I've told this story before in my books (Bear Attack SEO for MSPs & Video Marketing for MSPs); however, it still stays with me today in my head, and one of the biggest reasons I serve MSPs - I'm going to repeat it here as it was one of the lowest points in my IT career and something you may be able to relate to.

My 1st proper IT job was managing 300 endpoints across 50 locations. I'd built PCs and installed and flattened OS's, but when it came to servers and networks, I had no clue what I was doing.

I had support though- anything I couldn't figure out, I could escalate to our comanaged MSP.

I held this position for five years, and by the third year I'd figured out about networks and servers and even managed to reinstall our Citrix presentation servers onto new metal.

Citrix PS 4.5 Glory Days!

As time went on managing this network, I felt as if I only knew a tiny fraction of how IT works and wanted to see other networks, infrastructure and technology.

In the background to all this, I'd also built up a successful part-time break-fix business. I was acquiring leads and sales via Google search and ads.

I soon went full time into the break-fix business and decided to start contracting out of my IT manager role. My employer at the time did not want me to leave the payroll and offered me a 50% rise. I kindly declined - I was more interested in business than staying in an IT manager role.

There was something I loved about attracting new business - serving the business was secondary. I thought I'd found some sort of magical key when I was ranking top in Google for local IT search terms.

I had some big lessons to learn in business, but they came with time and experience. The ten phone calls a day I was getting through google served me well and helped me make the decision to leave my employer.

What I did not understand at the time was that the break-fix business model is a broken model - you can't scale it, and you'll always be looking for the next job.

Twelve months in, I had a decision to make - hire someone to help with the repairs or quit.

I was overworked.

The repair business was a lifestyle. It allowed me to pay the bills and live, but it was too much work for too little money. The long term viability of such a business diminishes over time - you just have to look around at the type of devices that are now on the market and the fact that a large majority are not repairable.

This fact and the throwaway culture we have led me to conclude my business had an expiry date, and employing another repair engineer would just mean I had to find more work to pay the added salary - the break-fix model was a thing of the past.

The Cloud & The Dream

My first role in an MSP was that of an engineer. The past MSP that helped co-manage our Citrix environment had lost one of its head sales guys.

He'd started up on his own and offered me a job. In return, I'd learn all about the other technologies, networks and types of customers the world had to offer.

I jumped at the chance - there was a certain allure with working on multinational oil and gas clients. In return, I handed my old employer's contract over to him, and we served the support fully under his MSP.

It's one of the smartest ways I've seen a nimble MSP reach escape velocity.

He'd built relationships with a bunch of local IT managers and offered them a job at this MSP in return for servicing the old employer.

There is an element of risk to this, but the strategy allowed him to concentrate purely on the sales aspect of the business while the IT managers, now engineers, focused on the tech.

It was another five-year stint with this MSP. Three years in, I got bored of the technology. I'll explain why.

What I realized was that most IT the world over is the same, IE Microsoft - if you know one system, you know them all.

What is different is the customers and relationships you as the engineer, owner or sales guy have with that customer.

I'd come full circle, helping many hundreds of end-users and businesses with their technology problems. I looked around at the more senior engineers in the MSP, and it struck me - if I wanted to progress being a tech can only get you so far.

With this understanding, I decided to enter a new role in business development. This, in all cases, is a fancy title for an IT salesperson.

I had at the time no sales experience or indeed lacked interpersonal skills - I am to this day an introvert, and the tech background acted as a buffer, so I didn't have to deal with the real world and interact on a social level.

Getting lost in the tech for me was and still is an excuse I use on myself instead of building relationships in business.

I still get bogged down in marketing tactics and technologies - I'd much prefer looking up an SQL table instead of picking up the phone and speaking with a prospect.

The business development role forced me into a corner, and I soon understood my own nature and what had to change.

It was tough; I had to learn all about networking, building relationships and figuring out the whole MSP sales process.

Luckily I had some help along the way. Firstly, BNI helped me not only from a business networking side but also taught me about presenting, timekeeping and building referral partners.

BNI is very much like marmite - that English breakfast toast spread - you either hate it or love it.

To tell you the truth, when I started, I hated it.

Early mornings - the fact I had to dress well, I had to speak to other people, present to a room full of people, get referrals, meet other members, invite guests, and find substitutes for weeks I could not attend.

So many rules, and so much to conform to.

However, I stuck at it - it was an uphill battle - a real challenge, but it has paid off many times over and still does to this day.

Without the 60 second presentations, there would have been no Video Marketing for MSPs - there would have been no IT Rockstars.

When it comes to BNI I see it as something you have to try - it's a good learning experience and like it or hate it you will form some relationships over those early morning breakfasts -if you can weed out the time-wasters and find ideal referral sources those relationships will outlast your BNI membership.

Let us circle back to the MSP I was employed in for a moment.

I strangely felt naked and alone - there was no lead list handed to me or prospects.

I was left to my own devices.

Looking back on this time, I should have been handed a list of contacts that the owner had quoted or spoken to in the past but had failed at selling to.

If I were hiring a new salesperson, that's exactly where I'd start -if I couldn't convert them, maybe the new salesperson could.

I do question why you would go out of your way to obscure this, but I think it's probably a reflection of an owner-operated sales position - why record it in a CRM or on paper if no one else is going to use it see it?

Short-sighted - and this here is a lesson about why you need to think long term about what you do in your business.

Should I be tracking every conversation, I have with a prospect - yes, you damn well should. That information is golden from both a sales and marketing perspective in years to come.

It gives your sales team activities to be performing, it gives your marketing a target to market to.

Think about that - you might not have a sales team at the moment, or indeed you may have a lazy sales team that are not tracking their activity in a CRM.

A missed opportunity.

The one question I ask all new members that join IT Rockstars on our very first onboarding call is, "do you have a prospects list".

There are a few reasons I ask this question, but it ties back to my own experience as a lost, poor IT salesman. No leads, no prospects, nothing.

In reality, I should have been building a list of prospects and targets.

Organizations that were similar to our existing client base and verticals that we operated well in.

I think at the time, my boss took pity on me and my colleague who had both been wedged out of technical positions to fulfil sales roles.

He hired a sales consultant and the very first task she had us do was create a prospect list.

She was interesting as she did not come across as a salesperson at all, and I was secretly questioning the duties she had me perform.

I remember filling my time with activities that made me look busy to the team, business meetings, networking events and one-to-ones with fellow BNI members; however my actual targets and what I should have been focusing on were not aligned.

Looking back on this activity at the time I was scared - why was she making us build up a list of prospects? We both quickly realized that she was going to make us cold-call these prospects.

I could not think of anything worse to do. It was a real challenge for me to pick up the phone and speak with someone that had no knowledge of who I was or who the company.

To make matters worse, we were forced to make these calls in an open plan office with both the office admin and the sales consultant listening in and hearing us both fail spectacularly.

The occasional laughter from the tech's desks as we struggled to string sentences together was probably highly entertaining, but for me, it was when I learnt an important lesson.

None of the calls we made over a series of weeks led to any in-person meetings or business.

What I did learn about this process was that it was easy to speak with prospects once you go through the gate keeper and over any of your own assumptions about who the call might go.

Little did I know that only if we had a full marketing and sales process, these calls would have made much more sense.

Most of the calls we made got us speaking to our prospects, but their was pieces of the puzzle we were missing.

The first and most apparent was in our limited view of the world and the sales process from start to finish. We were both new to sales and had no idea just how many touchpoints and time were required to go from cold prospect to winning a new MRR contract.

I presumed in my head that one or two of the calls would go somewhere, I'd be sitting down talking to a prospect in the coming weeks about the poor IT support they were currently experiencing from this incumbent supplier, and they'd graceful request, accept and sign a managed service contract.

To coin a phrase by someone I admire, sales is a process, not an event.

Your marketing has to support the initial call - you should be marketing to a list of prospects prior to speaking with them.

It seems so obvious, but it's something that most MSPs don't do or have ignored and try and jump straight to the sales bit.

As I continued my journey as a wannabe salesman, I learnt many lessons.

The most important from an MSP's perspective had to be the time someone enters your sphere of conciseness to becoming a customer. For me personally, this was anywhere from 6 months on average up to 24 months.

The sales journey only starts with that 1st phone call - there are many other touchpoints both before and after prior to the customer signing on the dotted line.

The part that frustrated me and something you might be able to relate to is the feeling that there we no leads. For all the effort I put into my sales, I had a scarcity of leads - people to speak to about technology solutions.

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