When I talk to MSPs, I like to learn more about their operations by asking questions. MSPs come in all shapes and sizes, and each one seems to have a different answer to my questions.
For example, I recently spoke with a group of partners and asked them, ‘’How do you handle automation in your new customer sales pitch?” I got a variety of different answers in response.
Some told me they don’t tell the customer about the automation they have in place, while others said they make sure to highlight it as a competitive differentiator.
So should you get your sales team up to speed on your automation practice? Should they use it in their sales pitch? It depends on several factors, including your approach to sales, the type of customers you’re selling to, and on how well the sales team can explain the benefits of automation. Generally though, I recommend including it in your sales pitch. Read on to find out why I think it can be a good idea.
Telling customers about automation won’t devalue your offering
I think some MSPs are hesitant to mention their automation policy because they’re afraid telling customers about the automation will devalue the services in the customers’ eyes. If you charge for every service you offer (i.e., employ an ‘à la carte’ model), you may not want to tell your customer a human isn’t pressing the button every time. However, automation allows you to offer higher quality services. By removing the human factor, it makes you more reliable—and gives you the ability to offer faster resolution times.
To me, offering automation and custom-built services in an automated manner is a big plus, not a negative. That’s why it should be part of the sales pitch.
To illustrate the difference, you could offer a regular quarterly business review (QBR) and present a detailed report on the state of your customer’s IT environment at that point in time. The report might run to 50 pages and take you several hours to finish. And while the customer may appreciate it, what happens when something goes wrong outside of the time frame in which you completed the report?
By contrast, imagine telling your customer you can monitor their environment in near real time (every 10 – 15 minutes, hourly, etc.), and you’ve built a self-healing system that automatically fixes the most common problems before they even notice them. They would likely appreciate it more than a QBR review.
Explaining what automation allows you to do can help you demonstrate your value. And it’s important to remember automation is a service you can bill for—despite the fact it’s not costing you anything beyond the initial setup and build. One of the biggest misconceptions in the MSP industry is an automated process isn’t worth money since it’s no longer being performed by a human. In fact, it’s worth a great deal because it increases the quality of the work and allows your technicians to focus their time on other, more complex tasks.
Why automated services are still worth the money
To illustrate, let’s say someone in the neighborhood comes to you on Sunday and tells you he will cut your grass, and it will take two hours. You both agree $40 is a fair price. It takes him two hours to cut your grass. After he’s finished, you pay him the $40.
Now imagine a few weeks pass, and he comes back and tells you he’ll cut your grass for $40 again. You remember he did a great job last time, so you agree. He cuts the grass and knocks on your door 20 minutes later to get paid. You wonder what happened, and see he’s invested in a fancy ride-on lawnmower. The new lawnmower is much faster and gives a more uniform, higher quality cut. At that point, do you decide you owe him less money because it took him less time? Or does the investment in a better tool (that allows him to deliver a higher quality service in less time) mean it’s worth the same? You would probably pay him the $40 and be happy with the quality; I know I would.
My point is you shouldn’t be afraid to tell your customers you do lots of things for them, and that some of that is automated. Customers and prospects will likely appreciate the honesty—and gain a better understanding of why they don’t have issues as often as they did with their previous MSP. Of course, you should regularly report on the things you do that make your customers’ lives easier to remind them over time of the value you add.
If you’ve created an automation policy and would like to share it with the community, please feel free to email me at [email protected].
As always, don’t forget to check the automation cookbook if you’re interested in other automation policies, script checks, and custom services.
Marc-Andre Tanguay is head automation nerd at SolarWinds MSP. You can follow him on Twitter at @automation_nerd.