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Stuart Crawford and Jeff Ton: How Do MSPs Sell Services to CIOs?

A recognized influencer in MSP marketing, Stuart Crawford and Blog Talk Radio recently hosted Jeff Ton from Indianapolis to talk about selling managed services to a Chief Information Officer (CIO). Ton brings over 30 years of experience as a CIO, consultant, and expert in managed services, co-managed IT, and VCI

He wrote Amplify Your Value: Leading IT With Strategic Vision (2018), from a CIO’s perspective that explores:

  • What the CIO is thinking
  • Their problems
  • Their experiences
  • How an MSP can help the CIO implement their vision and strategy

If you’re an MSP wondering how to sell services to CIOs, then read on to find out more from these industry experts.

Is the CIO the Right Person for an MSP to Pitch?

Ton says, yes. The CIO is the right person to pitch, whether the organization is fully managed by the MSP or co-managed. Even if the conversation starts at a different level in the organization, the CIO is the one who makes the final decision.

What Is a CIO Looking for When They’re Outsourcing Services?

While security, backup disaster recovery, and staff augmentation are all critical, a partnership is key to what a CIO is looking for in an MSP. Defining what partnership means comes down to three things, according to Ton:

  • Trust
  • Transparency
  • Respect

He says a service provider must spend the time to earn his trust, be transparent, and earn his respect. And these must also be mutual, so they trust and respect him as well.

How Do MSPs Sell Services To CIOs? Speak Their Language

Ton says the last thing that a CIO wants to do or has time to do is teach you about their company and their industry. To be a real partner, you have to understand what the challenges are in the industry.

Crawford says he tells MSPs that regardless of the market, they need to learn to speak their clients’ language. Get to know the vendors, go to workshops and conventions, and learn everything about that vertical to find out how to best support them.

Expand Your Knowledge and Know Your Markets

For example, Crawford had his tech team attend community college at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. They got to sit in a one-day oil and gas conference for non-technical oil and gas professionals, enabling his team to read an oil gas map and more.

Every industry has unique needs when it comes to IT. If an MSP is a generalist, they’re likely to lose out on contracts to companies with specialized knowledge.

Analyze Your Expertise

Ton talks about how he discovered Blue Lock’s niche. The MSP started out marketing disaster recovery as a service. At first, their target client was anybody that needed disaster recovery. What he found was that while every business needs this essential tech service, identifying Blue Lock’s industry expertise outside of disaster recovery was essential to growing the business.

As it turned out, law offices were their perfect client. So they went all-in on the legal vertical, pursuing additional education to provide specialized disaster recovery for the legal community and becoming an expert IT partner in that vertical space.

Verticalization Trends

Crawford and Ton agree that the trend is for MSPs to specialize rather than be generalists, individually and as IT companies. For example, the skills a network engineer acquires in retail may not be transferable to a health care company. The lack of knowledge generalists have beyond IT means the only way they can compete is with their services’ price.

On the other hand, specializing in a specific vertical means that an MSP can offer a proven track record with testimonials from clients in the same industry. Additionally, they can expand their network at conferences, with vendors, and more.

Pick Three Industries

While many MSPs get nervous about adopting one vertical, it’s worth it to get over the fear. Analyze your client list and pick three industries to invest more time in with education and networking. Crawford says there’s no need to forsake all others but focus marketing and your education on those three until you get to the point where you are the expert.

Ton says, from a CIO perspective, an MSP that understands his industry, the technology challenges, and can provide solutions weighs heavily on his choice to partner with that company.

What Are Some of the Common Mistakes That MSPs Make?

Hey, do you have 15 minutes? No, they don’t. It goes back to being the expert. Don’t connect with a sales pitch. Show the CIO the value you bring to the table as an MSP partner. Educate the prospect with articles and information.

Share success stories and work to build trust, transparency, and respect. Building a relationship early on will benefit everyone in the long run.

Get More Valuable Information and Insights for MSPs

Are you looking for ways to build your MSP business? Pick up a copy of Ton’s Amplify Your Value: Leading IT With Strategic Vision. You can find out more about Jeff Ton at jeffreyton.com and connect on LinkedIn. Follow Stuart Crawford and the MSP show on blogtalkradio.com.

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