by Marc Winter | 10/26/15

Managed IT services has been a fairly recent target growth area in the copier space, yet the managed IT services business has actually been around for about 20 years. MSPs exploded onto the market in the mid to late 90s as the volatile tech bubble sent thousands of IT techs into the ranks of the unemployed. As companies shifted IT to an outsourced model, early MSPs reaped the benefits of “green field” opportunities and a huge supply of qualified techs. Buyers had fewer providers and services to choose from, meaning the MSP business model easily delivered high profit margins per seat, server and billable hour. By 1998, the MSP market started to take off. What else was happening in 1998?

–          Bill Clinton was president, and we were all talking about Monica.

–          Star Wars Episode I was a year away from being released.

–          Pontiac was the high-performance brand for General Motors, and Saturn was still a “New Kind of Car Company.”

–          The Motorola StarTac was a must-have cell phone.

–          Apple launched the revolutionary the Apple iMac.

–          ECi Software (e-automate) was a year away from being formed as a company.

Today, there are over 70,000 MSPs competing for market share, RMM software firms marketing tools directly to end-user IT teams and new technologies coming to market daily. The “simple, repeatable sales process” from 1998 is not built to generate the results dealers expect from the IT business. Today, IT decisions are more complex, more personal and more consultative.

The Best Sales Guidance Comes From IT Buyers

Every day I speak with IT decision makers across a wide range of businesses, and there are several common requirements they each demand from their IT providers:

Stop pitching and start SOLVING. Every MSP rep who walks in the door has an ROI tool, a similar sales pitch and a few qualifying questions to create a quote. But the customer really wants to know how you will help them now and moving forward. The basic benefits of managed IT services will be identical, but the challenges facing each business will be unique. Demonstrating an ability to solve challenges is more important than a typical sales pitch.

Be an amazing resource. Customers hear the same pitches for the same services all the time. The providers who can talk new technologies, strategies and processes are the trusted resources that customers demand. Keep in mind that it’s okay to bring in third-party expertise. Customers know it’s impossible for their resources to know everything, and they’ll appreciate you bringing fresh ideas to the table.

Use your customer knowledge.  Walking into an existing customer to pitch the same services as the dozens of other providers calling on them will not bridge the “credibility gap” they have with you as their copier provider. Customers believe if the copier rep is calling, he’s just selling another box. However, as their copier resource, you have a working knowledge of their business and workflow which gives you an advantage. Customers want to know how you can help, not what you can sell them. Build a story around their unique business using the insight you already have and bridge the credibility gap. This will help you maximize new revenue from your existing book of business.

Sell the VALUE. If your sales model is based on low price, you reduce your chance of earning business. Customers who value their IT place a higher value on your ability to become their trusted resource. They’ll use the lowest bid as a benchmark to negotiate with the provider they would prefer to work with.

There is certainly a need for the MSP sales model to include the basics of a repeatable process, metrics and cost structure. However, today’s customer demands that model to focus more on what they need from a resource rather than pitching services. Once you adapt your MSP business model to how IT decision makers buy today, you can begin to move away from 1998 and toward 2020 – and beyond.

Marc Winter is partner and chief marketing officer of the IT Solution Alliance, an innovative technology company built to transform imaging dealers into successful, next-level IT providers. Winter brings more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience working with clients in the office imaging dealer and OEM space as well as next-generation technology companies. Contact him at