Why ignoring sales spells disaster for an MSP

What is the one thing that separates top producers from those who continue to struggle? It’s really simple, and it is a one-word answer. Not sure? Any guesses? OK, here it is: SALES.

Let me tell you a story of two managed service providers in Buffalo, NY (I have changed the location to protect the innocent).

There were two managed services companies that started business 10 years ago in Buffalo, NY.

Buffalo is like most U.S. cities: vibrant, challenged, and recovering from a pretty tough go over the past decade. While many businesses have failed in recent years in Buffalo, many others seem to have flourished, deflecting the trials and tribulations of doing business in an area stereotyped for failure.

After all it is the home of the Bills, who haven’t seen the playoffs in 13 years and the Sabres, who have struggled as well.

One MSP is struggling, still at one to one-and-a-half techs, while the other company is at about 35 techs and close to the $5 million mark in annual sales. Why the difference? Both companies had the same market conditions. Both companies had access to the same talent pool, and both had equal levels of technical competency with they began operations in 2004.

Yet, one flourishes, and the other is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, unable to pay the smallest of monthly bills. Why?

Here are my observations:

1. The Successful MSP focuses on providing what the client wants and helping them achieve their objectives in business and personally

OK, we’ve all heard this before, but what does it really mean? The successful MSP takes the time to become embedded in the company, while the struggling MSP wants to do everything remotely and try not to go onsite. There is no client interaction from the struggling MSP because someone told them at one time that they could do everything remotely and not have to worry about sending techs or team members onsite. This thinking is totally wrong. People still want to see you face-to-face and reach out to you.

2. Lack of focus on sales

Sales is the heart of your MSP business. You need to always focus on sales. After all, the client wants you to guide them in the direction of doing what is right and sometimes this means selling them something. The struggling MSP fails to see the value in selling, and they feel it is “used-car-salesman-like” to constantly push services and solutions to the client. But really, isn’t that what they hired you for?

3. Language in the office

The successful MSP refers to those they work with as clients, and their company culture is client-focused. The struggling MSP thinks of them only as customers. Customers are transactional, while clients are relationship-focused. When a client calls, it is all about extending the benefits and value of the complete relationship.

4. Community involvement

The successful MSP is always involved in actions in the community, while the struggling MSP fails to see the importance of belonging to the Chamber of Commerce or a Rotary club. The successful MSP is actively involved and focused on creating solid relationships in the business and service community. A majority of their referral business comes automatically from community involvement. The struggling MSP goes home at the end of the day and doesn’t do anything in the local community.

5. Sitting back

The struggling MSP outsources everything and sits back praying that the phone will ring one day. The successful MSP takes matters into their own hands: they hire consultants to help when required, but they have the right people in their business working as one team. They take responsibility for the positive actions and corrective measures on areas not working as designed. They just don’t sit back and pray for results – they make results happen through their efforts.

These are just some basic ideas from two MSPs. Where are you? Are you struggling? Can you relate to your colleagues in Buffalo who have been in business for ten years and are just hanging on? Or are you more aligned with the successful MSP, doing all the things that matter most to create value and benefit for those you serve each day? The difference is up to you.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford is an MSP marketing specialist and coaching professional. He is president of Ulistic Inc., a managed services coaching, mentorship, sales and outsourced marketing services firm. For more info call u 716.799.1999 or email [email protected]

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