New clients are hard to find. Good clients are even harder to find. And some of the best clients an MSP can find already have an in-house IT person. These clients are ready, willing, and able to pay for IT services.
You can spend months building relationships with the right people to get a contract signed, but more often than not, their in-house IT staff member won’t know you exist until the ink is dry. That brings us to the reason why many MSPs struggle to find success with their first in-house IT client.
The MSP Stereotype
There’s an unofficial caste system in IT that’s built around career paths and specialization.
Most IT professionals start in Desktop Support, learning basic concepts. Once the basics are mastered, they graduate to Application Support ‐ like Active Directory, Exchange, Database, or any other business critical application. Their time troubleshooting applications reveals new paths, like the Systems or Networks those applications rely on.
All too frequently, MSPs are left out of the mix. Some professionals in the IT realm place MSPs at the bottom of the pecking order, regardless of their credentials or years of practice. That puts added pressure on MSPs when they approach a new client with in-house IT staff.
So how do you overcome potential biases? Here are a few ways to avoid being undermined so you can build a successful, mutually beneficial relationship with your next client’s in-house IT staff.
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5 Steps to Overcome the MSP Stereotype
1. Demonstrate Your Credibility
Come prepared to show your credentials. If your team has a slew of certifications and/or years of experience, let your client’s in-house IT staff see it for themselves.
Be prepared to handle objections. Some IT pros believe in certifications, while others think certifications are useless. Some IT pros will see years of experiences and feel confident in your team’s abilities. Others won’t care how long you’ve been in the business.
Address objections calmly and professionally. At the end of the day, it’s about winning trust. It won’t happen overnight, but making efforts early help you both better understand what you’re walking into.
2. Find Their Passion
Make time to meet with the in-house IT staff members so you can get to know them on a personal level. Take them out to lunch. Take them out for drinks. Assure them you want to help. Find out what part of IT excites them.
If they’re passionate about troubleshooting and the instant gratification it brings, give them first refusal on break/fix issues (with an agreed upon SLA). If they’re passionate about strategic planning and bringing long-term goals to life, give them a voice in those meetings.
Understanding what they want out their role will help you plan accordingly. In other words, give them a chance to redefine their roles and responsibilities once your services are brought on board.
3. Keep Them in the Loop
As an MSP, you bring recommendations and options for clients to decide on. Which means you likely have more access to your client’s decision makers than their own staff, including in-house IT. Decisions get made multiple times a day, but top-down communication is often a problem.
Treat in-house IT the way you’d want them to treat you. If you get out of a meeting where a decision is made that could impact them, let them know the decision and, if possible, the logic behind it. Face-to-face will go a long way. Even a quick phone call will work.
4. Collaborate Often
With a solid understanding of what the In-house IT staff are passionate about, take the time to collaborate with them. For example, help make sure their voice is heard in the hardware and software selection process for their company.
In-house IT will understand you have certain standards to uphold for supportability and consistency. So simply give them a chance to voice their preferences before options are finalized. In their mind, you can walk away at any time and leave them holding the bag. Involving them as much as possible will do wonders for your long-term relationship.
5. Maintain Trust
The problem with stereotypes is that you need to constantly prove you’re different. Doing the 4 steps above get the ball rolling, but you can’t slack off. Stay actively engaged with your client’s in-house IT staff members to remind them you’re constantly looking out for their best interests.
If you can overcome the stereotype by building relationship with your client’s in-house IT staff, you’ll get an extra set of hands without any of the overhead, an advocate when you’re not in the room, and ultimately a champion for your team and business. Invest the time to nurture your in-house IT relationships, and they’ll help you build a stellar reputation.
The key to client satisfaction andlong-term client relationships is starting off on the right foot.