For MSPs, the coveted place of honor in a client relationship is that of Trusted Advisor. I can remember looking forward to the days I could spend time with a client who treated me that way and then loathing the time at the clients that “just didn’t get it.” If you’re wondering how to know whether or not you’ve achieved Trusted Advisor status, let me start with 5 sure signs you ARE NOT a trusted advisor:
1. You never know if the client will come in on Monday with “the new server” from Costco.
SOLUTION: If you’re the trusted advisor, the client would know that a “new server” is not a tower computer from Costco, but rather a strategic business decision that their trusted advisor will have helped them plan and prepare for from a strategic, organizational, budgetary, and tactical execution standpoint. The trusted advisor viewpoint is important.
2. You overhear a client say the “the computer guy is always here on Wednesdays” 18 months after you started coming on Tuesdays.
SOLUTION: If you are still selling recurring onsite hours, don’t worry, just make sure that you are getting the return on the investment you make as a MSP to deliver those hours. Every visit should involve time, even just brief hellos with the key departmental/business leaders, and especially time with the primary decision maker/key influencer. You need to work to break through the “computer guy” moniker and drive a relationship to a point where the key users/managers of a client know exactly when you are going to be there because they are counting on your insight, and skill, not just that you can clean some malware. (Of course you have to be able to do that well too.)
3. You’re constantly renewing individual workstation AV licensing.
SOLUTION: A trusted advisor’s impact is clear in the way IT is implemented and managed at a customer. Centralizing management of all key applications, like AV is a foundational aspect of sound IT management. If you’re client hasn’t been able to see the value of your strategy, after working with you for a while, then your bigger problem is repairing the relationship so that they trust you with the core security management of their environment. You must lead the customer in these areas.
4. You have to fight for every system upgrade or server project.
SOLUTION: This is a tricky area, especially lately, but a trusted advisor will always take into account the needs and demands of the business when proposing a new server project or system upgrade. The client will ask “Why should I do this upgrade/project?” and the answer from a trusted advisor should be a solid business case. The answer should never be “just because.” You didn’t like that answer from your parents when you asked them why you couldn’t stay out until 4am in high school, expect your client to respond the same way. The main difference is that your client can fire you.
5. One day they fire you and you are surprised.
SOLUTION: If things aren’t going well at a client, you should know it and they should know it. You and the client should agree on the details where problems lie, and one of the activities that builds the most trust is acknowledging problems and showing the client how you will fix the problems. (Whether you caused them or not.) If things are bad and you get the proverbial divorce papers from a customer, if you are surprised then you got what you deserved.
READER CHALLENGE: Build a list of your clients and go through and put a check mark next to the ones you have “Trusted Advisor” status with. Then consider the results.
Are already a Trusted Advisor for most of your clients? Stay tuned for how to take that Trusted Advisor role to the next level?