3 Steps to Selling Cloud-enabled Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery

Most managed services providers (MSPs) offer storage solutions. But how can you stretch into the business continuity/disaster recovery market? Here's a three-step sales plan from Continuum.

August 5, 2013

6 Min Read
3 Steps to Selling Cloud-enabled Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery

By Continuum Guest Blog 1

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) are fast-growing opportunities for managed services providers. The technology is proven and solid. The bigger challenge involves developing a BC/DR sales strategy to engage your small and midsize (SMB) customers. How should you get started? Here’s the three-step sales process I recommend.

First, a little background for MSPs that are not familiar with the BC/DR opportunity. Fully 91 percent of the world’s top 501 MSPs offer managed storage services. But often, those services involve only on-premises data management. For MSPs, the next logical step is to extend from basic storage to a full-blown, cloud-enabled BC/DR offering that keeps SMB customers running — even if their on-premises data is lost amid a disaster.

Your push from managed storage to BC/DR requires a three-step process:

  1. A thorough assessment of client needs and capabilities

  2. Optimization of the offering

  3. A solid go-to-market strategy

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

1. The Assessment Phase

You need to determine what data and systems are critical to the customer’s business, and what kinds of continuity or recovery mechanisms are in place. Also, how does the customer react to IT disruptions — and is the customer willing to invest in proper business protection? It is also essential to understand the client’s industry to address regulatory or compliance concerns.

The assessment should also include:

  • Examine client policies and standards. The client’s specialized needs are the foundation of subsequent data protection and disaster recovery work. MSPs need an understanding of the operating requirements and environment. Also, revenue-producing systems and regulatory requirements can greatly influence BC/DR decisions.

  • Critically review existing systems. Scrutinize existing equipment with an eye toward systems that should be upgraded or consolidated. Outdated, unreliable underlying hardware, networking, storage, security, applications and bandwidth often can’t support sufficient BC/DR mechanisms and should be replaced or optimized. The same goes for software and management systems.

  • Develop a business impact assessment (BIA): The BIA maps BC/DR priorities including lines of jurisdiction, areas of primary business concern and the order in which systems will be restored. Here, you need to understand the client’s vital business processes, the interdependencies and relationships between the client’s systems and services, and, ultimately, the customer’s data loss tolerance. The BIA is an excellent tool for framing the continuing discussion on BC/DR needs with the customer and for selling long-term BC/DR engagements.

  • Deliver a comprehensive BC/DR plan: The assessment phase concludes with a follow-up to the BIA in the form of a more comprehensive BC/DR plan. This complete plan adds technical specifications, data recovery stratification mapping, and additional details such as testing schedules, contact trees and the parties responsible for reporting and mitigating disruptive events.

2. Optimizing the SMB BC/DR Offering

Now, it’s time for the solution provider to make a case for the sale of BC/DR services. This begins with a firm understanding of the value proposition and is expressed through effective packaging and marketing of services. Detailed performance agreements formalize the service and its guarantees. All of the following elements — together — can form a solid go-to-market strategy:

  • The value proposition: Real value is defined by what the service provider does, not the tools it uses. Consider the inherent value in the plans, policies, processes and professional support the solution provider brings to the BC/DR engagement. This demonstration of technical expertise, experience in supporting customers and the unique requirements of the target market encapsulate the value proposition in a way that will resonate with SMB buyers looking to entrust a partner with critical services such as BC/DR.

  • Product packaging: All of the constituent products, technologies and third-party services the solution provider collects when crafting a BC/DR offering are merely pieces of the puzzle. In aggregate, they make up the differentiated, value-added service SMB customers seek. Solution providers should conspicuously brand these products and services with proper names so that users will identify with the partner’s brand and unique value proposition.

  • Contracts and SLAs: In BC/DR services, performance is more than a promise; it’s a contractual function between provider and subscriber. Proper service-level agreements list the terms under which the MSP guarantees the restoration of data, applications and processes in the event of disruptions. These provisions are typically expressed as the recovery time objective (RTO), a measure of how quickly IT managers can find, access and retrieve protected assets; the recovery point objective (RPO), the time in which the service provider should be able to recover or roll back systems; and the recovery granularity objective (RGO), the level of detailed storage architecture recovery by file, block and transaction level.

3. Go-to-market strategies

The solution provider’s first foray into the SMB BC/DR market represents the most critical time for the success of its services and its continuity and recovery practice. To improve the odds of success, you should follow a structured go-to-market strategy program:

  • Launch a small, manageable number of BC/DR offerings to start. Limiting the menu to one or two key offerings gives you an opportunity to focus on customer segments and gain experience from repeatable implementations. Going too broad at the start could overtax support resources.

  • Scout out early adopters. These first-line BC/DR customers will likely come from your existing SMB accounts. Leverage your existing knowledge of the client’s business and IT systems to help hone the continuity and recovery offering.

  • Set firm sales objectives. These should be defined in metrics such as number of leads, meetings and sales conversions, as well as in actual sales. This is the best way to test sales methodologies and determine if the BC/DR practice can generate sufficient revenue to recoup initial investments and support operations.

  • Field test and collect feedback. Though the BC/DR systems were tested early in the development phase, it is important to test them again under real-world conditions during the launch phase. Here, you can make adjustments and solicit feedback from early adopters to make sure client perceptions are positive. If the perceptions are negative, call a time out and determine next steps to improve your BC/DR service.

Like any new product or practice, however, your development of a new BC/DR offering requires more than simply amassing technology assets and moving toward the sale. BC/DR requires thoughtful business planning to deliver thorough assessments, and an SMB-optimized service with a strong value proposition that resonates in the market.

If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Steve Ricketts is VP of marketing at Continuum, which provides an end-to-end intelligent remote monitoring and management and business continuity platform backed by a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) that enables MSPs to profitably  backup, monitor, troubleshoot and maintain IT environments.

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