How reframing the conversation can help MSPs and their business clients

Posted by Achmad Chadran on Aug 24, 2015 1:41:00 PM

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Changing_the_LensWhen we need help, many of us tend to get ahead of ourselves and overlook the true nature of the problem in the process. I recently asked my doctor for a podiatrist referral to fix a sharp pain in my heel, only to have him deduce that the pain was tennis-related, and offer a few hamstring stretches to do before each play. The fix was simple, effective, and affordable.

You might recognize this tendency to self-diagnose in many of your customers, and the mix of challenges and opportunities it can present for IT solution providers. The key to capitalizing on these opportunities is to take a step back and consider the larger business backdrops behind your customers’ problems and challenges.

Here’s why it’s important to reframe the conversation.

The high cost of misdiagnosis

There’s a reason doctors ask the questions they do before prescribing a medication or course of action. Vastly different health problems can exhibit nearly identical symptoms, so it’s crucial to rule out the improbable ailments and zero in on the most likely one. (This approach is at the heart of the root cause analysis process familiar to every tech support pro.)

I talked to an Intronis partner recently about a small business owner who had just been left stranded by her previous MSP after a yearlong struggle to improve application performance—including a costly new server upgrade—proved fruitless. Our partner responded by scheduling a visit to the business, where he asked lots of questions about the application’s role in overall business operations, took a quick visual inspection of the server in its environment, and even took note of temperatures and ventilation in the rack.

His diagnosis: a network misconfiguration. This condition led to throughput delays, which the business’ users mistook for slow server response times. Our partner took an afternoon to fix the problem without the need for any  new hardware or software.

I could sense the partner’s disgust with his competitor’s dubious business ethics, and offered the possibility that the other guy may have deferred to the business owner out of good intentions. But as tempting as it is to take customers at their word, there’s no cure for the bitterness that results from a bad decision, no matter the intent.

Take your time, and exercise proper due diligence. It will benefit your customers and your business.

Real business problems and distracting tech talk

There’s another reason to reframe the conversation. At their core, your customers’ issues are business challenges, not technology problems. Your brand might speak to your IT expertise, but your true value lies in your ability to help clients navigate the margins between business and technology.

What happened next illustrates this point. Further analysis by our partner revealed that, beyond the network configuration problem, the business process itself was bottlenecked by a resource-hungry customer database system. The system – designed to analyze order trends to predict demand spikes and proactively stock up on inventory to avoid outages and customer defections – blocked other transactions from firing off until it was completed, adding precious milliseconds to each purchase.

With this discovery, the partner knew that a patch to change the database refresh from a gating task to a parallel process would speed the purchase process. While technical in nature, the solution required an understanding of the larger business intent of the application and its environment. If not for the MSP’s diligence, the need for this fix — which ultimately contributed thousands in additional yearly revenues for the business — might have gone unnoticed for years.

Reinforcing your trusted advisor value

But here’s the primary reason you need to reframe these customer conversations: they set the tone for your ongoing business relationships. Unlike the doctor who too readily yields to patients’ pill requests, or the auditor who turns a blind eye to accounting irregularities, your professional objectivity is central to the value you provide to your clients.

In a very real sense, it is these conversations that define you and your business. That’s why it’s important to engage fully with customers and prospects in every conversation. Your ability to understand what’s going on at a business level, and to apply this knowledge to the technical details of a solution, will create lasting value for your customers.

Photo Credit: Kurt Bauschardt on Flickr. Used under CC by 2.0 license. 

Topics: Growing Your MSP Business, Professional Services, MSP Marketing, Sales Process, Differentiation

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