Takeaways from the "Lightning talks"

Marc Thaler

ORLANDO – As the session’s name suggests, the “Lightning talks” that kicked off the final day of the MAX 2014 U.S. Customer Conference had to be brief.

But the speakers provided plenty of information during their short time on stage at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld.

Here’s what they discussed:

Keeping clients in the age of the cloud

Andrew Harrover, president of Matrix Computer Consulting, said the key to survival is the ability for businesses to adapt. He offered three tips:

Educate your employees and customers – Invest time, if not money, in understanding cloud computing. Likewise, take time to teach your clients, too.

Take clients to the cloud proactively and opportunistically – These are discussions that need to take place in business meetings; it is not a technology discussion.

“And you have to have it every quarter or every six months because your clients are hearing about cloud,” Harrover said. “You have to do the leg work and get ahead, and make sure you have control of your customers’ IT.”

Actively manage accounts – If you neglect this aspect of the job, you risk jeopardizing your status as a service provider that can help the customer make smart decisions.

Technology humility

Jason Etheridge, president and CEO of Logicspeak, defined this term as “recognizing that a lack of IT knowledge does not mean you’re in any way better than your clients.”

How can you stay humble? Etheridge’s suggestions are:

Acknowledge that your clients are good at something – Celebrate their wins and successes. Send an email when they land a big client. Mention them on social media.

Assume your client’s time is more valuable than your own – “Be on time for a meeting. Be early, in fact,” he said. “It shows the client you respect their time.”

Leave your mobile devices behind – When you take your smartphone or tablet into a meeting, it tells the customer that whatever is on your phone is more important than the face-to-face conversation.

Lightning-TalksDon’t speak negatively about a client in front of employees – “If negativity by your employees is part of the culture, it’s going to show through – often at the worst times,” he said.

Avoid using acronyms – Speak your customer’s language. Leave buzzwords and industry jargon at the office.

The Chick-fil-A MSP

Tony Hayden, president of Sabre Networks, encouraged attendees to use the model that serves fast-food chain Chick-fil-A extremely well.

Offer the highest customer service – “We can stand out in our area if we offer that good customer service,” he said. “Taking on a serving attitude can take you a long way.”

Offer the highest quality product – You can buy a chicken sandwich almost anywhere. But the quality of the sandwich at Chick-fil-A is superior. Do not lower your standards, Hayden said.

Hold firm on price – Don’t compromise or apologize when it comes to price. Always makes sure your customers receive value from the service you offer, and they will remain loyal.

Realize your product is not for everyone – There are always going to be people who don’t like chicken sandwiches. Know your market and serve the people in it.

Stick with your principles – “If you do that, you will not be sorry,” he said. “Once you compromise your principles and (customers) find out … they expect you to do it next time.”

The secret sauce

David Neel, CIO of CyberTek Engineering, said when you build a sales presentation, it’s important to convey what makes your business unique. Create your niche.

“My thing is you need (to hire for) ‘soft’ skills” he said. “They’re all the (traits) about a person that you are going to put in front of a customer.”

You need to look at a candidate’s:

  • Skill set
  • Mannerisms
  • Ability to handle stress

“Do you know what you’re putting in front of your customers – unless you get the complaint?” he asked.

Must-have tools

Speaking passionately in his second language, Director of CLS Solutions Cristiano Fermo talked about three tools that serve his Brazil-based business well:

  • A network operations center for immediate notification of problems
  • A remote monitoring and management solution
  • An easy-to-use ticketing system

“MSPs should have (those) three things to work efficiently,” he said.