Referral Sources To Help Grow Your MSP Client Base

By Scott Millar •  Updated: 11/27/18 •  8 min read

I'm sure you'll agree when I say the hardest part about MSP sales is generating leads.

In this post, I'm going to outline the best referral sources that can help refer MSP leads to your IT business.

The three I've experienced are Accountants, Lawyers & Architects I'm going to explain why I believe these to be the great referral sources for an IT business and how to go about building a relationship with these types of professionals so that they'll be handing you referrals every week.


Before we get stuck into the nitty-gritty here, it's worth mentioning that the referral source system I used was thanks to BNI. Now I know that BNI is not for everyone and the truth be told I got more personal satisfaction from BNI in helping me become more confident with presentation skills and relationships that the business side. There's a big but - and that's how BNI opened my eyes to building business relationships with individuals in companies that could quickly and freely pass referrals to my IT business.

You don't need BNI to do this, but it can help kick-start that business relationship.

My first experience with BNI was not good. I was a systems engineer at the time, and my boss had me subbing for him. Men in suits were something I'd always avoided where possible. I was freaking out - to make matters worse. It was an early start.

Anyway, I got through it but was very nervous reading word for word the 60 seconds my boss had prepared.

The 2nd time I visited BNI, it was a complete failure. I chickened out completely. My boss was pissed, and I just gave the excuse that I slept in. Big fat fail!

3rd time lucky - well it had to be as I was now out of the role of the system and chasing the fat juicy commision at the end of the month in business development.

What I learned in the following four years was that building a relationship with individuals in the business community is not just a personal thing. It can help your business as well as they can act as a referral source.

Depending on how close you become you'll find they'll be going out their way to refer business to you.

There is, however, one thing to be aware of. Some businesses will never be able to pass you referrals - they aren't strictly related enough to be able to recommend an MSP to their clients - that usually because their clients are on the consumer/residential side. An excellent example of this is the trades. Joiners and plumbers can easily pass business and act as, but your average homeowner is not looking for MSP services.

As mentioned at the start of this post - the three best referral sources I've experienced are accountants, solicitors (lawyers) and architects.

Here's why:

Referral Source #1 Accountants

Accountants - specifically accountancy firms that deal with small to medium size business (most MSPs are targetting 10-75 user size office-based companies) We want to focus the types of accountancy firms that work with these size of the market. We also want to keep the search local again if you're a regular MSP/IT business there's the local element to take into consideration. Not all IT support requests can be made remotely.

So why accountants? Well, they usually deal with the business owner or the finance director. Nine times out of ten they've got some relationship with the decision maker. When it comes to IT/MSP lead gen - the decision maker is usually the owner or the finance director. This is a prime target.

The bonus of the accountant referral source is the fact that most people see their accountant as a trusted advisor to the business. They know what they are talking about and if they mention you as a good IT business to provide support with, then this is almost a perfect referral.

Referral Source #2 Lawyers

Similar to accountants solicitors and lawyers are (usually) a trusted advisor to most small to medium size business. I'm talking about a commercial lawyer and not an ambulance chaser type arrangement.

The law firm that helped draw up your MSP contracts is an excellent place to start. If there drawing up contracts for IT business then there's a good chance they are drawing up contracts for all types of local businesses.

I've had outstanding experiences with the solicitor in my old BNI chapter. She's retired now, but at the time she was an epic BNI member. Almost always the most referrals every week and always put the work in.

The referrals I got from her were perfect. She was dealing with exactly the right types of business our MSP was at the time, and I'd put down to her around £500,000 worth of business generated.

We however never won her law practice as a client. At the time we'd just started working with VOIP and the experience the firm had...well let's say when it came time for the IT tender they stuck with their current provider.

I think that's a lesson right there. Sell the core service that you are good a first - don't start with the extras! (I go against this thinking with referral source number 3)Enter your text here...

Referral Source #3 Architects 

This is an exciting referral source. Mainly because it's never really worked for me but that's probably due to the lack of relationship I've had with Architects/Construction companies.

The logic here is that if you speak with commercial architects or construction companies locally, they know what businesses are expanding their operation or moving to new premises.

Because architects are always one of the first contacts in this process, there's plenty of lead time until the business is

But what type of help exactly is that? Well with all the new buildings they'll need network cabling and internet connectivity. This is where your IT business comes in.

While structured cabling or connectivity may not be your core service, it can help start the relationship with a new business that's expanding or moving premises.

Building on from that initial phase it's just a matter of keeping up the lines of communication with the referral and the referral source. Once you've struck a deal on the internet connection setup then, of course, they're going to need a new router, switch and full wifi through the new/expanded premises.

This is where you can swoop in and take over all the IT services - have the whole move fully managed from the old location to the new site and with that new office a much better level of IT service.

Referral Program

This is something that I've not had any direct experience with. I think the fact is because it does seem like a cultural thing here in the UK. I get the sense us Brits would feel that it cheapens the IT service and relationship with our existing customers and contacts.

However, the direct argument to this is that you're going to be growing your IT business and at the same time your contact base and existing clients will be rewarded financially for referring business. It's a win-win for all parties. I do like that logic and see this working for our US-based readers.

I know it's one of the many tactics outlined in Robin Robin's Technology Marketing Toolkit program.

How does a referral program work?

As part of your weekly blog posts, newsletters and press releases you should mention your referral program. How this works in the MSP industry is usually with either a month's worth of commision going to the referral source or a % of revenue generated by the referral.

It's something I've implemented myself in the white label IT marketing content that I provide to MSPs. There are many vendors in the MSP space, and I've formed good relationships with a number of them so it's in their interest to help me as I can help them with a cut of the sales commision.

Of course, referrals are not the only source of quality leads to your IT business. I talk about this extensively and how things like search marketing (SEO/Adwords) are also a quality source of qualified leads. This is because you can be in front of your potential customer when they are actively looking for your services.

Combine this with the correct MSP Marketing Material, and you have a winning formula.

Wrapping this up:

I'd love to hear of your referral sources - real-world examples that we can share with the audience. Of course, you might just be starting with referral sources. Just remember it all comes down to building credible business relationships with the local business community.

Scott Millar

Founder of IT Rockstars, Scott has helped over 300 MSPs & IT service businesses transform their marketing and position them as the local technology leaders in their area.