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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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6 Characteristics to Look for in Your Solutions Vendor

Posted December 15, 2014by Nate Teplow

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As an MSP, choosing your solutions vendor is an important decision. It might not be like getting married, but it’s sort of like buying a house. You’ve got to spend time researching your options and finding one that fits your needs. While you can always move if things change down the line, it’s costly to jump around each year to a new vendor.Because it’s such an important decision, we’ve outlined 6 characteristics you should look for in your solutions vendor. You don’t need to adhere to all of these, but they should factor into your decision.

 

Good Technology

This should go without saying, but your technology vendor should have good… well… technology. Think of this as the foundation of your house. If it’s not built the right way, it will probably just crumble when disaster strikes. And in the crazy world of IT, we all know that disaster will strike.

Make sure the technology you choose is sound, works well and is battle-tested. If it can’t do what it says it will do, you’ve lost the foundation of your business.

 

Vision and Alignment

Choosing a vendor is choosing a business partner. You want to make sure that your goals and vision are aligned so that you can both benefit from a relationship for years to come. 

When was the last time you looked/asked for your vendor’s product roadmap? What products or updates do they have planned that will help keep you relevant in the channel and armed with the best technology for your clients? 

It’s important to pick a vendor that has vision and understands the channel. If you’re not confident in their ability to provide you with the tools to succeed, they may not be the best fit for you as a partner.

 

Channel Exclusivity

Going with the theme of “vision and alignment”, channel exclusivity is another important consideration when choosing your technology vendor. Does the vendor sell exclusively to the channel, or do they also sell direct?

This may not be important to every MSP, but it should at least be a consideration in your decision process. Ultimately, if the vendor is selling direct to end users, they’re your competitor, not your ally. While they may have special programs or discounts in place for you, you’re really competing for the same business. 

Vendor’s who are channel-exclusive don’t compete with their channel partners and can create a more focused product portfolio, specifically designed for MSPs. 

Make sure you understand your vendor’s selling strategy before you become their partner. Again, this may not matter to all MSPs, but it should be considered at a minimum.

 

Complimentary Services Offering

We all know that finding and onboarding talent is a struggle for most MSPs. It’s difficult to find the right people and turnover can be high in the IT industry. When choosing a technology vendor, check to see if they have complimentary service offerings that you can leverage. An example of this is a help desk that provides level 1 and 2 support to end clients. Offloading basic support tasks can help free up your employees’ time so they can focus on more important, revenue-driving initiatives.

Again, this might not be a feature that’s valuable to everyone, but if you have a technician that quits the day before a big client project, it’s nice to have a team to fall back on.

Additionally, as you grow as a business, it can be hard to keep up internally with that growth. Leveraging services from your solution vendor can help you scale more effectively, rather than being stifled by a lack of technical talent.

Related: Hiring Best Practices: Why Spending More Will Cost You Less in the Long Run

 

Healthy Margin Potential

Ultimately, we all have to make money, right? Maintaining strong margins is a key to success in managed IT services and if your vendor doesn’t allow you to do that, you’ll never be successful. 

This is a little more complex than simply looking at the direct cost of technology. It’s important to consider on-going maintenance costs, employee time and other indirect costs that factor into your solution. For example, do you need a full-time technician solely to manage a software instance? If so, this can cost you $50,000 to $70,000 per year and should be included in your margin costs.

Understanding your margins is key to being a successful MSP. Make sure the technology you choose allows you to make a healthy margin, especially as your business scales up.

Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Want to Save $194,500 as an MSP this Year?

 

Sales & Marketing Support

Purchasing the right technology is step 1, but you still need to re-sell it to your clients to be successful. While you may be able to get your initial clients through referrals, to build a sustainable company, you really need sales and marketing programs. 

We all know this is tough to do as an MSP. You spend most of your time putting out fires and dealing with existing clients, who has time to go out and find more clients?

To jumpstart this, it helps if your vendor provides you with sales and marketing support. This can come in many forms, like training sessions, webinars or even packages of sales and marketing assets to help you build out lead generation campaigns. Either way, it’s important that your vendor is committed to your success and is providing you with the support you need to find new clients and grow your business.

 

Conclusion

There’s no standard formula for success in managed IT services. Most MSPs choose a variety of vendors, depending on the clients and/or business needs. However, it’s important to choose these vendors wisely, as they greatly contribute to your success. Everyone values these characteristics differently, but they’re all important to consider (among others) when choosing a technology vendor. 

Make sure you choose someone that not only lets you run your business, but enables you to grow your business.


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Nate Teplow is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Continuum, currently managing the company's RMM marketing initiatives. Nate's experience spans inbound marketing, content strategy, marketing communications and B2B lead generation. A proud Miami Hurricane alumni, Nate enjoys staying active, traveling to new places and performing A/B tests.

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