Guest Column | May 5, 2017

9 Questions MSPs Should Be Asking Their Prospects And Customers

Unfinished Business: Answering Your Questions About FSMA’s Recall Requirements (Part Two Of Two)

By Scott Bennett, Director, North American Partner Management, Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda                        

The best way for an MSP to increase their chances of closing a deal is to understand the customer. You also need to know what problem the customer is trying to solve and how the solution you are offering can help them address the challenges they’re facing.

The fact is, though, sometimes customers don’t know what they want from their MSP or have conflicting needs and priorities that can be difficult to address. In some cases, businesses are even hesitant to share information with outside parties that could help identify the best solutions for meeting their unique requirements. Alone, each of these challenges can make it more difficult for MSPs to close the deal, but when combined it can be nearly impossible.

This is why it is so important to ask prospects and customers the right questions. A well-crafted line of inquiry can make all the difference when it comes to winning new business. I’ve heard from a number of MSP partners wondering which questions they should be asking their prospects and clients to increase their chances of success. Here are nine to help guide those conversations.

  1. What is your role in this process? Right away, you need to make sure you are talking to someone who has the authority to make decisions in the purchasing process.
  2. What business problem are you trying to solve? Knowing the challenges faced by the prospect or customer will help you set the stage for the conversation and determine how it should progress and which solutions to discuss.
  3. Do you already have a solution in place to address this problem? You need to identify whether the prospect has already attempted to solve the problem. Follow-up questions can include what the prospect likes or dislikes about their current solution and what factors would drive them to make a change.
  4. How long have had this problem and what have you done to try to solve it? If the answer is more than three years and nothing, the odds are you won’t be able to make a deal. If this is a problem the prospect or customer has had for a few months and has put some time and effort into trying to solve, the opportunity becomes more real.
  5. What is your timeframe for solving the problem? Knowing this will help you to not only forecast the business, but validates the urgency of the need and how much effort should be put forth by your team. This information can also be used to hold the prospect or customer accountable moving forward.
  6. Do you have a budget set aside to implement new solutions? Asking this will help you determine the level of financial commitment the prospect has to solving the problem and whether the solution you are offering will fit within the allocated budget. You can also ask what the prospect is currently spending if they already have a solution in place.
  7. Are you evaluating other solutions or service providers? By asking the customer or prospect if they are looking at other providers for help solving their problem, you can tailor the message accordingly, pointing out specific areas where your solution stands out from the competition. This also gives you the opportunity to differentiate your MSP based on the value of your services and highlight what is unique about your offering.
  8. How do you evaluate new products and solutions? You also want to find out how the prospect will be evaluating the service or solution you are selling. Will it be a side-by-side comparison of the features and benefits offered by competitive solutions? What will be involved in the purchasing decision? Understanding this will ensure your solution is well positioned to compare favorably on each point the customer will be considering.
  9. What does success look like? You should also find out from the prospect what a successful deployment will look like. Are they looking to save time or money? Free up their staff from the day-to-day work to focus on more strategic and revenue generating projects? Knowing this will help ensure you are focusing on the right value proposition in your conversations with the prospect or customer. 

Another important thing to remember during the sales process is to continually evaluate whether the prospect or customer is a good fit for your MSP. Often MSPs discover too late they are talking to the wrong person or the financial commitment just isn’t there. Look for warning signs early on to avoid wasting valuable time and resources.

Additionally, you should keep geography and vertical focus in mind when evaluating prospects and customers. For example, if traveling to the customer site will place added strain on your MSP’s resources, it probably isn’t a good fit. Or, if prospect operates in a vertical market or industry you aren’t familiar with, you will need to think about whether you want to build your business in this market or if it even makes sense from a cost and resources standpoint as additional training may be required.

Closing the deal with prospects and customers can often be the most difficult part of sustaining a growing and thriving MSP business. However, when you ask the right questions and choose the right prospects, you can dramatically increase your chances of success. 

Scott Bennett is Director of North American Partner Management for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, and he plays a key role in the development and growth of partner relationships.