19 Mar New Product For MSPs: “Partnership As A Service”
Creating Successful Collaboration Opportunities Is Easier Than Ever
Networking is an undervalued resource. If you list the collective skills, knowledge, and work capacity of the IT professionals in your ecosystem, it just might blow your mind. Think of the things your company could do with that VIP-caliber team working behind the scenes. Together you could support virtually any customer, no matter what markets or part of the globe they serve, with the widest array of solutions possible.
For example, a small MSP might not have the resources to bid on a campus-wide university project. Partnering with the right mix of partners will grow its available workforce and allow them to tap into each company’s unique set of technical skills and support capabilities. A POS (point of sale) specialist could tackle the food services applications while the network teams install new wireless devices and set up the computer systems. Other partners could install access controls and surveillance equipment.
Working as one collective unit, you’d be unstoppable.
Other than those in that strong network of partners, no one could touch your solution stack and competencies. Sounds like the perfect business model, right?
Of course, that would be an ideal opportunity ‒if only it were easier to identify great collaboration partners with whom you could forge these highly productive, mutually beneficial relationships. Finding people that you trust who run organizations with the right culture and market alignment doesn’t happen every day. Many IT services companies struggle to find just one or two companies that could fit that description.
What does it take to forge a solid IT services partnership?
#1 Unified Commitment
Trust must be a cornerstone of every partnership. Mutual respect is essential to the longevity of relationships, whether those connections are personal or merely a way of driving new and expanded business opportunities. Each party must have faith that the other parties will each fulfill their respective roles.
For example, every partner must feel confident that its clients are receiving the same top-level support they would deliver themselves. Treat all customers equally; from device and application implementation to onsite support and consulting services, every partner should view its alliance clients like their own lifelong accounts. They all become part of the family.
Can you find partners willing to go the extra mile for your clients when needed? Inversely, it’s just as critical for your company and every team member to make the same commitment to their customers. That unified mission is critical to the long-term success of the relationship and all involved ‒ especially collectively served clients.
Businesses invest a lot of time and money building their brands. Collaboration partners’ employees might not need to switch hats and uniforms to service your clients, but they should act and dress in a professional manner when representing your company.
Those interactions are often by phone ‒ including support, customer service, and sales calls ‒ so partners should craft script outlines and “do’s and don’ts” to ensure everyone follows certain conversational standards. The dialogue should flow and not restrict employees from doing their jobs. In other words, standards should encourage callers to be their best professional selves, with simple guidelines to ensure every client experience is similarly satisfying.
Familiarity and comfort are two key ingredients for building a productive business relationship. Each team member must feel welcome and warm when working with other partners and be willing to extend the same courtesies to their counterparts in other organizations.
Culture involves shared values and business priorities. Some companies have serious work environments with structured office spaces and well-controlled activities, while others have more relaxed surroundings with fewer restrictions. Mixing two IT services businesses from different ends of this spectrum can be difficult. One side (if not both sides) will inevitably try to get the other to change, which can create issues for owners as well as their clients.
Organizations are complicated with diverse personalities and priorities, which is why most MSPs seek out partners with a similar culture. Aligning like-minded businesses usually minimizes the frustration and lowers the learning curve for everyone, including employees, owners, and shared clients.
Vertical expertise goes deeper than technology. With so many regulatory changes and rapidly shifting customer solution requirements, the complexity involved in supporting certain markets and the workload gets more onerous each year. Specialists with a deep understanding of those customers and the market dynamics are an invaluable resource.
Whether developing a long-term business relationship or tapping specific expertise to fill the occasional gap in your solution set, partnering to increase your vertical capabilities can be beneficial to both sides.
Alignment here isn’t crucial. Many IT services partnerships involve companies from different vertical markets, each leveraging the knowledge and skills of others to drive more business. They may grow wallet share with existing accounts by expanding their solutions/services portfolio, or collectively leverage sales and marketing resources to target new prospects.
What it all means
A well-designed partner network increases your capacity to take on additional clients and integrate with new markets while delivering more services to your existing customers. The process for developing alliances is not complicated, but it does require you to pay closer attention to specific client needs and opportunities. You also need to identify and screen associate prospects and complete your due diligence to ensure the fit makes sense for your respective companies (overlap in particular).
To prevent those situations from developing, each party should complete the following checklist:
1. Establish the rules of engagement
2. Determine ownership of each customer relationship
3. Agree on engagement and revenue formulas (who gets paid for what?)
4. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the other partners’ business models
5. Formalize agreements (multiple templates may be required) and manage like any vendor or manufacturer contract
6. Set recurring account meetings to assess performance, target improvements, and identify new opportunities
Communication is key. While the alliance building process may not be quick and certainly won’t be worry-free, frequently talking about problems and opportunities will help strengthen the bonds between team members.
The rewards of collaboration are too big to pass up. Consider how the right partners could boost your support options, drive new revenue, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. These alliances can be highly worthwhile ventures for all parties involved.