Coming from a background in sales, and growing up in the imaging channel, I admit that saying "no" seems, well, stupid. After all, in the copy/print hardware world, if the price for a new product was a problem, you could always sell used. And if it wasn’t in the budget, they could rent or lease. Everyone with a checkbook and a heartbeat was a prospect, and your job in sales was to sell them something.

 One of the first things I learned in delivering managed IT services is this: “Delivering managed services are never about selling a bunch of things with or without service contracts to everyone; it’s about delivering everything to a select few, and profiting consistently from its delivery. Your bandwidth will define your select few.

"It’s that consistency in profit which affords the MSP the ability to deliver above the expectations of the right customers’.”

A successful Managed Service engagement is the delivering of results accomplished by a collection of components. These components on their own cannot achieve the total result. When Managed Service providers only provide the pieces they cannot control the customer's overall experience. If you can’t control the desired outcome, the client is demanding. You will find yourself struggling in delivering a beneficial SLA. So when potential customers only what you to participate in their IT infrastructure, instead of controlling the infrastructure be cautious. The noise of the uncontrollable will blast away any cohesiveness the right customers will expect. MSPs must say no to prospects who focus on things instead of outcomes. When this discipline becomes their process, they will quickly realize higher margins and much happier internal and external customers.

Delivering managed services is complicated, takes talented people, and is not a commodity business model. MSPs that can’t say no to the wrong prospect will always make excuses to the right customers. So, when you think about it, saying "no" to the wrong prospect is the only way to say "yes" to those who understand and appreciate the value provided by the outcomes they demand.

So never believe that successfully delivered managed services are something everyone is a prospect for. Everyone is a prospect for a computer, a monitor, a server, an email platform. Anyone can sell things, and when customers just buy things, they will aim to pay as little as possible. After all, some sales organizations say yes to everyone. But that’s not selling Managed IT Services. I call it. "Order taking with low margin and unmanaged chaos."

As Managed Service Providers mature in their deliverable, they will realize the value of their remarkability. Regardless of any marketing strategy, all Managed Service Providers will be valued by their remarkability. Customers don’t refer based on your marketing program. Customer referrals are based on their experience, and they value that experience on your remarkability. Today service organizations are learning quickly that their customers’ relationships are second in value to their customers’ experiences.

“You can be the vendor with the greatest relationships and quickly lose to the new unknown competitor who delivers a better experience.”

Your current customers’ experiences will be greatly impacted by the future customers you select. Without standards regarding not only the what, and the how you deliver. Managed Service providers must understand and clearly define who they deliver to as well. 

Ray Stasieczko