MSPs need sales and marketing in order to grow a company beyond the startup stage. Industry executives provide their views on how to build such capabilities.

Every managed service provider wants a competitive edge.

However, to achieve this goal MSPs know they must have a clear picture of the market they want to serve, recognize what specific IT skills they are best at delivering and tailor a sales and marketing strategy that calms customers’ fears and builds a relationship of trust.

No one doubts that developing a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy has been a struggle for many MSPs, particularly smaller companies founded by engineers that have tended to emphasize technical skills and rely strictly on word of mouth to win clients to their business.

“Most MSPs are led by individuals with strong technical skills but little formal training in, or understanding of, sales and the sales process,” said Peter Kujawa, president of Locknet Managed IT Services, an MSP based in Onalaska, Wis., and a division of EO Johnson Business Technologies. “I find that many of these MSPs look at sales as a low-skill occupation and something that anyone should be able to do, and this is not correct. Great salespeople and sales managers are every bit as skilled as great technical employees.”

As MSPs find a way to transition from a customer referrals-based business to a more formalized sales and marketing practice, they also have to keep up with customer demands for new technology. With the rise of cloud computing, the elevated concern over cyber-attacks and the emergence of other technologies such as mobile devices and big data analytics, MSPs are finding that customers are more tech savvy and their IT demands are constantly changing.

Selling IT to customers has also changed. In recent years there’s been a shift from selling products to selling services which requires a different sales and marketing model from the one used by other channel businesses such as value-added resellers (VARs).

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