Overcoming the MSP Stereotype in 5 Steps

| By:
Brett Cheloff

Some of the best clients on any technology solution provider’s radar might already have an in-house IT resource, and while you’re busy building relationships with the right people to get that contract signed, that in-house IT person may not know you exist until the deal is done. The uphill battle to finding success with that first in-house IT client? The MSP Stereotype.

What IS the MSP Stereotype?

As crazy as it seems, there’s an unofficial caste system in IT that revolves around career paths and specialization. Most IT professionals start out in desktop support to learn basic concepts, then move on to application support for a deeper understanding of business-critical applications. Their time in troubleshooting opens new doors to managing the systems or networks those applications rely on.

What About MSPs?

This general path leaves out the traditional MSP, who some IT pros see as a failed desktop support specialist. Every time an MSP says they’re “concentrated on making money, not learning some new technology” it reinforces the stereotype that MSPs are peddling half-baked fixes, useless hardware, and needless up-selling. It’s a mentality that gives the entire community a bad name, and overcoming it is the key to building a healthy, long-term relationship with your clients’ in-house IT.

So how do you overcome the bias / bad press? How do you avoid being undermined and build a mutually beneficial relationship?

5 Steps to Overcome the Stereotype
1. Find Their Passion

Make time to meet with in-house IT staff. Take them out to lunch or drinks, and 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 strategic planning lights them up, give them a voice in those meetings. In other words, give in-house IT a chance to redefine their roles and responsibilities.

2. Build Credibility

Provide in-house IT with credentials for their assigned technicians/engineers. If your team has a slew of certifications and/or years of experience, let your client’s in-house staff see for themselves. Be prepared to handle objections. Some IT pros believe in certifications, while others think certifications are useless. 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.

3. Collaborate Often

With a solid understanding of what the in-house IT staff is passionate about, take the time to collaborate with them on the direction of their account. In-house IT will understand why you have standards to uphold for supportability and consistency –give them a chance to voice preferences before options are finalized. Involving them as much as possible will do wonders for your long-term relationship.

4. Communicate Decisions

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 In-house IT, let them know the decision and, if possible, the logic behind it. Face-to-face will go a long way, but a simple phone call works too.

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 to remind them you’re constantly looking out for their best interests.

Many MSPs already understand the benefit of clients with in-house IT. You get an extra set of hands without any of the overhead. You get an advocate when you’re not in the room, and a champion for your team and business…if you simply overcome the MSP stereotype. Invest the time to nurture your in-house IT relationships and they’ll help you build a stellar reputation.