Much has been written and taught about the “holy grail” of IT service providers -- to become your clients’ “Trusted Technology Advisor.” But don't stop there. The next logical step is to become your customers' Embedded Technology Advisor. Here's why.
The goal is to move your status beyond being simply a vendor or supplier of the IT products and services that your clients require. Instead, you want to be positioned as a party to – and influencer over – your clients’ IT product and service purchasing decisions. It also means that even if you don’t always walk out of those meetings as the primary supplier, you may have control over who does get the business… and an opportunity to manage the implementation.
While it is critical to earn the trust of your clients to provide them with the best advice on technology matters that impact their business, there’s an equally-important and often over-looked aspect of this challenge. You need to “be there” when the decisions are being made.
As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”, and with advent of managed service contracts and remote monitoring and management tools, more and more IT services are delivered virtually, with little or no personal interaction. Add the proliferation of e-commerce sites and electronic purchasing portals and it is easier than ever for your clients to go around you and buy their products on-line.
So, while your clients may well value your input and take your advice and recommendations when you are involved with IT purchase decisions, with the rapid pace of business these days they may often forget to consult with you, or those decisions may be delegated to someone in the company with whom you have little to no direct interaction.
The Next Big SwitchThat’s why I think it’s critical for you to be your clients “Embedded” Technology Advisor, not just their “Trusted” Technology Advisor.
To be clear, when I say “embedded,” I mean working with your clients to deploy technologies that actually put you in direct control over their technology purchases, or to become the “channel” through which their product and services transactions take place.
That’s the primary reason we began rolling out our Taskfire co-managed service desk last year, and why, earlier this year, Autotask purchased VARStreet -- the hosted technology products procurement platform. These two products are examples of enabling technologies that literally “embed” your company inside your client’s technology purchasing apparatus.
With VARStreet, for example, you can work with your clients’ management teams to establish pre-set guidelines on the specific types of products and technologies they plan to purchase (which you can then service and support). You can easily create and provide a unique and private technology purchase portal for that client, with just the products that are right for that client, at price margins that you have pre-negotiated. You can even include your own products and service bundles. And from there, the entire quote-to-bill cycle is automated.
As an example of “embedding” on the service side, Taskfire allows you to deploy a hosted IT service desk solution to your clients that is directly linked to your own service desk. You configure the clients’ system based on the level of internal IT resources they may have. You set it up very simply, with all client issues flowing through an internal office manager or “gatekeeper” before they come to you, or in a highly sophisticated “co-managed” services arrangement, tickets can be automatically or manually distributed between the client’s internal resources and yours. In either case, you are supplying the platform through which all IT services are being rendered, giving you 100% visibility into your clients’ service-related activities and opportunities.
If you are already the Trusted Technology Advisor for your clients, you’ve accomplished the hard part. But to truly leverage that relationship, start using the tools available today to get yourself “embedded” in your clients’ businesses.
Bob Godgart is the CEO of Autotask Corp., developers of Autotask hosted professional services automation software, the VARStreet family of advanced quoting and e-commerce tools and Taskfire, a hosted service desk and ticket management system sold by IT solution providers for businesses of all sizes with internal IT resources. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor’s annual platinum sponsor program. Read all of Bob’s guest blog entries here.