As the former owner of an IT business, and someone who works with a number of IT businesses now, I am aware that one of the biggest challenges faced by IT Solution Provider and Managed Service Provider (MSP) business owners seems to be one of the most important functions they need to undertake in order to grow their business - client sales meetings.
Typically, most MSP owners are technical in nature. We are good at helping clients and fixing things and generally feel uncomfortable “selling” anything to clients.
We do appreciate that clients need what we have to sell, and therefore we sometimes find it perplexing that the client doesn’t see things in the same way that we do. Why can’t they just see that to grow their business they need that new server/backup solution/Cloud storage?
Of course, from your clients perspective it’s rather less clear cut than that. Many business owners see IT not as a value-add, not as something that enables them to do more and to grow their business, but instead they see IT as a necessarily evil. A cost. So it’s understandable that, as with all necessary costs, they try to minimise expenditure as much as possible.
In this scenario, where the client needs to be persuaded that they should incur a cost they would really rather avoid, the most sensible course of action the IT business owner can take is to put themselves in the shoes of the client. What would help your client to see the issue properly? What language does your client talk? How can you find common ground between you to explain the issue?
The answer is nearly always simple - money.
Where a client either doesn’t want to incur what they see as an unnecessary cost, or indeed, they simply don’t comprehend why they should be spending money to fix something they don’t really understand, they’ll typically default to the “let’s ignore it for now” option.
This is understandable. The scenario you are bringing to them is something they don’t understand and definitely don’t want on their already full plate. So, they ignore it.
If you’ve ever had the frustrating situation of speaking to a client and explaining clearly that they must replace their server because it’s running out of disk space, and the client has shrugged their shoulders and said “Maybe next quarter” then you need to change tact slightly. Explain to them the cost of inaction.
You should first empathise and share your understanding of their situation “I understand you don’t want to incur the cost of a new server. It’s a bill you could do without”.
Then share with them why avoiding a decision might cost them more than making a decision “But I want to be sure you understand the costs you’re likely to incur if we don’t replace the server now”.
Finally, share with them some 3rd party stories of other clients who have experienced server outages - what it cost them in time and money - and emotions. “We had another client very similar to you who experienced a server outage. They were offline for two days, during which time they lost over $11,000 worth of orders. It was a very frustrating time for their Managing Director.”
At the end of your conversation, you should have made a strong business case for why it will be cheaper for the client to buy a new server now than risk putting off the decision until later.
Putting yourself in the clients shoes and thinking about what is important to them will help you and the client speak the same language.
Clients are typically motivated by keeping costs low, avoiding stressful situations and getting on with what they do best - run their business. When you come to them asking them to spend money on a problem they don’t really understand, they’ll often try to avoid making a decision.
By explaining the issue in their language - what no action will mean to them in the future, they’re much more likely to take action now to avoid that future.
So the next time you speak to a client regarding any type of upgrade - remember to talk in the clients language and focus on what is important to them!