At some point in their evolution, most mid-size MSPs will come to a critical juncture -- one that will determine whether the future will be characterized by minimal growth and stagnancy, or

April 30, 2009

4 Min Read
The MSP and the Whale: Landing Big Accounts That Feed Growth

By Ken Vanderweel 2

Managed Services GrowthAt some point in their evolution, most mid-size MSPs will come to a critical juncture — one that will determine whether the future will be characterized by minimal growth and stagnancy, or by dramatic expansion. This juncture comes when the MSP looks to land a major, large account; one that can establish an entirely new level of validation and revenue.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to use a very politically incorrect analogy: whale hunting. If ill-prepared, a whale-hunting MSP can meet with disastrous consequences. (Think Moby Dick, only instead of a ship going down, the result can be, at best, a lost opportunity, or, at worst, a disastrous customer experience that spoils reputations and future market potential.) On the other hand, landing that whale can usher in a huge jump in prestige and growth.

What are some of the keys to a mid-size MSP successfully landing a whale? Following are three:

1. Winning Against the Big Players

To land a whale, you’re going to enter into the territory of competitors that are much larger than your organization. This reality has to be understood from the outset.

It’s also important to understand that an account that may look like a whale to a mid-size MSP, say a $2B to $5B enterprise, may be a small fish to the service provider behemoths, such as Computer Sciences Corp. (SCS), IBM, EDS (now owned by Hewlett-Packard), and others. The mid-size MSP can, and must, use this to their advantage.

First, the MSP can articulate the relative value of the prospective whale account to their organization. The new customer would represent, at a minimum, a top ten account, and the MSP needs to articulate the value of that: the customer will get more mindshare among all levels of the organization. Ultimately, the mid-size MSP can deliver more focus, more commitment, and better value.

Further, the MSP needs to stress that services are an art rather than a science. Because the huge players won’t have the same commitment, they’ll be less likely to deliver the tailored services, the responsiveness, or the commitment that ensures a truly successful partnership.

2. Demonstrate Big Processes and Systems

Being small (relative to the behemoths), focused, and committed will only be perceived as a benefit if the MSP can also demonstrate its ability to execute. At this level, MSPs need to give prospects NOC tours, before the large account will sign on. It is incumbent upon the MSP to demonstrate the staffing and resources required to support large, business-critical systems on a 24/7 basis. They also need to demonstrate the resiliency of their infrastructure. Here, being able to point to sophisticated, “enterprise proven” monitoring tools, can be a big asset: they can be vital in proactive systems management that fuels efficiency and service quality. Ultimately, if the MSP is armed with advanced monitoring intelligence, they are more likely to identify and address a potential issue—before the customer encounters it at all.

3. Build a Big Service Catalog

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for an MSP looking to land a whale can be the size of their service catalog. This will be one of the most critical points, one in which the MSP will have to demonstrate an ability to both talk big and walk big. While offering a homogenous, Windows-centric monitoring service may be fine for small business accounts, it won’t cut in whale accounts.

Even if the initial engagement is relatively small, a whale account will want to have assurances that the MSP selected can address their long term needs, and not only support everything they have today—but what they may deploy tomorrow. That means being able to support a heterogeneous mix of platforms, including Windows, UNIX, Linux, and iSeries; all their commercial and custom applications and databases; virtualized and unified communications environments; and, now, even cloud computing environments. Plus, these services need to be able to scale. MSPs will need to demonstrate capacity to manage hundreds, potentially thousands of systems.


As a mid-sized MSP, landing a whale account isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. This first experience can usher in a whole new spectrum of demands and challenges, so there’s a definite element of risk involved. MSPs can’t take this step lightly. On the other hand, there’s a tremendous potential upside: winning a whale account can be a turning point—one that can significantly expand an MSPs revenues and prospects.

If you want to talk more about landing big accounts and you happen to be at the MSPWorld conference (May 30-April 1), stop by the Nimsoft booth and ask for me.

Ken Vanderweel of Nimsoft 2Ken Vanderweel is director of product marketing for Nimsoft. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of’s 2009 Platinum sponsorship.

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