The No-Fail Guide to Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Compass with The Way Forward on it

You may think Trusted Advisor is a trite phrase. In fact, some think we should retire the term altogether. But as an MSP there is nothing wrong with being trusted or engaged as an advisor. So forget about whether you love or hate the term and just embrace the concept.

You can start this transition, if you haven’t already made it, with existing clients. Dig deeper into their technical affairs. Go the extra mile in managing and monitoring devices and their network, and proactively offer new ways of gaining efficiency and supporting innovation. They’ll feel the benefits and pass the word along.

The biggest issues are to have a progressive attitude, build deep expertise, and exude the proper confidence.

Then you have to fundamentally change how you interact with clients and prospects.

MSP consultancy Ulistic has a few ideas. “First of all, a trusted advisor is a lot more than a vendor to their clients, because they’re focused on improving their clients’ productivity, efficiencies, and net profits by eliminating business downtime and mitigating risk through the use of technology solutions,” the company said. “As a trusted advisor, you’re expected to meet with your clients regularly to review their network monitoring and service desk reports, as well as continually search for ways to improve their support services. A trusted advisor would also perform quarterly business reviews with their clients, in order to help them develop their technology budgets.”

Moving to a higher level, Trusted-Advisor-style status is critical. We all know that break/fix isn’t dead, but is certainly no path to riches. To thrive in today’s MSP 2.0 environment, you need deeper relations with clients. Otherwise, you risk becoming  an easily replaced commodity.

7 Tips to Achieve Trusted Advisor Status

Pick your areas of expertise, be a true expert, and speak about these areas with clients at a strategic level. A horizontal MSP can be a Trusted Advisor by offering deep IT expertise that offers tremendous client benefits. Here you need to understand and express the business value of the horizontal services you offer. Another approach is to have vertical expertise, health care for example, and engage on that level.

Keep the lights on while you move upscale. As an MSP, you were likely hired to take away tasks from whatever internal IT exists, and keep operations running smoothly. The better you do this, the more trust you build.

Leverage this trust to offer more. Ask about your clients’ business imperatives, and offer insight and advice based on your own careful analysis.

Make Sure All Levels of Your Organization are Worthy

Sales often falls into the trap of let’s face it, overselling.   That is a real trust buster. Your entire organization has to be all in. That means message discipline and consistent knowledge. The time you take for training, or have your staff trained at a high level, will pay huge dividends when it comes to trust.

Relationship Building

If you want to deepen your client relationships, work the various levels – but absolutely get close to the top business and IT players . That where the biggest strategic decisions are made. At the same time, the internal techs are where the rubber meets the road, and if they don’t trust you, word moves upward fast.

Offer More

There is no point in being strategic if you aren’t going to offer more strategic solutions. The idea is to not act salesy but truly offer differentiated value. The groundwork here is a series of deep conversations and proof of value points.

So, highlighting our top 3 Trusted Advisor best practises:

1. Be Challenging

Part of being a Trusted Advisor is having the confidence to assert opinions. “Beyond their initial purchase needs, what customers most want from suppliers is help with the tough business decisions they have to make. This is especially true when it comes to technology decisions. The best service providers have great experience helping other, similar, companies solve their challenges and are willing to share their knowledge. They sit on the same side of the table as the customer and help evaluate alternatives in a thoughtful and considerate fashion. In short, they operate as trusted advisors.

The key is to start out as you mean to continue. How can you make every customer interaction valuable from the very outset, even before your prospect becomes a customer? “

2. Implement the Best and Right Technology

Technology is a huge support in building a Trusted MSP practice. “Beyond insights gained from working closely with other customers, having the right tools can have a significant impact too. For example, there are monitoring and management tools that can be used to provide visibility into every aspect of a customer’s IT environment.

Being able to discuss security, automation and policy management capabilities and show how these help reduce costs is very important during the purchase process.

With the right solutions you also have a means to demonstrate how you will be able to meet a prospect’s service-level needs and their specific infrastructure characteristics, during the sales process. In IT, demonstrating how you will achieve what you promise is as important, if not more so, than what you promise. How will you show that you can deliver 97% service availability, reliably and at low risk to you and to your potential customer? Doing so adds to your trusted advisor stature.”

3. Be a Leading Thinker

It is no longer enough to just be a techie – you need deep business knowledge as well. “Unless you have a specific industry focus, most customers don’t expect you to know everything about their business – just about how your services and solutions can make a strong difference. They will prefer to do business with market leaders and with those who demonstrate insight and understanding of the latest information technology trends, such as cloud services and mobility, and the associated management implications. First, it reduces their purchase risk and makes it more likely that they will actually make a decision to purchase. Secondly it adds credibility, again enabling them to see you as a trusted advisor, one who demonstrates a clear understanding of market dynamics and can assist them in making the right decisions.”

Automation and the Trusted Advisor

Finally, a key technology enabler to support any Trusted Advisor MSP is a powerful, flexible Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) platform that supports rich automation, such as Kaseya VSA 9.3.

More automation is critical to ensure that each one of an MSP’s techs can manage more end points and more customers, reducing the need to add people as the MSP grows its revenue so that the MSP can protect and increase its margins.

But within the context of becoming a Trusted Advisor, with more automation, MSPs are free to focus more on strategic issues and working with clients to set up new services that offer competitive advantage.

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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