Unlock the power of being a Trusted Advisor

Neal Bradbury, Senior Vice President, MSP Business, Barracuda

Many businesses are trying to be cautious in spending cash due to economic uncertainty while still focusing on complex digital transformation initiatives. Herein lies an opportunity for MSPs to increase customer loyalty while at the same time uncovering new business.

Companies in many industries are struggling to gain visibility across their infrastructure, achieve compliance, and find ways to improve the return on their technology investments. MSPs have an opportunity to prove their value, but first, they must establish a source of reliable advice and information outside of the sales cycle.

To get there, MSPs need to operate in a way that clients see them as trustworthy advisors first. That means practicing transparency, providing actionable insights to clients, and being client-centric regarding strategy and communications.

MSPs also need to deliver on their promises and meet the requirements of their service level agreements (SLAs). Set reasonable expectations, be honest about your capabilities, don’t overpromise on deliverables, and clearly state project goals and team responsibilities.

In some instances, this may mean telling clients things they do not want to hear. For example:

  • There are problems that need to be addressed beyond the scope of their initial RFP
  • Costs may be higher than expected
  • Objectives cannot be met with their current technology stack
  • They may need to address internal cultural, process, or staffing issues to achieve those goals

But MSPs can establish a much richer business relationship if they can have candid conversations and provide actionable advice and solutions ready to help them address those issues. The key here is to stress that you want to help your client make a good decision, not just sell them a product or service.

Once a client is established, that transparency must continue. Alert them to problems promptly, as how you respond proves your value. Talk to them regularly about how you’re performing against the SLA and how their systems and team are also performing. This will help to establish trust.

MSPs can work on the advisor part of the equation by providing consultative and strategic solutions and services that build on that trust. The foundation of those services should include the following:

Your expert advice. Customers often want help making challenging and complex business decisions. MSPs have a lot of institutional knowledge around their areas of expertise; use that to give clients helpful direction when making those decisions – even the ones that do not directly affect your business relationship.

The right technology. Customers need tools to help gain visibility and control over their IT environments, secure their data, and protect against business disruption. Ensure your product suite can achieve those goals and deliver the availability and reliability they seek.

The correct outcomes. This goes beyond just understanding the technology being sold; MSPs must grasp how that technology relates to specific business challenges. Establish yourself as the go-to source for information around matching technology to those needs. Create partnerships with your vendors to ensure you have all the resources required to deliver the correct outcomes.

With those elements in place, MSPs can provide customer benefits beyond IT services or deployment and management of security solutions.

They can also provide the expertise needed to meet specific industry compliance requirements. That means mapping those requirements to their technology offerings and making compliance part of the value proposition.

Specific to security, MSPs can help clients meet cyber insurance requirements. Like life insurance, cyber insurance comes with conditions. For example, companies need to prove they’re qualified candidates for insurance and take reasonable measures to secure their networks and data.

As a trusted advisor, an MSP is in a better position to help these companies ensure they have the proper protections in place before applying for insurance, which improves chances for coverage approval and can lead to reduced premiums. By offering clients vulnerability assessments, security awareness training, and other services, MSPs can assist clients with their cyber hygiene and insurance challenges as well as position themselves to sell additional solutions and services to those clients to improve compliance.

That results in happier and more loyal clients and allows MSPs to differentiate themselves from competitors who limit their customer interactions to sales calls.

Neal Bradbury is Senior Vice President, MSP Business for Barracuda, a trusted partner and leading provider of cloud-first security solutions for managed services providers. In this role, he is responsible for driving business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners.