In my former life as an MSP owner, I recall having a conversation with a prospective new client regarding a new small business IT infrastructure project. This particular prospect wanted a Server, Workstations, a Printer, oh, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. I remember being taken aback at the time that such a relatively small client wanted Dynamics NAV, a solution typically (but not exclusively) reserved for larger client sites.
I discussed the reasons behind the client wanting a solution that included NAV and uncovered what I felt was, in my opinion, a scenario that was better suited for a smaller CRM product. I shared this thought with the client, but they were adamant – Microsoft Dynamics NAV it was to be.
So I duly costed the project, including our collaboration with another Microsoft Partner to supply and configure Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
The clients reaction
Shortly afterwards the client came back to tell me they’d like to proceed to work with us on the project, but that they couldn’t accommodate the budget of a Microsoft Dynamics NAV installation. Did we have any other suggestions to help them with their needs? Indeed we did – a smaller CRM product should suffice, and the client agreed – we ended up installing just that solution.
Once we’d won the work, I asked the client why they’d chosen us over the two other (larger) IT companies who we were competing against. “The other two companies wouldn’t quote for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. You listened to what we wanted”. This was an interesting answer, given that we didn’t end up installing NAV anyway – but I surmised that the client felt comfortable working with us, as opposed to the other IT companies who he may have felt were dictating to him what he “really” wanted. Those other IT companies gave their impression they knew better than the client. I understand why, but it wasn’t what the client wanted.
Focus on the clients concerns
It’s a lesson I’ve held on to and applies to all businesses, not just MSP’s. In my new career as an independent Consultant working with IT companies, I’ve already been tempted to try and “fix” all the challenges I perceive a clients business is experiencing – but instead I focus on the problem the client has brought to me. Once that problem is resolved, and trust is built, perhaps we can talk about other things too.
I’m not talking about taking what clients say their problems are entirely at face value and then rushing off to quote accordingly. You must ask pertinent questions to uncover what their true pain is, not just what they suggest it is, and offer solutions accordingly.
People like to feel in control
But be aware than we all like to feel in control. If a client approaches you with one problem, and you start talking about another and another and another – they’ll get defensive or they will feel uncomfortable and so try to move away from that discomfort (you). Instead, you need to help the client to understand their pain points in a gentle consultative manner, and importantly know when to ease off. Trust me when I say that a client meeting that turns into you interrogating them will at best result in a client getting uncomfortable, and at worse see the client getting angry or upset, and your potential client bursting into tears is a sure sign you haven’t won that business…
With the experience of hindsight at my side, if I was to start an MSP tomorrow, I’d probably use an advertising phrase such as “We provide the fastest service in <location>” because ask most clients what they look for in an MSP nowadays and it’s speed of response to their support enquiries. So while you might think that a customer portal, or automated ticket responses, or a swanky patching solution is the greatest thing ever – they’ll still look for speed of response as their primary criteria.
Going forwards, the more trust you’ve built with a client, the more “suggestions” you can probably make – but it’s my experience that the less you talk, and the more you listen to what a client is saying and act upon that, the happier they’ll be.