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Customer-Focused Go-To-Market Strategies for Growing Your Service Provider BusinessCustomer-Focused Go-To-Market Strategies for Growing Your Service Provider Business

Want to stay out of the race to the bottom? Get outside in.

September 28, 2017

4 Min Read
Customer-Focused Go-To-Market Strategies for Growing Your Service Provider Business

Are you inside out? No, I am not talking about your laundry—I am talking about your go-to-market approach. Are you putting your customer at the center of your business, or are you putting your processes, governance, systems, organizational structure, policies and sales process at the center? I talk to approximately 100 service providers per year from around the globe, and most are bound by their internal stuff. (I was going to say crap, but I decided better.)

For example, a service provider (with telco origins) offering public cloud requires customers to provide a “circuit ID” when calling in for support. Circuit ID—really? They are public cloud customers and have nothing to do with telco circuits. (Is that even a thing anymore?) Along these same lines, I see service providers approaching their sales process from the inside out. Here is what I see as a common sales motion:


  1. Aware of buyer. The salesperson hears there may be opportunity.

  2. Close deal. The salesperson is focused on the buyer to get the deal closed.

  3. Upsell. The salesperson checks in from time to time to see if there is an opportunity to upsell/cross-sell other opportunities.

  4. Rollover. The salesperson hopes that the contract will just roll over (for another year) at existing rates.

OK, before you say “not here,” take a step back and see if your sales motion is based on your internal goals. And stay with me while I propose an outside-in motion.

Here is what customers do. I had my own version of this, but Technology-as-a-Service Playbook, How to Grow a Profitable Subscription Business by Thomas Lah and J.B. Wood presents the cycle crisply:


  1. Plan. All the prepurchase discussions, strategies and agreements to assure the buyer that the involved parties have a considered plan to achieve the outcome that is promised by the solution.

  2. Implement. All the traditional technical and human implementation activities designed to stand up the solution as well as prepare the users and their processes. 

  3. Monitor. The ongoing activities of the customer and supplier to determine whether the solution is leading to the designated business outcome objectives. This should be a detailed data- and analytics-driven activity, and just a feeling of satisfaction.

  4. Optimize. The interventions that optimize the outcome. That could include troubleshooting and correcting technical or adoption problems. It also includes identifying what is working well and taking steps to expand that success.

So, what if the service provider built its motion around the customer’s process? It might look like this—again, from Technology-as-a-Service Playbook:


  1. Land. Work with customers and, when possible, be a part of their planning process to help them gather the data to make a good business decision. Customers need to feel comfortable and confident that they can achieve their desired business outcomes with your solution. 

  2. Adopt. This one is a bit trickier. It isn’t just that the customer is “using the service,” which could mean they put a database on the compute instance but haven’t really got it up and running. Adoption is a scale: low, high and effective. Hint: We are striving for effective—meaning it is achieving intended outcomes. This, of course, aligns with the customer’s implement phase.

  3. Expand. As the customer is monitoring the solution, so should you be, because this is where your ability to continue effective adoption occurs. Effective adoption leads to more opportunity by growing trust and delivering business outcomes. Growing your wallet-share within a customer comes through partnership—which, to be clear, is not about occasionally taking someone to lunch to see if he or she needs more of anything. 

  4. Renew. Continuation of services! If the first three steps are happening, renewal time is just another day, your solution is effective, and the customer sees value in your service and trusts you. Do not fear price erosion; it will happen, but with deposits in the “Trust and Value Bank,” overall growth is inevitable.

For those of you who are avid business book readers and business strategy historians, you will remember the book Strategy from the Outside In: Profiting from Customer Value by George S. Day and Christine Moorman, or you may recall Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine. These books came out in 2010 and 2012, respectively, so this is not a new concept. I like the PIMO and LAER approaches to becoming “outside in” in your sales motions, and I see service providers beginning to embrace it.

Want to stay out of the race to the bottom? Get outside in. If you need help, contact the Fueled by NetApp Service Provider Program. The program’s industry experts offer consulting, incubator programs and training partnerships. Read more about the program in the white paper Fueled by NetApp Consulting Overview and in the Is Your Cloud and Hosting Business Fueled by NetApp? blog post.

Mara McMahon has more than 20 years experience in product management at various service providers around the world, including C&W, Savvis, Tata Communications, Verizon and Internap. During her tenure in product management roles, Mara’s primary responsibility was to understand the marketplace and create services based on specific technologies that delivered prescribed revenue and margin to the service provider. She joined SolidFire three years ago, where initially she helped the company refocus its go-to-market efforts for service providers, and then joined the Fueled by NetApp program. Mara’s efforts as part of the FBNA team focused on building out the post-purchase phase of the program.  

Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor’s annual platinum sponsorship.

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