Successful MSP relationships: How to Find and Nurture Them to Make Them Last - Tubblog: The Hub for MSPs

Successful MSP relationships: How to Find and Nurture Them to Make Them Last

Successful MSP relationships: How to Find and Nurture Them to Make Them Last image

In this guest article, Jaime Hindle, an independent client success consultant, explores ways to develop and nurture MSP relationships successfully.

I’m a big advocate for spending time in your client relationships. It’s important to really get to know each customer, so you can deliver the best possible service for them. And this not only ensures they’ll stay with you long-term, but also that they’ll refer and recommend you.

Searching, scrolling, swiping, messaging… Hours spent trying to make a connection with the right person…

No this isn’t Tinder (nor any of the other dating apps out there) but it could be. Just ask any of the hard-working MSP business development folk putting the hours in, trying to strike gold.

It can be pretty tough out there

Those of us that have been in this place (MSP business development that is) will recognise the lengths it takes to get to a place where you can have a meaningful exchange with a prospect.

And that doesn’t account for the significant number of leads you’ve targeted who’ve ignored your advances and polite persistence. How many frogs will you have to kiss before finding your prince(ess)?

Getting a prospect to first base is a small business development win, but it isn’t going to pay any bills. Not with a potentially lengthy sales cycle (involving a multitude of stakeholders and influencers) still to negotiate, and maybe even some kind of tender process.

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B2B Sales Can Make Building MSP Relationships Harder

And of course there’s plenty of external recognition that B2B MSP sales can be pretty brutal, requiring often huge amounts of effort. Bain & Co, for example, has suggested it costs x5 more to attract and acquire new business than retain it –  a stat has been around for some time.

And of course, different market segments do vary significantly, but you get the picture. Securing new MSP business is not easy, and post-pandemic it’s even tougher.

Treat people right

Let’s make an assumption – that you’ve navigated all that hard work and found a client who has agreed to do business with you. That’s success, right?

But just because they’ve agreed to pay for your services, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good long-term fit. For long-term success you’ll need to properly qualify them (before swiping right… or left).

For too long (and across all kinds of businesses, not just MSPs) there’s been the mindset that ‘any sale is a good sale’ and you can ‘just hit your numbers with delivery worrying about the rest’. But this is a fundamentally flawed and divisive approach.

How can you make it easier to build and nurture client relationships? Jaime Hindle shares his advice in this guest post. Click to Tweet

Firstly, the client will quickly see through the thin veil of being ‘sold to’ when they’re not getting the expected value or promised outcomes from your platform or service.

You’ve got nothing but a short-term win here, expecting that they won’t renew, and may even cancel early if contracts allow.

Secondly, if the team keeps selling promises that can’t be achieved (like a white glove service with a ridiculously short SLA, for VIP users), you’ll have a problem.

Your engineers, or more likely your SDMs will have to then pick up the pieces, conveying to clients that what was expected cannot be provided. Now you’ve got both a damaged client relationship and a damaged internal relationship too.

I’m not here to down-talk sales people – I’ve been one. But these scenarios are real, and the ill-feeling they can cause is seriously detrimental to relationship success. So what’s the solution?

Successful MSP relationships

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How to Improve MSP Relationships

Firstly, let’s recognise that the client is not your enemy, and neither are your numbers. For success, the aim can never be to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes (though if you’re the sales person and it feels like that, maybe it’s time to move on). There’s no longevity in this and certainly no integrity.

In fact the opposite is true. Successful B2B relationships – and successful MSP sales – looks like clarity, transparency and honesty. Like securing lengthy contract renewals from happy clients who recognise the value you provide. 

Make it last

Assuming you’ve worked hard to get the right new client over the line, you’ll want to make the relationship work. Think of them as a ‘keeper’ to be investing time and attention in. Grow your relationship, reach and value – and your numbers flourish too. Everybody wins. 

Relationships matter, at least the ones that you value, right? Those that you have with your team of co-workers, with your suppliers, with your partners, and your clients too. A good start to making it last is recognising the interdependence of all these relationships.

Want successful business relationships for your #MSP? Then you need to work to make them last, says Jaime Hindle. Click to Tweet

Because, for the most far-reaching success, you need each other working in harmony. And yes, there will be ups and downs, like any relationship, but when you’re really leveraging the principles of client success, the harmony transcends this.

It’s a term that has been around for a few years now – client (or customer) success. But there still appears to be a misunderstanding of what it means in reality.

This transcendence of the harmony in relationships, through the inevitable challenges, difficulties and disagreements, is representative of this.

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MSP Relationships Thrive on Client Success

Most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms will have a team of customer success managers who will look after new client onboarding, product training, maybe some benefit realisation and ideally renewals too.

Client success is not just for SaaS platforms, and it’s also not about a certain department or role – rather it’s an ethos that must permeate across the business – with everyone responsible for delighting clients and providing positive client experiences (CX).

This means account managers, salespeople engineers, accounts payable and so on. For many MSPs, and service providers full stop, this is quite a shift in outlook and behaviour. But the bottom line is that if your clients succeed, then your business succeeds too.

The client success ethos needs to be supported and lived by leadership as well as the people on the ground. So everyone feels empowered to put clients at the heart of their day-to-day.

And then the flipside of that same coin is these internal teams engendering an environment and understanding where the client is able to see your MSP in an empowered way too. As a trusted partner. And an equal.

But this is a different ball game now – where the number crunching ‘sign it and hit it over the wall’ approach just can’t play. You have no choice but to be more selective about the organisations you work with as any business is not necessarily good business.

But though there needs to be the ’right fit,’ being client-centric and placing the client at the centre of your business doesn’t mean always needing to concede to all demands. It might be controversial, but the client isn’t always right!

Strategic client success

Clients get things wrong; they might not do what they should; they may even be unreasonable from time to time.

They’re human after all and like any other relationship there are at least two parties involved. And each has responsibilities and expectations (and personal lives).

You need to decide if you want to just be another supplier or vendor or if you want to be a valued strategic partner. And if the latter, you have the right to (and should) hold each other to account.

The strong bonds of long-term MSP relationships (even in B2B) are very similar to personal relationships, even marriages.

You establish rapport and credibility (aka attraction), you demonstrate your product or service is valuable and meets their needs (is this person a keeper?) And, having established rapport and delivered initial value you then do the work of building trust.

Because every successful long-term relationship must be built on trust (and mutual respect). And every relationship takes work and effort to keep alive (and vibrant). It’s empathy, honesty, compassion and proactivity. In your personal life, and in your business life too.

Successful MSP relationships

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Flow State is How to Improve Client Relationships

Let’s close with this. Client success exists as a flow state. When the client, sales/account team and service delivery team (engineers, SDMs, sys admins) coalesce with mutual respect and appreciation of the expertise and value each provides.

B2B business is still all about people and relationships – even with the ongoing technology, automation, self-serve and AI developments. People still need people and taking a client success approach to this engagement.

And doing it in a consistently effective and authentic way, supported by the good use of tech is what good service and positive CX fundamentally is.

What about you? If you have any top tips for building MSP relationships, we’d love to hear them in the comments!

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Jaime Hindle has over 25 years’ commercial experience. He’s seen and done quite a bit, with the battle Jaime-Hindle-MSP-Relationshipsscars to prove it!

Having spent decades working client-side, in creative agencies, software and IT consultancies as well as the MSP space, Jaime knows what it takes to deliver highly successful and mutually beneficial relationships with customers.

You can find out more about how Jaime supports his client over on his website, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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