Communication and IT outsourcing: completing the sales puzzle

During the sale of a managed service provider’s offerings to your organization, communication is key. The right conversations will aid in developing a solid partnership between your business and the managed IT services provider you’re considering.

The process a managed service provider (MSP) employs during its sales cycle can reveal how the firm will serve your business even after a contract is signed. An IT outsourcing provider should engage in regular communication with your company and make an effort to understand not only your technology, but your organization’s  history, operations, and goals as it proceeds with the sale of services. Likewise, your business should be willing to participate in the conversations required to help the MSP achieve its designated objectives. This communication is key to determining the MSP’s ability to deliver the IT support and resources your business requires to be successful now, and in the future.

“Many times, MSP’s get hung up on talking about technology throughout the sales process. They lose sight of the client’s business goals, the challenges the client may have faced in the past, and what is truly important to the well-being of the client’s business. Identifying these elements is critical to establishing a successful relationship between the two organizations.”—Bryan Gregory (President of Aldridge)

IT outsourcing sales process 

The sales cycle of a reputable MSP will involve a great deal more than a quote and contract. A high level of communication will be required from both sides during the sales process to create a functional partnership between the two organizations.

In an ideal situation, your business will begin working with a managed IT services provider two to three months prior to integrating their services into your IT environment. An extended planning period will allow your company to work with the MSP to devise an effective IT strategy and give your business time to prepare for the transition.

After your company has identified and contacted a potential MSP candidate, the managed IT services provider should begin cultivating a relationship with your organization. An MSP representative, such as a business growth manager, will likely initiate contact with your firm to determine if the partnership is a good fit for both your business and theirs.

Following the initial introductions, the MSP should schedule a principal to principal meeting that involves the collaboration of executives from both organizations. An exchange between administrators will foster an environment of trust and understanding. Your company’s executives will know they are coordinating with someone who can understand the unique elements of your business, and the MSP’s executives can be sure they are capturing the vision and goals of your organization. At the conclusion of this meeting it is generally clear if the companies will be a good fit for one another. If they are, the next step is to complete a thorough assessment which will include a deep dive into the client’s technical environment.

The MSP should aim to understand what your organization is doing within its IT department and why these processes are or are not effective. This knowledge can be obtained via an assessment of your company’s IT environment in which a professional services engineer will perform a thorough examination of the hardware, software, structure, etc. comprising your network.

The managed IT services provider should construct a complete picture of your business’s IT environment and, as a final step, provide an outline of their recommended solutions for the following 12 to 18 months to be certain your budget is aligned with the services they plan to provide.

Overall, honesty is key. An valuable IT outsourcing provider will be straight-forward about its ability to remedy the IT challenges facing your business and maintain transparency in their intentions and interactions. It’s necessary your executives preserve the same standard of clarity. If your business is not a likely fit for the MSP, inform the provider before any additional plans are developed.

Questions to ask when purchasing managed IT services 

It can be difficult to know what questions to ask when your business is in the process of purchasing an MSP’s service. But, your business should also be aware of what questions the managed IT services provider should be asking to guarantee they have a clear picture of your IT needs. It’s vital to the success of the client-provider partnership that your business understands the services it’s receiving and the IT services provider realizes the breadth of their own responsibilities.

The managed IT services provider should ask questions that reveal the most urgent concerns and needs facing your business. A competent MSP will likely ask questions regarding your company’s pain points, how these issues have affected your business, and the success or failure of the remedies implemented to solve these problems. The managed IT services provider should utilize the information gathered to translate your organization’s downtime into a tangible dollar amountand outline their ability to bolster your company’s operations with the services they deliver.

It’s equally as important that your organization asks questions concerning the scope and level of services offered by the managed IT services provider. The most important consideration to make is whether the operational maturity level of the MSP you’re considering aligns with the maturity of your own business. Be sure to ask what’s included in the service level agreement (SLA) to determine if what’s offered can successfully maintain and improve your IT environment.

These are just a few of the questions that your business should be asking the MSP’s representatives before a managed IT services contract is signed:

  • Does the MSP provide 24/7/365 support?
  • How will my company receive support (email, phone, etc.)?
  • When I call the help desk, will I be talking to a technician, or someone who will put the ticket in for me?
  • Is the MSP outsourcing any of the support provided?
  • How large is the MSP and do they have the resources to support my business’s IT environment?
  • Does the SLA guarantee a specified resolution time, or just a response time?
  • Will the response and resolution times stated meet the needs of my employees?
  • What services are out-of-scope and why?

IT outsourcing red flags 

There are a few red flags to watch for as your business engages in a sale with a managed IT services provider. The MSP should send a representative to meet with your firm who’s capable of understanding your business. The individual should be able to recognize how their services can help improve your IT environment and how their proposed IT strategy can align with the business goals of your organization. If the MSP employs an entry level sales person to initiate this relationship, and make promises on behalf of their firm, your company should likely reconsider the proficiency and reliability of the MSP in question. It’s probable the managed IT services provider is ill-equipped to deliver premium support and management if they’re unable to find the resources to appoint a more informed employee to handle this task. Sending a principal or executive to bridge the initial communication will likely guarantee the value of the MSP’s opinions and the client-provider partnership as a whole.

Another warning sign to avoid is a rushed sales process. A managed IT services provider must be willing to invest the time and effort necessary to learn the ins and outs of your business. If the MSP attempts to close a services deal in a matter of days, they’re likely not employing a sufficient analysis of your IT environment and processes. This can result in a strained business relationship for both organizations and instigate misunderstandings that can handicap your company rather than helping it.

Aldridge acts as a partner to your business even throughout our sales process. Our executive team will take the time to develop an in-depth understanding of your IT environment and will be transparent in our ability to sufficiently serve your needs. Contact a firm representative today to take the first step toward guaranteed IT resolution.