in your Cloud Services Provider (CSP)? In today’s challenging marketplace, clients are hard to find, even harder to win – so it can be more than frustrating to discover the CSP is also selling direct and poaching the client base. As Jacey Moore, CMO, Giacom, explains, there are tough questions to ask to get the right CSP/MSP relationship.

To Trust or Not to Trust

The need for trusted relationships in business is clearly established – and for any MSP/CSP relationship that should mean a ring-fenced customer base. Yet when the majority of CSPs are selling both to MSPs and direct to end clients, conflict and competition are inevitable.

How can an MSP secure the right solution for a prospect if it doesn’t dare discuss the options with its CSP for fear the company will go behind its back to shut down the deal? Why should an MSP fear that as soon as a customer hits a certain size, the CSP will be going direct and claiming to offer better resources and services than the MSP? This is no way to build or sustain strong business relationships.

The MSP/CSP relationship should be collaborative, with the CSP supporting its MSPs in every step of the process, from building the market to closing the deal, not looking for an opportunity to steal with a direct sell.

Building the Market

Many MSPs openly admit marketing can be a struggle – and for good reason: vendor marketing material is typically designed for enterprise clients and rarely reflects the needs of the SME business. For the highly skilled technical experts that run most MSPs, finding a way to present the right message to SME CEOs and CIOs can be a challenge. These business individuals are rarely interested in the technical details; they want to know what an MSP can deliver, the benefits, the costs – and how quickly.

This is where a strong CSP/MSP relationship can be invaluable – but only if the CSP is dedicated to building the market with its MSPs. From repurposing vendor marketing materials to reflect the needs of the SME business to creating videos, building microsites, writing blog posts, even designing marketing emails – a CSP that will own-brand materials for its MSPs and effectively provide a ‘campaign in a box’, will help to secure new business.

Closing the Deal

Marketing will raise awareness – the right sales experience is key to closing the deal. An MSP unwilling to openly and honestly discuss the challenges faced in closing a new customer is missing hugely valuable insight and support. A CSP’s Account Manager should be actively working with MSPs to provide essential information. For example, how can you counter specific objections raised by a prospective customer? Are there product features that can solve the client’s problems, but you’re unclear how they compare to a different vendor’s solution? What is the best way to demonstrate a solution’s value in comparison to the current product?

There are so many ways a CSP could and should help. Battle cards that outline product differences will give the MSP essential confidence when talking to the prospect. A discussion about possible add-on solutions, from rapid backup to security, CRM or collaboration tools, will open up new revenue options as well as help the MSP offer added value to the prospect. If the CSP doesn’t have immediate access to the information, will the Account Manager request specific information direct from a vendor?

Conclusion

The quality of the CSP relationship is the foundation of success for any MSP - from the technical expertise to the commitment to building a market and closing a sale. To find the right CSP, there are several questions to ask: Does the CSP provide easy access to marketing materials? Will the Account Manager spend time to discuss how best to build a business case for a new prospect? And, even if the answer to these is yes, is the CSP also selling direct?

And this is key. Is this a trusted relationship? If an MSP cannot trust the CSP not to poach, is it worth risking this increasingly core component of the revenue stream on a relationship that appears to only work one way?

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