10 traits of a perpetually valuable MSP

Marc Thaler

LONDON – What makes a best-in-class managed service provider (MSP)? Do you consider yourself one?

GFI MAX Director of Partner Community Dave Sobel discussed this topic in his opening and closing keynote addresses earlier this week at the MAX 2014 EU Customer Conference. Sobel spoke about five “best agility best practices” during Monday’s opening keynote at the Hilton Heathrow Terminal 5 hotel. He closed the conference Tuesday with five additional items to consider.

Dave-Sobel-Perpetually-Valuable-MSPHere, in one handy post, are Sobel’s 10 tips:

Rely on rolling plans and forecasts

The best-in-class MSP plans and predicts on a quarterly basis rather than annually. This approach fosters flexibility and, therefore, enables you to make ongoing adjustments.

Hold non-technical customer meetings

Engaging in discussions with the leaders in your customer base whose roles are outside the technical realm is critical. Their jobs also have challenges that you can help address.

“Focus on the customer’s business goals and find creative solutions,” Sobel said.

Conduct one test at a time

Too often, MSPs experiment with several variables simultaneously, Sobel said. That’s problematic. How can you gauge your ability to take corrective action if you’ve altered too many variables at once?

Track key revenue metrics

Simply put, you need to understand how much of your company’s revenue is generated by new offerings. You’ll need that statistical information to determine the annual growth percentage.

Test new offerings with rapid deployment

Pushing a new product or service feature to market is infinitely more important than waiting until every aspect of the offering is “perfect.” The goals – in this order – should be:

  • Get it to market
  • Try it out
  • Make improvements through testing

The pursuit of perfection is noble. But, as Sobel said, it leads to “analysis paralysis.”

Argue in the alternative

In your internal discussions with product, marketing and sales staff, encourage them to use an age-old lawyer’s strategy: Play devil’s advocate.

If you have a good understanding of the objections likely to be voiced by customers, you won’t be caught off-guard when you hear them. Better yet, you can respond quickly with suitable answers that alleviate those concerns.

Establish non-revenue compensation metrics

If you aren’t a sales person, take a moment to think like one. Say your company sells Products A, B and C. But you only receive a commission on Products A and B. Which products are you going to focus on selling?

“Sales people are the easiest people to manage when you build a correct compensation plan,” Sobel said. “If they’re not compensated on new offerings, they will not sell them.”

Assign your 'SWAT team'

If you are testing new products or experimenting with new services, treat the process with importance. Allocate the necessary resources – and assign the project as a priority.

Otherwise, nobody will view it as one.

Define a specific launch methodology

Make sure you create a specific timeline of responsibilities leading up to launch – and follow it. The more you work in this fashion, the better you become at it.

It’s like muscle memory, Sobel said.

Define a specific decommission methodology

In the same vein as the previous pointer, it’s equally important to have a procedure in place when a product or service is scheduled to be retired. The plan can’t just be for staff, either. Customers need to be reminded, too.

“If you look at one, two, three good ideas and you commit to executing them … you will make a difference in your long-term growth plans,” Sobel said.