Selling Managed Services
By Stephen Richards ctsnww
It Doesn’t Matter What You Call It!
In my early days with TrafficMaster, I was astounded at the amount of equipment a 5 strong team had to maintain and repair.
Between 150 and 200 servers (dependant on project rollout stages), 300 users who averaged two PC’s per head and this was on one site in the UK. The company at that time had sites in Holland, Germany and Italy as well, that team of five eventually ended up supporting the infrastructure in those countries as well.
Out of hours (or country) much of what we did was by remote management, you have to remember that this was between 2000 and 2006. We just called it remote support. Servers Alive software hosted in house checked the status of servers, services websites and applications. A failure triggered an email to an SMS and Pager platform, the team received those messages and the duty engineer took charge of the issue.
In recent years we have called this Managed Services, with a multitude of SAAS companies providing the resources we need to monitor computers and servers, the business has been a growth area. When I first went into business I was a Computer Troubleshooters franchisee, they offered Managed Services and called it Business Enhanced Support Technology (BEST), when I went solo in Computer Technical Solutions I called it Sentinel.
Recently my good friend Chip Reeves (a former Director of Computer Troubleshooters USA) sent me some video interviews he had conducted with some leading lights in “Managed Services” and the conclusion was that, as my heading suggests, “It doesn’t matter what you call it”, the client still doesn’t understand it!
How can we deliver what they don’t know they need?
In recent years we have seen more services moving to the cloud and it seems that the traditional IT Support business finds more business from home users that from the traditional money makers like supplying hardware to companies, software installation for companies and consultancy for companies.
What is the future for our industry then?
When Managed Services first started growing in popularity people were saying that the traditional Break Fix model was dead. When everyone started shouting loudly about the cloud, people said that physical servers were no longer needed.
I bet we still all have Break Fix clients yes? I bet you like me still have clients with servers in house right?
Thankfully most companies still need computers to connect to those cloud services, those computers are still on networks and that complete infrastructure still needs supporting. It’s just that the traditional problems we used to see have changed; more people are tech savvy, BYOD has added complications to network security; malware and spam are increasing at exponential levels.
So we still have a role providing “Managed Services” even if the client doesn’t understand it, but you should be looking to add additional bolt-ons with some packages. Mail filtering, unlimited cloud backups, remote working software for the clients staff or a VPN, annual technology reviews, monthly reports etc.
It’s not up to the client to understand what Managed Services means; it is up to us to let them know that we have a solution that will save them time and money.
Identify a problem – Offer the solution
Look at the common problems clients are faced with and how to leverage those:
• BYOD control
• Data movement
These are all opportunities for us as IT Consulting/Engineering/Support companies to upsell to existing clients and generate new business from new clients.
Take BYOD and Data Movement together. To protect a company from negligent or accidental data loss the company should have a Data Usage Policy. That in turn should form part of the Company Operations Manual. Our IT companies are best placed with Managed Services to perform Asset Management, Asset Tracking, locking down USB pen drive use etc.
Some of the better Managed Services Agents allow tracking of devices based on the web facing IP address. Therefore stolen or lost technology can be tracked (in “stealth mode” by my preferred agent) and if not recovered or recoverable then the data can be remotely wiped.
Suddenly the threat of business sensitive data loss through theft or accident becomes a reason to use Managed Services.
Malware and Spam can be addressed easily by the right Firewall and threats removed with… You guessed it Managed Services automated malware scans. You could also offer email filtering.
All we have to do is everything the client needs! Right? Yes, but remember they often don’t know they need it and more often than not are blissfully unaware that the service can be provided.
Selling the Solution
More often than not the features and their benefits mentioned above are not going to sell a service on their own, so how do they help us?
You could always give it away!
When I first heard that I thought “are you stupid?” But, it is a brilliant idea; a 28 day trial may be just what is needed to help the client see the difference allowing you to get a foot firmly in the door.
The plan should be to provide the complete and full Management Service package to a company (for say up to 5 computers and a server if they have one). You ramp up the monitoring and make sure the person responsible for IT decisions in that company gets a copy of every alert – but don’t action the issue. Instead send a follow up email asking if they would like you to fix the issue.
At the end of the trial you uninstall all of the monitoring and deliver a full report of all the outstanding issues and the number of hours saved by not having to wait for an engineer to attend site. Based on the 28 days trial, calculate the amount saved in the year compared to a Break Fix solution.
There is no doubt in my mind that pricing is going to be regional, there is more than just a North South divide in the UK. City based companies expect to pay, but rural businesses tend to have a low price expectation.
Catering for price can be difficult, so creating 3 or 4 packages with different SLA’s, different Bolt-Ons and different prices is definitely the way to go so you can demonstrate a pricing solution.
If you are anything like me then you are probably annoyed at how little we can make on cloud based solutions, we help the client choose, we guide them, we train them and get a couple of pounds per installation or per month. It’s not all it promised to be is it? I treat cloud services as Bolt-Ons to Managed Service solutions.
On the rare occasion where the first contact with the client is for cloud solutions I use that as an intro to Managed Services.
Within my business I offer Sentinel in 4 basic packages, but only advertise three. What is important to understand is that the most expensive is the “all inclusive, throw everything in” option which nobody ever takes.
So why offer it?
The Camera/TV Shop
Next time you walk past a camera shop or TV shop you may well find the very best product they have in pride of place in the window. The shop probably sells one or two of those a year, but the reason for putting it in the window is not to sell it! Usually alongside the most expensive item they have is the second or third most expensive item and they sell dozens of those a month.
I’m sorry to say that people don’t want the very best IT cover; they want the best price for what they can get away with.
Earlier I mentions Computer Troubleshooters BEST offering. Their top of the range offering gave a £50 an hour money back guarantee if a computer went down without the company being told beforehand. Nobody sold that to anyone; nearly everyone took the next option down because it seemed better value for money.
The missing option
Earlier in pricing I mentioned that I offer Sentinel in 4 packages but only advertise three. This gives me a secret weapon when I reach the negotiation stage. The fourth package is based on the closest matching package to the clients’ needs, but with some tempting high value low cost extra’s thrown in. These extras may include companywide Anti-Virus for free or staff perks like discounted repairs for their staff home computers.
The most important part of these services is communicating the problems that the client has be saved from on a regular basis. That means monthly reports, delivered by hand, think of it as showing your face and drinking their coffee, but be seen on site doing something or they will think you have done nothing.
The big problem with doing Managed Services well is that nobody at the sharp end knows you have done anything at all. They soon forget that their computers are working; they don’t notice that the updates have been applied. They never see the new version of the Anti-Virus that required manual intervention to install. They don’t notice and they don’t care at that stage; quite right as well. They have a job to do that requires the company’s hardware to work and that is all.
So next time you are thinking of moving a client from break/fix to a managed service plan, don’t explain it to them, don’t worry about the name of the solution, instead explain that you would like them to try something for 28 days and give them a free trial instead, what have they got to lose?
What could you gain?