If you are doing a great job for your customers and they are good at what they do, eventually they will grow. They may even grow large enough to need internal IT staff; however, this doesn’t have to mean you will lose your customer.
Here’s why—you can position yourself so they continue to seek your advice and management of their IT infrastructure and new IT staff.
The first step is to make sure that you are seen as more than just their IT guy. We talk a lot about MSPs being a trusted advisor, but when we are talking about medium-sized businesses, you need to be a de facto member of the management team. And you need to make sure your customer sees you that way.
An indication you have reached that level is when you are included in strategic meetings with the rest of the management team. This is the natural evolution of doing regular business reviews with your customers—if you’re not doing this already, get to setting up those meetings quickly. The larger the customer, the more regular the meetings need to be. Once you have regular meetings, it creates a bridge to join the management team meetings.
Now you are a trusted member of the management team. So when the day comes when they have grown to the point they would benefit from an internal IT resource, you are well-placed to be part of that conversation. If your focus has been on the tech work you do for them and not the strategic work, then the likelihood is you will be disadvantaged to take it to the next step. This is because your role will change from tactical to managerial.
The first part of this new role will be to hire and manage the internal IT resource. You can do this two ways; by contracting one of your employees to your customer or assisting them in hiring a full-time employee.
The latter should not scare you. So long as you are involved in the hiring and managing of that employee, you should do fine. They won’t be able to hire an IT resource with your credentials. They will need to hire a basic tech capable of handling the day-to-day in their environment under your direction. That tech will also still need tools that you should continue to provide at your target profit margin.
You also need to make it clear to the customer that one IT resource provides for no redundancy and no coverage for vacation, sick days, project work—the list goes on. But the good news is you can provide all of this as their Tier Two support layer. I did this for several customers where I was able to sell my way into businesses that already had an internal resource, but needed additional coverage, project work, and tools.
The truth is, your customers should rarely outgrow you. Sometimes, over years or with explosive growth, they may become big enough to hire an entire IT team, but this is the exception, not the rule. Position yourself as a strategic manager in their business and not just another vendor or service provider and you will be in a place to help them make the right decisions both for them and for you.
Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter® at @EricAnthonyMSP
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