IT Nation is one of the most anticipated events of the year for IT services providers of all sizes for its influence and educational sessions on marketing, sales, and billing from some of the industry’s biggest thought leaders. However, after working with thousands of MSPs — from really small to some of the largest in the country — I’ve learned that there are three crucial things to keep in mind while attending sessions:

  1. Focus on what the client needs, not on what they ask.
    Solution providers know that what clients ask for may not really reflect what is best for them. The truly great MSPs become trusted advisors because they can see beyond a client request to suggest a solution for their client’s core problem – which is the actual pain they feel. A typical example we hear often is companies needing a backup solution. Short-term thinking could incite you to suggest a couple of local backup offerings that will answer their request but not necessarily their business need. On the other hand, asking the client about their key business applications, their required recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives, along with a more consultative approach, might show that the best solution is a hybrid-cloud approach. A great example comes from the client executive at one of our partners, ITsavvy, who said, “I’ve used the conversation of backup and of the network infrastructure at the client site to drive the sale of ancillary products like network management. The more we are able to talk about the client’s business and how critical their IT infrastructure is, the better we show how we add value.”
  2. Don’t just follow market trends, incorporate them into your planning.
    Cloud computing has become a de-facto force in any technology conversation with more than 69% of small businesses and 15% of medium-sized businesses already using cloud-based applications today. It’s no surprise that research suggests that up to 45% of sales engagements will likely request a cloud-based solution in the next two years. As organizations continue to move away from traditional methods comprising of tape or disk-to-disk methodology, Gartner estimates that by 2016 nearly 20% of organizations will abandon traditional backup and recovery. This change will result in the backup and DR market shifting to include cloud as part of its overall solution. What does that mean for your business? As you look at market trends you should understand how your business can adopt new technologies to better serve your clients. Providing guidance to your clients as to what new technologies are available and how they can help their businesses is the first step toward becoming a trusted advisor.
  3. Optimize for profitability.
    There are only so many ways to run a profitable services business and when human capital is the biggest item in your expense report you have to either improve employee utilization or reduce costs. MSPs that are able to squeeze more profits at the end of the month typically have a ruthless focus on process efficiency that, in most cases, can be driven with automation. This means looking for ways to reduce manual steps, minimize administrative overhead, and evaluating your product offerings with ease of use and maintenance in mind. As an example, we recently heard from a large service provider that switched to Axcient for backup and disaster recovery and was able to save the equivalent of four full time employees. How was this done? Their previous solution required the technical staff to log on to each client site, review backup logs on a daily basis, and had many manual steps. With Axcient’s centralized Web portal all client information is available on a single dashboard and maintenance efforts were significantly reduced. Now, one person can do the job of four and those four employees are now allocated to billable projects that increased their utilization rate.

So, as you immerse yourself in serious education at IT Nation and network with your peers, keep in mind that there is more to running a profitable service than selecting low-cost solutions; it is all about focusing on client needs, being on top of market trends, and optimizing for profitability. For more on Axcient or industry trends, be sure to stop by the Axcient booth (#219) at IT Nation.

Justin Moore