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    The Importance of First Impressions for MSPs

    Posted by Ricky Cecchini on Jun 30, 2021 11:28:34 AM

    Usually, I write content that’s focused on how to leverage CloudRadial to achieve a specific goal. This article will be a bit different since I wanted to focus on some anecdotal experience that I’ve gained over the years working at CloudRadial with over a thousand MSPs. 

    Specifically, I want to talk about first impressions 

    There are actually a few different “first impressions” that you get to have with prospects and clients. I want to talk about them all, but for the sake of length, I’ll stick to the one that I see MSPs struggle with the most. That’s the initial presentation, where you’ve scoped out the services and now must deliver the pitch to show them how you’re going to deliver them. 

    Without further ado, let’s start there. 

    Courting a Prospect, Properly 

    For the most part, I see MSPs come at the prospect presentation in a few different ways. The most prominent approaches that I’ve personally seen include: 

    • The Uber Technical 
    • The Strategic Philosopher 
    • The Show-and-Tell 

    Keep in mind that I’m not here to tell you what’s right and wrong.  

    Whatever helps you land the prospect and turn them into a client will be the best approach. Still, I want to examine a holistic view of each approach and see if there’s a best practice to fish out of here to make MSPs’ lives easier. 

    The Uber Technical 

      Strengths  

      Weaknesses: 

    • Shows expertise in field 
    • Hard to explain to a layperson 
    • Helps establish trust 
    • Sets up cognitive dissonance 
    • Lets you flex intellectual property (IP) 
    • Can be extremely boring 

     
    This presentation typically consists of oodles of technical data dumped into a PowerPoint. 

    It’s the one that I see most of the newcomers on the block flock over to – and I totally get the temptation. You’re there for a prospective technology management role, so why not talk technology? 

    Of course, the issue here is that most people don’t speak technology like we do. 

    So, hitting them with the ol’ “speeds and feeds” talk usually doesn’t land so well. You might dazzle them with your knowledge, but keep in mind that people seek assistance with IT management and logistics because they want to do their thing in their business and NOT think about technology. 

    Now, that’s not to say that you must avoid talking technically like the plague – it’s just a delicate balancing act between the technical talk and how it relates to business objectives.  

    However, I must give credit where credit is due. This approach is hands-down the best at showcasing brilliance in planning and technical strategizing. You’re taking all the trust out of the equation and putting it on cold, hard facts that are laid out for the prospect to see. 

    Plus, in a co-managed environment, this might be the way to go. If you’ve got a technical point of contact that needs to make sure that they’re putting the keys in the hands of the right people, there’s not a better way than this.  

    Just be sure to throw in some images here and there in the presentation to keep people awake. 

    How it impacts the first impression: 

    The technical presentation does indeed prove that you know what you’re talking about.  

    However, the most significant danger here is that this presentation sets the tone that you’re speaking a different language than the prospect. 

    As an MSP, the goal is to forge a relationship built on mutual understanding. Your efforts directly support and drive stability, growth, and success in their company – so you want to balance out the technical talk with some goal-oriented discussion.  

    That is what I’ve consistently seen land the best with prospects. 

    The Strategic Philosopher 

      Strengths  

      Weaknesses: 

    • Easy to understand 
    • Can come off as empty promises 
    • Appeals to C-level audience 
    • Success depends on the speaker’s charisma 
    • Allows for an engaging presentation 
    • Easy for competitors to challenge 

     

    This approach takes a near-180° turn from the technical talk. 

    I see this one a lot with people that have grandiose ideas of what technology solutions can help businesses achieve. And don’t get me wrong – it’s true. We’ve all seen the right solutions turn businesses around for the better. 

    It can certainly come off as strong to the non-technical crowd because you’re talking on their level. You’re focusing on the results, not the methods to achieve them. In a perfect world, this one would be the go-to approach and this article would be useless.  

    But we don’t live in a perfect world. There are some major challenges with this approach. 

    For starters, its success is highly dependent on the delivery of the pitch. If the prospect doubts you for even a second, the credibility is thrown off. Unlike the technical approach, this one doesn’t allow you to put your money where your mouth is. It’s a 100% pure trust-based approach, which is a gamble. 

    Another big issue with this one is with the competition. If you bump into another competitor using this approach, then you’ll get caught in a loop of trying to get the prospect to trust you rather than him – and vice versa for your competitor. 

    Lastly, I’ve seen this approach get carried on way too far. For context, I was a creative director at a marketing agency specializing in MSPs, so I was always in the loop on marketing and pitch strategies.  

    I used to see people who were so far gone on their own ideas of technology as a driver that they started dipping into genuine abstract philosophy. They could only understand themselves – everyone else wondered if they delivered anything of value or just talked about it. 

    How it impacts the first impression: 

    Interestingly, the impression of the strategic presentation isn’t fully understood until later in the relationship. You’re taking a big gamble at the beginning by promising lots of big things. Your impression of the client will depend on whether you can deliver them or not. 

    At best, this approach makes you look like you’re clearly about business and not just technology. And that’s a great thing to cut through to the people that pay the bills and want results. 

    But at worst, you can come off as overly sales-y and filled with empty promises. Like I said earlier – it is heavily dependent on if the presenter can really make prospects believe what you can do for them. 

    If you can, try to mix some technicalities into the presentation here and there. You want to prove to clients that you can walk the walk when needed but prefer to talk the talk.  

    That goes a long way in establishing the trust that you have where it counts. 

    The Show-and-Tell 

      Strengths  

      Weaknesses: 

    • Eliminates trust from sales 
    • Requires much more time to set up 
    • Entices clients with tangible features 
    • Costs money to operate 
    • Can’t be copied or competed with 
    • Needs ongoing maintenance and upkeep 

     

    Okay, okay - I’ll admit that I’m biased on this approach. After all, it’s what CloudRadial is built for. However, I’ll do my best to put the facts out there as objectively as possible. 

    The show-and-tell approach is based on the premise that you’re neither presenting a technical talk nor doing a promised presentation. Instead, you’re walking your client through what it looks like to work as your partner throughout their prospective business relationship.  

    With this approach, your canvas isn’t a PowerPoint or a network diagram – instead, it’s a client portal.  

    I love it because it’s a hybrid of the best of everything. I’ll speak for CloudRadial since that’s the tool I know best in this category. 

    CloudRadial serves as a report repository and a client portal. I see people having their technical talk without leaving the portal. Of course, I also have tons of customers of ours that prefer the strategic, high-level discussion over in the built-in planner, too. 

    It’s the flexibility not to have to stick to one approach that makes the show-and-tell extremely powerful. When you can prove transparency and a client-first approach to your relationship, many roadblocks that hold prospects back are melted away. You can give them a clear path to success, and you’ll always show them what you do for them – in fact, you’ll show them automatically every single day. 

    Now, I’ll be fair – this is a hell of a lot more effort than the other two methods. Instead of spinning up a templated PowerPoint, it requires you to set up an entire portal to serve as your presentation tool. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. It’s going to take time and money to get this up and running. 

    The benefits of this approach far outweigh the costs.  

    One of the biggest benefits I’m seeing is that this approach can’t be competed with. It’s not the portal that makes the show-and-tell special. It’s not the technical reports, nor is it the roadmap you lay out for the prospect. 

    It’s actually the sum of all of them – that’s your own unique client experience 

    Whether you have CloudRadial or not, you’ve already got a client experience of your own. Every MSP does, too. But showcasing it to a prospect in a dynamic way is nearly impossible without something to focus on and channel it into something tangible that a prospect can see whenever they feel like it.  

    And that’s why CloudRadial is the platform that it is.  

    How it impacts the first impression: 

    As far as first impressions go, this one is a slam-dunk.  

    You’re proving to the prospect that you’re able to give them a centralized location to access whatever data they need conveniently. Ideally, they will also see value in other features your portal offers (like training, documentation, an application launcher, etc.).  

    But even if they don’t have an interest in those features, the portal still holds up as a functional platform to direct clients for multiple needs throughout their lifecycle (like ticketing, QBRs, reporting, etc.). 

    Another significant factor to consider for first impressions is the modernization of a client experience. Part of the first impression that you want to give to a prospect is that you’re a modern company that stays on the edge of technology.  

    I mean, we’re talking MSPs here – if we don’t stay up to date on tech, then who will? 

    As time goes on, giving clients on-demand access to their data isn’t just a “nice to have” – it’s something that they’ve come to take for granted. So much so that I’ve seen it become a point of contention if a prospect learns that they can’t get eyes on their data when they want.  

    But if they get that from the get-go… well, that’s just an excellent first impression. 

    So, What’s Your Approach? 

    Thanks for sticking with me and examining the various approaches to prospect presentations. 

    I want to reiterate that all the approaches I mentioned (technical, strategic, show-and-tell) aren’t in any way inferior or superior to one another. In truth, like most things in life, moderation is key. 

    A cleverly constructed hybrid approach between all three is the best practice.  

    I’m lucky enough to have some clarity on this subject simply because I’ve been around it for so long and from different sides of the table. Many MSPs second-guess themselves or just wonder what others are doing for their prospect pitches, so I hope this could shed some light. 

    If you’re interested in more content of this nature, let me know by shooting an email to support@cloudradial.com 

    I’m always more than happy to speak to MSPs and learn what people are doing to get our community and industry closer and better together. 

    Topics: account management, Sales, msps, digital-strategy