One of the biggest sales challenges VARs and MSPs face is walking the fine line between being flexible and being firm. The former entails being accommodating, whereas the latter usually entails telling a customer ‘No.’
During one of my interviews at a recent trade show, the topic of saying ‘No’ to customers came up with Ben Barber, the healthcare account manager at ProTech, and IT service provider that’s been honored by Ingram Micro for its industry leadership and cloud services success. Like other MSPs, ProTech wrestles with the issue of when to be flexible and when to be firm.
Barber shared with me a new strategy that ProTech put in place a while ago that’s yielding positive results. “Like many MSPs, we offer various bundled solutions, which typically include BDR, email archiving, spam filtering, and AV,” he says. “Sometimes a customer will try to get us to itemize our offering, so they can pick and choose certain components they want. For example, a customer may say, ‘I’ll go with your email archiving and filtering, but I just want the local backup part of your BDR, and we want to use our own AV solution.’” In the past, ProTech would often give in to such requests, but over time it came to regret those exceptions. “What typically happens is that the customer forgets to renew the AV licenses that it wanted to manage itself and it picks up a virus that causes all sorts of problems that the customer then expects us to resolve at no extra charge,” says Barber.
When ProTech decided to put a stop to itemized selling, Barber recalls that some customers were initially taken aback. “They would say things like, ‘Are you saying that you don’t want our business?’” says Barber. “I’d say, ‘Yes, we want your business, but if you don’t purchase our complete solution, you’re not going to get what you need, and we won’t be able to monitor and service you as effectively.’” Barber admits that the decision not to itemize did cause ProTech to walk away from some business opportunities. However, more than half of those who walked away came back within three months – usually after experiencing an IT problem that caused several hours of downtime.
Not every client comes back after you tell them ‘No’ to their request. But, if you help them realize that you’re making a decision that’s in their best interest – not just yours – it will work out in your favor more often than not. And, for those that still don’t want to work with you, chances are that they are the same ones that would have been the neediest and least profitable anyway.