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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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7 Secrets to Excellence in Managed IT Services: A Partner Q&A

Posted March 28, 2016by Mary McCoy

7 Secrets to Excellence in Managed IT Services: A Partner Q&A

Our awesome partner, ImageQuest, was recently recognized for excellence in managed IT services, and we could not be more thrilled! Named to CRN's 2016 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Pioneer 250 category, ImageQuest, formerly an office equipment (OE) company, sets an example all MSPs should strive to achieve.

While there's no "one size fits all" managed services approach, to provide more context around a business model that's proven to pay off and help his company successfully pivot, we reached out to ImageQuest CEO Milton Bartley to learn more. What does he attribute to their impressive growth, and what sales tactics could you consider emulating? We cover it here!


1. What do you attribute to ImageQuest's recognition for excellence in managed IT services? 

"I think our story resonates. We are disciplined and deliberate about our business, and that has translated into some serious growth over the past three years. Not just revenue growth, but profitability and market footprint as well. It takes a team of committed individuals to build and grow a business in today’s world of rapidly changing technology, and we have that at ImageQuest."

2. What unique sales approach was ImageQuest selected for, and can you describe it?

"We call it Chocolate Cake. We don't sell any of the pieces and parts (ingredients) as it relates to IT as one-off solutions. We believe a customer cannot take those ingredients, mix them up, and make the cake taste as good. They simply don't have the expertise; they don't have the refined and perfected recipe; they don't have the years of experience; they don't have the dedicated team who does this day in and day out for every customer. We learned to say no to clients who simply want to buy ingredients."

3. Can all MSPs benefit from this approach? 
If not, who'd find it valuable?

"Each MSP has to find their own version of Chocolate Cake. For some, that will look a lot like our cake. For others, it will be a hybrid break-fix and managed services offering. Yet, for others it will be a focus on a certain suite of products like backup and disaster recovery (BDR) or telecommunications. The important thing is for the MSP to clearly define their client and their offering, and have the discipline to stick to it."

4. How do you systematize your managed IT services offering, and what is the benefit of this?

"This is one of our biggest struggles. We are constantly working to create, refine, validate, and manage to standard processes. The more we have standardized our offering [Chocolate Cake], the easier it has been to systematize. The benefits are two-fold. First, when we follow standard processes and checklists, client satisfaction is higher, and that leads directly to the second, higher margins. Higher margins result from both increased revenue from happier clients, and lower costs as we drive efficiencies in our labor force."

5. How do you appear bigger than you really are to clients?

"Interesting question. I am not sure we do to all clients, but a few things come to mind. First, we look, speak and act like professional ladies and gentlemen at all levels of our organization. That behavior and appearance makes us appear like a well set-up organization, which we are. Second, we always answer our phones live, and it is always an IT professional on the phone. Prospects are used to calling and talking to voicemail or a call taker/dispatcher; our approach stands out. Third, we approach most client activities as a team. We throw a lot of resources at client meetings - including account managers, outside sales executives, project managers, and senior IT talent, not to mention executives. We try to make every client feel like there is an entire team of talent at their disposal - which in fact there is."

6. Why don't you recommend MSPs offer network assessments for free? What success has ImageQuest had in charging?

"A free assessment is worthless. If you don't place a value on it, how can you expect the prospect to do so? We have turned the assessment into a competitive advantage in our markets. We conduct a professional business and IT security assessment for every client - and we charge for it. We explain to the prospect that most [read all] of our competitors will offer them a free assessment. In order to do it for free, they will likely send their least talented IT person to do the work. In contrast, our assessments are conducted jointly by a business analyst and a technical analyst. Working together, they utilize a battery of technical tools, business processes, and discovery Q&A with key members of the prospect's executive leadership teams. That level of expertise and professional services has a real value, and prospects are willing to pay for it."

Are you a Continuum partner? Continuum’s Network Assessment Modules will help you generate more leads and expand your services portfolio so that you can continue growing your business. Learn more about the various network assessment modules available to you here!

7. We hear from so many OEDs that struggle to make the leap to managed IT services. Can you explain how you were able to do it? What support and resources did you require or leverage? What's your advice for other OEDs struggling to market and sell themselves as a competitive MSP? 

"My advice is for them to first decide if this is really what they want to do. I don’t believe all OEDs can successfully make the transition to managed services any more than I believe all IT companies could transition to copier and printer sales and service organizations. We were intentional about this transition, and we accepted that our [old] core copier business would suffer as a result. An important concept for OEDs to grasp is the fact that their existing copier/printer customer base is not necessarily an asset in the managed IT space. Success in managed services will never be about selling some things to everyone. Success in managed services is selling everything to the select few." 

ImageQuest and Clear Link Systems are having a Grand Ribbon Cutting and Techxpo at their new facility – 815 Airpark Center Drive, Nashville, TN 37217 – on Thursday, April 7th from 4:30 to 7:00. To drop in, meet their team, and help them celebrate, you can RSVP here!

download-opportunity-knocks-why-office-equipment-dealers-should-open-the-doorway-to-managed-it-services

Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary primarily manages the MSP Blog and has consulted with hundreds of partners, lending website, blog and social media support. Before that, she graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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