How MSPs and Channel Partners Can Work Together to Grow
Channel Partners seeking to add more value to their client’s can leverage the power of an MSP to grow faster and improve Customer Experience for their clients
Before we get into Managed Services and Channel Partner Responsibility, it is important to brush up on the definition of a Managed Service Provider. Gartner.com defines an MSP as a provider that delivers services, such as network, application, infrastructure and security, via ongoing and regular support and active administration. In NETRIO’s case, we deliver these services on customers’ premises and our own data center that we call the NOC.
Last week, we spoke in depth on how Channel Partners can successfully sell White Label Managed Services. This week, we will dive into what the relationship with an agent looks like and where the responsibility falls within the partnership. If you have missed our Blog Posts in our #whiteboardwednesday series, make sure to read those to get a full understanding of the onboarding/offboarding process, contract negotiations, outsourced communication and more. To check out last week’s video and more, follow NETRIO on YouTube.
Managed Service Process
In this week’s episode, Mike Cromwell and Brian DeVault discussed the Managed Service Process and where the responsibility lies for each party. Below, you will see the whiteboard color coordinated to show who owns which responsibility.
Brian DeVaultThen we talk about go to market strategy, our target customer. This is kind of a gut check for who you want your ideal customer to be as a company. Typically, organizations like to focus that around something like a vertical, but it can also very frequently be company size. It's probably not the SMB. SMBs have a tougher time consuming managed services than some other organizations. You want to create your target customer so that you have a focus for your sales force to go out and knock down some sales.
Brian DeVaultCreating your sales and marketing strategy around your product is important. Obviously the product is paramount there and you need to be developing that strategy. So all these things are sort of prerequisites and dependencies on the previous items. In that marketing content, you can create some additional brochures and slicks or things that complement your product documentation. Product documentation itself is probably a little more technical in nature than what the marketing content is. Marketing content, you're kind of looking for high level summary of benefits from the product and what it brings to the table.
Brian DeVaultAnd then branding, obviously productization of a service is a complex process that you go through. We've already gone through that process and we allow our white label partners and agents to just assume our branding. So we have product lines that we attach to each of our managed service offerings that are essentially transparent to Netrio and to the customer. So you could very well be "Technical Partners Inc. Vigilance" or "Technical Partners Inc. Alliance", or they can take any of our product brands and white label them with their mission, vision, value and logo and move directly to market.
Mike CromwellThat's important, too, because we both know, Brian, that if - you've got to make it easy and it's also one of those things, it's speed to market. If you want to develop that on your own capability in-house, there's a whole lot of work that has to get done and it can mean the difference, it can be a 12 month difference in terms of the difference between doing white label with the right partner versus building your own capability, can be a year. And given the market today, that's opportunity cost in terms of missing out on what's a land grab that's going on right now.
Brian DeVaultThe whole thing is about speed to market. And really for our service providers, it's about expanding the portfolio of services they offer to include some of the things that we offer and with the ability to white label our documents that we've already got, thirty six months in R&D and production to extend that capability to the partner is just very powerful.
Mike CromwellHow many documents, templates, pieces of content do you think Netrio has to date around this product that we hand over to a white label partner that's going to jump in a market knowing the product?
Brian DeVaultAcross the life cycle of these processes that we're going to outline today, including project management and onboarding and ongoing support of the clients, I'd say upwards of 50 different points in this process they'll be used, but we'll make reference to some here in a minute as well when we get into the project management process.
Mike CromwellAnd so I'm going to dive into the sales components, which are certainly critical. And what we're going to do here, we're going to give the view of the process as if Netrio was going to take a client end to end itself without a partner engaged. Now, I mentioned before, Netrio formerly had a direct sales focus. Now Netrio is a one hundred percent channel. So I show this because regardless of whether it's Netrio selling it direct or whether it's sold through a channel partner or the sole white label, the steps are all the same.
Mike CromwellAnd we certainly encourage our partners to follow these. But the sales process in two parts, the first front up front end is where you qualify, educate and do the design for the solution you're going to present. In the step shares obviously prospecting for the right client and dialing in at target markets is key because you don't want to waste sales resources' time and you certainly don't want to take the solution into the wrong type of client. That's going to cost everybody a bunch of cycles.
Mike CromwellAnd then it's education for where the client is in their buyer's journey. Then it's assess and evaluate, help the customer define their requirements, nail down at least initial budgetary pricing, certainly be in tune with what are the business drivers, financial outcomes the client is trying to engineer to. And then it's solution design, technical design as really that first part of the sales process. And once you get to the end of that, you've likely got a client that is far down the path you're engineering towards a proposal, and that leads us to the next steps which are propose, negotiate close.
Mike CromwellIf you're looking at this as a sales process it would be six stages across the top, but for the purpose of keeping it high level, we're condensing here for you, but at this stage it's finalize and tweak the proposal. As everybody that's watching knows it's iterative process because you may start off thinking you're going to do one thing and through the education, defining requirements, working on the budget, you adjust the proposal accordingly. Then once you get to final design, then you're papering up the agreement, customer terms, conditions, any financial arrangements if, let's say you've got to procure hardware, put together the final paperwork, which includes the order and by the way, all that can take place in six months for a large strategic deal that's hundreds of locations, it can be a lot shorter than that for the customer that wants to move fast. We're seeing a lot of that now. I mean, we've seen how many deals, Brian, have we seen where customers looking and three weeks later they're moving forward? So, they can move fast. And then what happens is paperwork's drawn up in Nirvana for any sales partner, whether you're an agent or selling it white label.
Mike CromwellNirvana is whatever you agree to with the client, gets memorialized in the paperwork in the SOW and gets handed off in the form of a package, hopefully with as much complete as possible.
What Does Working With A Partner Look Like?
A partner can mean an agent, a trusted advisor, an IT consultant, or value added reseller. We have even some MSPs sell as an agent, so it is a broad term. In more simple terms, this means NETRIO will remain the contracting entity. Everything will be billed by NETRIO, they contract with NETRIO, and orders are processed by NETRIO. This also includes all of the management responsibilities. However, NETRIO will be outsourcing the sales and the management of certain capabilities to an agent who’s going to be paid by NETRIO.
In the example color-coded above, the partner-owned activities are heavily weighted towards the front end of the sales process. The color grey represents everything that is jointly owned. This is where we will be working with the partner mainly through the sales process through submission of the orders to make sure it is done correctly. After this step, it is handed off to the NETRIO team to do the heavy lifting of the process. Each partner relationship is different, but some agents will want to be involved in steps beyond the sales process.
Importance of Following the Process The MSP Provides
If the MSP has a system in place, it is in everyone’s best interest to follow the process. It works out best when the partner is able to use the templated documents that we provide. If everything is followed to plan and the MSP has a good system in place for partners, it is a well-oiled machine. The end goal is always a clean handoff of roles and responsibilities, so it is critical that this is adhered to during the course of the process and everybody will benefit from the outcome.
Each agent will be different and the graph above will show places where most agents will step in the most. Some agents may own the customer relationship a little more than in other arrangements. But having a solid baseline (like the above color-coded chart) will allow the partner to participate in a few more of the activities or lean a little heavier in one area.
Advice for Partners
NETRIO’s advice for channel partners is to really leverage the MSP’s Channel Team to really learn the process. Typically, after three engagements, most channel partners really understand the process and understand the resources at their disposal. The relationship will grow more solid with time and communication. Historically for NETRIO, once you get to five customers that have been set up, they’re pretty self-sufficient on not only the stuff you see here green, but some of the things you see here in grey.
This blog post is part of NETRIO’s weekly White Board Wednesday series. Follow along on Linkedin and YouTube each week as Brian and Mike discuss use cases, new technology, and trends. The goal is to provide insights for enterprise customers and channel partners, trying to solve complex problems using technology.