Our latest MSP Minds webinar was all about how to grow your MSP business, and we were so happy to be joined by Frank Greco, the CEO of Linctec, and Craig Sharp, CEO, and founder of Abussi. Together, these two IT pros have seen it all, and we could have kept chatting with them all night long!
Throughout the hour, Craig and Frank shared their experiences on how to price and package IT services, the pitfalls to avoid when growing an MSP business, and the tips and tricks they found essential during Covid-19. If you missed the live event, you can catch up on the webinar here or keep on reading for our favorite highlights.
“If I were starting again now, I’d probably distribute my eggs across many different baskets.”
We loved this advice from Frank, on making sure not to have too many clients in one vertical, in case of a downturn. Right now, COVID-19 has taken a hit on the hospitality industry, where many of Linctec’s clients are working. Frank warned our MSPs that it’s great to be an expert in one area, but you should try to spread your load and risk across different regions.
Craig jumped in to add that it’s also essential to have different sized clients too. While many MSPs might look for large companies, this can take up a lot of your resources. Having a large number of small clients might be smarter as if you rely on three large players when one drops that’s a 33% hit to your income.
Trust those Spidey-Senses!
Both MSP experts agreed that at the beginning, it could feel hard to turn down any business, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of what Craig called “being a busy fool.” It might seem like you’re generating new business, but at what cost? Of course, you’re always tempted to say yes, we all need to put food on the table, but as Frank commented, “Not every client is a good fit for you.” Think about what kind of clients you want, what service you wish to provide, and then stick to it!
This gold nugget from Craig came after one of our Aterans asked for signs that an MSP is speaking to a potentially ‘good’ client.
“If someone is talking to you about IT being a cost, and they’re resigned or reluctant about having to pay for stuff, they probably aren’t a good client. If you’re talking to someone who uses the language of investment, they’re likely to be a better client to go for.”
Learning from your failures
Both Craig and Frank agreed that you learn so much from your failures. While at the time, you want to run away from them, there is so much learning that comes with doing something wrong. I’m sure we can all empathize with Frank’s description of the hole that opens up, and you just want it to swallow you! Both of the guys shared stories about how they jumped into VoIP too early when it wasn’t a mature enough technology, for example, and Craig added that it took him some time to recognize how suitable critical tools were to support Abussi’s growth.
“It wasn’t around when we started, but Atera is brilliant. The mistake I made was not finding Atera back in the day to assist me. A tool that manages devices and tickets, and all in a single pane of glass. Fantastic.”
Balancing technical and marketing language to get a sale
Both Craig and Frank were united in being careful not to be overly technical when it comes to talking to clients. Craig went as far as saying that it could make the client feel unwelcomed. Instead, think of yourself as a translator. The client tells you about their challenges, and then you convert that into the technical practicalities of what you need to do to solve those problems. As the problem solver, there’s no need to present them with a load of technical language.
As Frank said, “Just have a chat with them!” One example he gave is of a business that means that their challenge is that employees need to work from home, and they want it to be secure. You immediately know what you need to do technically, but they don’t need to hear that. All you need to say is, “great; we can make that work for you; it will be ready in two weeks.”
Become a trusted advisor for your clients: “You have two ears and one mouth; try to do twice as much listening as you do talking!”
It was so exciting to hear both of these MSP experts talk about how relationships can be built between an MSP and their clients. They both stressed that becoming a trusted advisor is essential, and that’s not a sales-oriented process; it’s a conversation. When you get to the point where a client believes you, and they say, ‘well, if that’s what you think then great, let’s go with that,’ you’ve crossed that line.
Craig told us a remarkable story about how creating a relationship and listening to the customer helps to uncover sales opportunities without even trying. “When asking a client whether they could schedule a Zoom call to see how they were doing, the client responded by suggesting a phone call instead, as the WiFi in the boardroom wasn’t great. I immediately heard that and suggested a WiFi solution. I hadn’t reached out originally to sell WiFi, but by listening to what the client was saying, that opportunity presented itself.”
Consistency is vital when it comes to marketing.
Don’t think of marketing as a singular activity that you do once in a while. Instead, it needs to be regular and consistent. Utilize the right tools to make that happen if necessary. Craig recommended www.buffer.com for scheduling social media posts, and encouraged our MSPs to choose the time they have available and then just keep it up. This could be an hour a week spent drafting the social media updates, recording a 90-second video, writing a quick blog, but make sure to keep it consistent if you’re ready to raise that to 2 hours a week, great – as long as you can keep it up.
We loved hearing how Frank calls his long-term business clients for a friendly chat, especially during COVID-19. “Since COVID, I’ve reached out to business owners who I have a good relationship with. I like to call them ‘social welfare calls.’ I pick up the phone, say, “how has lockdown been?” “How’s the kids schooling going?” “What’s been happening, and can we help?” Intermingle the business with social. Of course, consistency is key here. If you start doing this, then the client will notice when you stop.”
Would you like fries with that?
Our Aterans are always interested in how to price their IT services, and we got a whole lot of transparency and insight from both Frank and Craig, including a run-down of a sample price list from Frank that you can check out on the webinar!
Frank and Craig also agreed on splitting pricing into two groups. Essential services, such as Atera, or cloud or server prices, and then optional extras like security packages. Frank made us laugh when he dubbed it “would you like fries with that” kind of selling. We can’t deny it works – we always want fries with that!
Craig answered a great question about how to build credibility as an MSP, with a fantastic analogy. As an MSP, many businesses fall into the trap of being seen as the plumber. The guy that connects the cables plugs things in, fixes the blockages. To build successful relationships, you need to begin conversations about the higher-level business strategy. Examples could be moving to SharePoint for data storage, or connecting VoIP services for remote working. This kind of consultative business-based conversation moves you away from being merely the repair guy. It also helps clients to see your value and to understand what they’re paying for.
Have a framework, and stick to it
Your other option is to create a framework for an unlimited pricing model. A lot of MSPs are nervous about this dynamic, so both Craig and Frank shared what their frameworks are so that this model doesn’t get out of control. For Craig, for example, no machines can be older than three and a half years to remain in scope, and everything needs to be under warranty. For Frank, everything needs to be up to date with the current operating systems, and be covered by a working Antivirus. You, as the MSP, have the final say over the framework you create around your unlimited offering, keeping you in control.
Of course, not all clients will want to keep to that framework, and to that point – we have to end on Craig’s excellent advice and empowering end note for all of our Aterans.
“’ No’ is not a bad word. Remember that you have value, knowledge, and skill as a service provider that other people don’t have. Hold onto that. It’s your business, and you don’t have to say yes to every customer. Of course, there’s anxiety when you start, and you need money, but you decide on the framework and how it’s going to work, and then look for clients where you like working with them, and where they want working with you.”
Don’t forget to check out the full webinar, as we’ve only scratched the surface of all the great advice and insight that Craig and Frank had to offer. And watch this space for the next MSP Minds webinar, coming up soon!