April 11, 2024

Episode 20: Cracking the Code on MSP Relationships

Listen to the Podcast

Read the Transcript

Erick and Rich discuss the larger lessons for the channel in Gmail’s 20th birthday and how to use speaking appearances—especially at in-person events—to boost your credibility with customers, vendors, and peers. Then they’re joined by Channel Mastered colleague Mark Crall for an informed, in-depth conversation about what MSPs value most in a vendor. And finally, one last thing: A bluegrass theme song for this show written and performed by AI.

Discussed in this episode:

Building Blocks of MSP Channel Success Part 1 – Customizing Partner Programs

Building Blocks of MSP Channel Success Part 2: Cracking the MSP Code

Building Blocks of MSP Channel Success Part 3: MSP Sales Hiring 101

Song: Down Home with MSP Chat

Song: The Joy of MSP Chat




4-10-24 MSP Chat Episode 20 audio export

Rich: [00:00:00] And three, two, one, blast off, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episode of the MSP Chat Podcast, your weekly visit with two talking heads, talking with you about the services, strategies, and success tips you need to make it big and manage services. My name is Rich Freeman. I am chief content officer at Channel Master.

The organization responsible for this podcast, I am joined as I am every week by our other co host, our chief strategist at Channel Mastered, Erick Simpson. Erick, how you doing?

Erick: Doing well, Rich. Just getting revved up for Q2.

Yeah, how about that? Didn’t that sneak up on all of us?

Erick: It’s Q2, baby. And Q1 is in the books.

We’re ready and raring to go for Q2. And we hope that all of our listeners. Are focused on improving your Q1 performance in Q2, our podcast and our tips of the week.

Rich: Yeah. And coming up later in the program here we have got an interview for you coming up with our channel mastered colleague, Mark Crall.

Mark is our chief revenue officer. He is also like Erick, an old school MSP. He has been the channel chief for a number of very well known vendors. Some of you I’m sure have worked with. So he’s seen this industry from a bunch of different angles and he’s going to have some very interesting thoughts to share with us on what makes for a really great a MSP vendor relationship that works specifically on the vendor side.

What does vendors need to do to build a great MSP channel? So we’ll get into that with Mark, but first let’s dive into our story of the week Erick. And as we’re recording this this is something that broke in the news just a few days ago because on April 1st, it turns out that this was the 20th anniversary, the 20th birthday Of Google’s gmail service.

And honestly, Erick, I had no idea gmail was quite that old. But it was born on April 1st, 2004. And in fact, a lot of people thought it was a prank an April fool’s day prank, because out of the gate, Google is telling people you’re going to get a gigabyte of storage with this service. And, 20 years ago, a 15 megabyte mailbox was pretty much standard.

You’re giving me a gigabyte. People didn’t, it didn’t compute. It didn’t make sense. But aside from the nostalgia aspect of this I had a thought about it that I wanted to share with you, because I, and the audience, because I think it’s relevant. Today April 1st, 2004, zero users for Gmail.

Today, 20 years later, one, an estimated 1. 2 billion, with a B, Gmail users around the globe, which is a lot. That is a huge number. In fact, that’s about one out of every seven people on planet Earth. Roughly speaking. However, that leaves 6 out of every 7 who could be using Gmail. 54 percent of the world’s population right now, Erick, has a smartphone.

That’s 4. 3 billion people. So 1. 2 billion Gmail users. 4. 3 billion smartphone owners around the world. Again, there’s actually upside still out there for Gmail. This is not a saturated market. You take a look at something like Microsoft Teams. Not too long ago just a few weeks ago, Microsoft reported that they have 320 million monthly active users on Teams.

Very big number. And yet huge amounts of growth potential available for that product as well. And then I’ll just point out too, according to Gartner worldwide, end user spending on public cloud services will grow. 20.4% this year to $678.8 billion. And the thing Erick, that struck me when I heard that Gmail was 20 years old and then dug up, started looking around online to just dig up some statistics and saw that there’s still, after all this time, plenty of growth potential for for Google in the Gmail market.

It just really underscored for me that markets that sometimes feel played out, mature, uninteresting. To folks like you and me and to MSPs in a lot of cases who have been working in these areas for a long time. There actually is still plenty of growth potential. When I was at Nerdio’s NerdioCon conference a few or a month or two ago, this was a point that they made, everyone’s talking about AI, but there is huge opportunity for MSPs still.

Cloud computing, even though there is really nothing new about cloud computing at this point. And AI by the way, is gonna play out the same way We’re, a [00:05:00] little bit over a year and a half or so into the generative AI era. And we’re starting to see solutions arrive and we’re seeing adoption begin to pick up.

Don’t expect the AI market to be anything close to mature. Three years from now five years that we’re at the beginning of what’s going to be a very long arc With that segment and so I guess I would just encourage folks to to take a, take a step back take a neutral perspective on where the revenue and the growth opportunities really are in IT, because sometimes they lie in places that no longer feel like they are hot growth segments.

Erick: Yeah. Those are some really interesting statistics, Rich. And, I’m very impressed, with Google’s growth, but it took them 20 years. 20 years to get to 1. 2 billion. These, and I would assume these are free Gmail accounts, right? So if you look at the stat that you mentioned about Eames having 320 million, these are paid accounts.

How fast, it’d be interesting to assess how quickly it took Eames to get to 320 million paid subscribers. And I would gamble, Rich, that AI adoption is going to outpace both of these, in terms of, people leveraging things like ChatGPT and other platforms that give you access to it.

Now it’s being built into, Microsoft’s building it in as co pilot. It’s in some of our web browsers. There’s a lot of third parties releasing this. But none of them. I won’t say that I’ll back up and say, the one thing that’s also unique about the Google Gmail story is they just gave these subscriptions away, right?

This was a way for them to create, the best lead magnet ever to promote their other services. It’s not quite apples and apples, but I think today if Gmail would have begun with this strategy today, I wonder if they would It wouldn’t have taken them much less time to get that many users, is the way I’m looking at it.

What do you think, Rich?

Rich: I think you’re absolutely right. If you look at the state of PC and smartphone ownership 20 years ago, you think about what broadband looked like in, in those days and how viable it was for People around the planet to be relying on a cloud based email service and so you know that it’s a very different situation.

20 years later and you make a really interesting point. I hadn’t actually thought about it, but you’re right. 320 million monthly active teams users. That’s about 1 Of the global Gmail user base, and it took Microsoft much, much less time to get there which is interesting. And then the last thing I’ll say, I do agree with you as well, I think the there’s adoption and there’s revenue.

We’re already, seeing adoption of AI moving along at a good clip. I think we’re very early on the revenue story outside of a few big players around AI. I do think you’ll see both of those things grow faster. Then the cloud did in part because some of the surrounding infrastructure and connectivity and so on that the cloud needed wasn’t in place when the first cloud solutions became available.

But I do think I will reiterate this is not a short term. Opportunity. It’s certainly not a flash in the pan kind of opportunity around AI. I think it’s going to be a long evolving process for quite a number of years to come such that even when you and I are on this show talking about quantum computing, the next new thing in I.

T. And the first, commercial products are out there, People are going to turn away from AI. We’ve been doing that for, six years as if it’s old news and it will not be anything close. To old news, really from a commercial opportunity standpoint.

Erick: Yeah, it’ll be ubiquitous at that point.

It’s going to be embedded in everything by then, I think.

Rich: But there’ll still be plenty of new ways or new ways to make money and ways to make more money on what you’re doing already. Erick, let’s let’s dive into your tip of the week. What you got for

Erick: us? So Rich, this this week’s tip of the week is all about having the MSPs out there that really want to go that next level of distinction and differentiation between themselves and their competitors in the area of really being recognized and building and strengthening their brand as that of a thought leader in their space.

And, one of the best ways that I’ve experienced earning that kind of recognition has been speaking at live events, speaking on podcasts and [00:10:00] speaking on webinars and to user groups and things like that. User groups, that’s where I cut my teeth at what all this community was all about, 15, 17 years ago when I started really exploring this great channel that we call MSP.

At Channel Mastered, we look for opportunities, Rich, as you well know, to speak at large conferences and events. And the best ways that we have found to do that, and maybe even have some of our costs covered for travel and access to the event itself and passes and things like that, is to write a really Timely and exciting session, title and abstract, right?

So what is it that you as an MSP are really good at? What is the one thing that you can say with confidence that, I’ll go up against anybody in this one thing. You have that kind of expertise. Other MSPs want to know how to do that thing. So my recommendation is be that thought leader, be that influencer, get a nice session title, a nice abstract and look for events that are putting out, they call it the call for speakers, right?

So there’s lots of industry events and even if they don’t have a page or something on their site, figure out who’s in charge of the event, who’s in charge of that. Activity and reach out to them through email and just offer that session abstract and, get out there and start doing it, get on podcasts, talk about the topic, get, be a guest on vendors webinars or community webinars and speak on that topic and really build that up.

And once you’ve got that down cold, I’m to start the next topic in abstract. What’s the next thing? That you want to bring to bear because you can only ride that one topic and session value for so long rich before, okay, we’ve already had, Erick speak on that. What else you got? So this is a way for you to stay sharp to improve your communication and presentation skills.

To know what works and what doesn’t during a presentation. What’s, how many slides are too many slides, right? What to put on each slide and to engage and promote yourself as that industry expert and begin calling yourself that in your title, in your abstracts, this is the way that you get other folks to recognize you.

And like I said, rich, create that distinction and differentiation between yourself. All of your other competitors that aren’t doing this. This is what you can take to new prospect conversations, have it in your marketing materials, and just be more, much more visible. And people want to collaborate with folks that are experts in their field.

Rich: Yeah. I’m a few thoughts on that. And so first of all, I’ll point out, there are probably a lot of people in the audience here. Who are doing speaking but they’re doing it at through lead generation activity. So maybe they’re doing webinars as a way to to get clients or sales prospects.

Maybe they’re doing lunch and learns. So they do some speaking those venues actually are a great opportunity to test and hone the kind of content that you’re talking about to really get your hero session. Nailed, come up with a topic that clearly resonates with people. Figure out, as you said, how many slides is too many?

How many is not enough, really perfect that content before you start going out to events that are organized and run by other people. So that you’re really ready to knock it out of the park when you get to those events. And I would encourage people, I, I think a lot of MSPs, and this is a really smart thing to do, but.

A lot of them are focusing in to some degree on one or more specific vertical industries. And let’s say it’s healthcare in your case, or let’s say dentistry. Go out, research what are the events that dentists are going to. And then get get in touch with the people who are organizing that event.

See if they have a call for speakers out. And if they don’t reach out to the the conference organizers anyway I know an MSP, Mike Ida who you may have met Erick who did a lot of work with veterinarians. And I won’t get into the details, but he last I spoke to him, he’s been a regular at one of the year’s biggest events for veterinarians.

And that kind of began with him offering to speak at this show. And there was nobody talking about it at this conference. They were grateful to have somebody come in and educate the audience. And it was this great opportunity for him. So I really, I think it’s a great great idea. You can position yourself as a thought leader.

You can put yourself out there in front of the world for lead generation purposes. If you get a little more serious about speaking at a wider range of events. Said, Rich. All right. Folks [00:15:00] we are going to take a quick break here. When we come back on the other side, Erick and I are going to be joined by our colleague, our buddy, Mark Crall, Channel Masters, Chief Revenue Officer for a conversation about what vendors who work with MSPs need to know about the things that MSPs really care about.

And and what MSPs really do care about in vendor relationships. We’re going to be back with Mark in just a moment. Stick around.

And welcome back to part two of this episode of the MSP Chat Podcast, our spotlight interview segment. And, if you are a regular listener or viewer of the program just a few episodes back, you know that I was joined as co host temporarily while Erick was out by my channel mastered colleague, Mark Crall.

By golly, we’ve invited Mark back on the show, this time as an interview guest, because Erick and I are desperate to pick his brain a little bit. About some of the lessons that he has learned in the channel so let’s go ahead and meet mark it’ll be the first time for some of you again for for others mark is our chief revenue officer here at channel mastered but mark tell folks a little bit About yourself and about your background in particular.

Mark: Thank you. It is rare to get invited back to a podcast particularly for me Okay. So when you said desperate to pick my brain, I just stopped at the word desperate and said, okay, you must be now. I seriously appreciate this. It’s fun to be on this side of the microphone, the interrogation, whatever this is going to turn into my background.

I was one of those guys that wanted to start as an engineer with entrepreneurial seizure, like a lot of MSPs and thought I could turn a screwdriver pretty well and understand technology and a little bit of business and started a it services company. Drank the Kool Aid and managed services and did a full conversion between 2004 and 2005.

Almost drove that business into the ground. So if you want to know what not to do as an MSP, call me, okay? Cash flow, that’s important. Exited in 2009 to go work as an executive at Autotask before they were Known as Datto, long before that, when they were still privately held and then have moved around the channel working with the likes of OGFI, CompTIA.

Storage craft, Microsoft, et cetera having a lot of fun being on the vendor side, being able to take the purpose I had of helping businesses to run more efficiently and more profitable using technology, which was my passion from the beginning. Now I can do it as a multiplier effect. When working on the vendor side, now that I’m working with vendors to be successful, I get to do it even more and I get to do podcasts.

So this is fun. What are we talking about today?

Rich: As your background, your bio there makes clear, you’re a perfect fit for channel master, because we work with vendors who have, or want to have an MSP channel, we help them understand how to do that.

You know this from personal experience on both sides of the relationship as both an MSP and a vendor. And in fact, very early on in the history of Channel Mastered, you wrote a three part blog series for us about the building blocks of MSP channel success. Now, this was from a vendor point of view. We have a mostly MSP audience here.

But the thing that Erick and I were so desperate to pick your brain about is some of the insights from that blog series. And by the way, for the audience go to the show notes. We’ll have links to all three of those posts. And I really do recommend that you read all three of them. They’re really interesting things.

But let’s start here, Mark, because right at the beginning of the first post in that three post series, the first thing that you said is that if you’re getting into the MSP channel, if you’re a vendor doing that, the first thing you need to do Is a little bit of homework, a little research about MSPs.

What is it about MSPs that’s different about them? That’s special from about them that newcomers to that channel companies that are maybe familiar with solution providers and resellers don’t understand coming in about MSPs.

Mark: I don’t want to sound Captain Obvious.

Maybe the list would be shorter if you asked me what’s not different. Because it is a completely different business model. While technology is still the mechanism that helps the businesses, the end users succeed. The way it’s delivered through managed services is completely different. And when I define managed service, I’m talking about an IT service provider.

That charges a fixed or recurring revenue type fee in expectation of delivering a certain amount of uptime or minimizing downtime, delivering efficiency, predictability, reliability of systems and operations and access to technology. How would I contrast that from the client experience? The client expects in the old model of VAR, when the systems are down, the VAR is making money because they’re in there fixing it and get paid for it.

And the client’s [00:20:00] losing money. When in an MSP or in the, conversely, when the systems are working properly, if you’ve sold them a good technology and you left, you’re not making money anymore and the client’s making money. So in the MSP model, you’re charging them so they continue working. So there’s not a conflict of interest where one company’s making money when the other is not vice versa.

That’s an alignment of the business model. I always compare managed services to a insurance model as technology being the deliverable. Meaning that it is a risk mitigation business where the MSP is taking the risk from the customer and transferring it to themselves, their people, their processes, the technologies, and very importantly, the vendors that they’ve entrusted.

With their customers. That transfer of risk is so much different than a transactional business where you’ve sold them some boxes and a warranty to be provided by a vendor that may or may not have paid you your spiffs and giving your MDF back on time. Completely different relationship. So the, everything about the selling process and working with MSPs versus working with bars, everything is different.

Erick: So Mark, in one of your posts, you really emphasize. The importance of trust. In fact, you state that trust, nothing ultimately matters more than trust. What can vendors do to earn the trust of their MSP partners and how do they typically lose that?

Mark: Yeah, I can’t restate enough that trust is critical. You get what chance to screw up in an MSP relationship with a customer typically.

If you’re an MSP and you’re listening to this, you know what I’m talking about. You know that you have a certain, maybe it’s called an SLA, but it’s an expectation more than anything. And the expectation is that you’re going to deliver what you said you would deliver. You can’t just throw it on the vendor and say it’s a Dell issue.

It’s a Microsoft issue. It’s an internet issue. That doesn’t matter. It’s your issue between you and the customer. And when an MSP is relied on the vendors, they have that same expectation of trust with their vendors to extend that reliability through to the customers. So I think that the biggest component of trust has always been communication because things go wrong.

I would often start a new customer relationship as an MSP. I would say, Hey, look, when I screw up, not if I screw up, but when I screw up and I fail to. Answer that call in a timely manner, or we’re not able to remediate what we thought we could remediate or something goes wrong, do me a favor, just tell me.

Okay. Cause I’m here to fix it. We’re here to make this work together. So communication and then when the things do go wrong, it’s communication. I think there’s you can go to Reddit and find countless examples of vendors that have failed to communicate. Whether it was cloud outages on disaster recovery, whether it was contract terms being changed and or automatically build, there are many lessons on how those vendors could have communicated early and often how they could have been transparent about what the issue was, what the changes were, what a road map is going to look like, what a road map is not going to look like the communication, asking and listening.

I got some marriage advice a long time ago, and God forbid you guys come to me for marriage advice on a podcast. But I asked the question, I said, Honey, what can I do to be a better husband? And she said you can ask that question more often. And I think as a vendor, you wait until things go wrong and say, Oh, gosh, how can we have fixed that?

As a vendor, you should be asking, How can we be a better partner? And asking it on a consistent basis, whether it’s through an advisory group whether it’s through talking with other vendors about the lessons they’ve learned or taking those good moments where you’ve got a client out to dinner and say, Hey, I’m glad you’re happy, but I’m sure we could be doing better.

And I think that type of communication and listening to those responses, whether there’s anything to fix or not, just asking the question creates the trust.

Erick: Mark, we are not promoting MSP marriage chat. So just to be clear with everyone, we’re not launching a new podcast. So no worries. We won’t be tagging you in for that.

But let’s continue along this thread of, what vendors get right and where they could use some tuning. MSPs, are very, as we’re covering MSPs, you and I can speak directly to the audience from experience, right? But MSPs. The question is, how do you define a culture. How do you define a culture that allows the operator to have an expectation of the vendors and the strategic partners that they work with having an alignment from a [00:25:00] cultural perspective.

How do you define That culture and what does a good culture look like from a vendor, one MSP? How do we strive to achieve that alignment?

Mark: I don’t know if I couldn’t say there’s a right culture out there, but I, in the many different vendors I’ve been with, it’s not like I’ve hopped around forever.

I’d say of the vendors I’ve worked with on a long term basis, those several vendors, there was always somebody that deliberately owned the culture. And meaning that whether it was a full time position or whether it was a part time requirement, that it was a part of the company’s mission, vision, and values.

And the culture statements, the response to the culture efforts were direct reflection of that company’s mission, vision, and values. In managed services, more true than any other channel, you have to remember who we work for. Think of when I was at that backup and disaster recovery company, 22 people that were reporting to me and all the different channel folks that were out there, I had an important role in leadership, but I always remembered that I worked for the sales team.

I worked for the sales engineer. They worked for the channel managers. The channel managers work for the MSPs work for their customers and their customers work for the end users of their goods and remembering that when you build a culture, it’s got to serve in that direction, you So it can be things like building support systems that are designed to support the customer, not the customer support rep.

Those can be indicative of a good culture or bad culture, because I’ll tell you what, it getting support calls when you’re not in a support position means something’s broken and that will destroy a culture very quickly. I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer you’re looking for, Erick.

Erick: You know what, Mark, there was, there’s a diamond in there that I was not expecting that you gave us was your definition of who everyone serves.

And as long as we are all working together to serve our different, constituents I think it all tends to work out layered on top with that cherry that you gave us earlier about communication being the key. When things go wrong, when things go right, having that open, having that Objective and transparent relationship.

I know when I had my MSP practice, the best relationship that I had with my strategic vendor partners were the ones that were checking in on me, making sure that my clients were happy, making sure that my team was happy, making sure that we were in alignment, working together for mutual benefit.

And that seemed to, set those relationship, distinctly apart from the ones that, I later exited because I wasn’t getting that from every single one of them.

Mark: Yeah, I had the chance of working under Matt Medeiros, and if you knew Matt, he was the one that took SonicWall from a publicly traded company back to private, sold them to Dell, and he brought some of the SonicWall culture from the beginning and some of the Dell culture over to StorageCraft and he constantly reminded us, we went through some challenges, like any other vendor there were challenges from technology, there were challenges from support, internal challenges, customer challenges.

And he just kept reminding us that we were a team. We were a team at an executive level, at a director level, at a field level, at a customer level, at a team level. All the way down, we had to remember we all had the common goal of working together. And the one nugget I took away from him that I’ll never forget is challenge the process, not the person, because you don’t challenge a person.

If you’re a team, you say, Hey, this didn’t work out. How can I help make it work right this time? And having that kind of culture where people can. Approach one another and not about, Oh, we’re making the shareholders angry, or the boss is going to yell at us, or we’re going to get called into HR. That’s not the culture you want.

You want the culture where when something goes wrong, everybody says, Hey guys, let’s rally around together and fix this. Let’s worry about whose fault it is and what we need to do to prevent it next time. But as a team, let’s pull the customers in let’s pull the clients in, let’s pull the partners in, let’s pull the executives in, let’s figure this out together.

That, to me, is a phenomenal culture, and I had that experience of storage graph for a while.

Rich: We’ve all had the experience of wandering an expo hall at a conference somewhere stopping in at a booth run by a vendor we don’t know very much about because, they’re probably new to the channel.

Asking them to explain who they are and what they do, and then hearing a very poor explanation because they don’t necessarily know what an MSP in particular wants to know. From your perspective, this was something you wrote about as well, Mark. What are the hallmarks of a really unique, a genuinely unique, and also a compelling value proposition for a vendor to present to MSPs?

Mark: Really good giveaways on the table and really flashy marketing. That’s what I see a lot of, Rich, I love [00:30:00] that question because I do. I walked through exhibit halls every time and I go up and I find some poor person at the booth and said, Oh, what do you do here? And it’s the most dangerous question because they begin to throw up all over me not literally, maybe.

But they just start telling me their speeds and their feeds and they point to their data sheets and then they pull out another data sheet and they pull out their deal of the month. And then they offer me a free tchotchke, ask me to put my card in the bowl. And they have no idea what I do. And the reality was I was a vendor talking to a vendor.

They just wasted their time and their free stuff. And I didn’t need a squeeze ball anyway, but I move on thinking, wow, what a missed opportunity to have a conversation about what’s important to me. So I think the biggest unique value proposition of vendors forget is what is important to the MSPs. And I did document out that I think that because of the culture and the business model of MSPs, In the sense that we all serve the clients being the business model and the culture that there’s three distinct components.

And in order, if you’re talking to MSP, the most important thing to them is what impacts their customer, positive and negative about your product or solution. How does that make their lives different? What’s the implications of their customer not having your technology or having their technology?

What does that mean to them personally? In their business at MSP genuinely cares about that. Most MSPs care about their husband. I’d say almost, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be in business. So they think about that day and night, they put that over their profits and losses. How can I help my customers be successful?

Because they know that their survival depends on their customer’s survival. Again, that top down thinking, or bottom up thinking I guess it would be called. Turning the whole thing upside down and remembering who we serve. So number one, what impact is it on the customer? And articulate that in a way that resonates with the understanding, maybe a little emotional impact, understanding the implications of it, the headaches, the pains that the customer is going through as a result of not having this in place.

Know those things, make that a part of the conversation, the talk track. And not how fast your widgets spin or how many speeds and feeds they have. Those are the same thing the other booths are saying. If you walk through the event hall right now you’re going to see about eight out of 10 booths.

Say they are the standard security, the single platform, all your security needs, knock sock, EDR, MDR, whatever. It’s a hodge, hodgepodge alphabet soup. of acronyms of everybody saying we’re the best in security. What does that mean to the customer? And if you can articulate that you will emotionally attach yourself to that msp quickly or at least get a glimmer of trust from them Okay, i’m interested in knowing more that’s number one unique value proposition how you define that takes effort It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to come out of a product sheet.

It’s not going to come off The slick you get from your vendor. Number two is what is the impact on the MSPs, technicians and operations and processes? because that is where the MSP makes their money. They’ve got to be able to deliver more in value than they receive in payment. And to do that, they rely on having really good people and equipping them with really good technology that works and makes their job easier.

How do you articulate that to an MSP? If you’re considering trying to get them to take a look at your service, okay, you fix a big problem. My customers have now, what are you going to do for us internally? Now notice I haven’t talked about how much money you’re going to make them. Okay. Is that important?

Yes, but it’s the third thing. It’s not till last. So get in touch with the pain and needs of the customer of the MSP. Articulate that in a way that shows understanding, empathy insightfulness, that you’re in alignment with them. Cause that’s probably why you created your solution in the first place.

And you’ve gotten caught up in the speeds and feeds and excitement and how you beat your competitors and all that. It doesn’t matter. Go back to the impact on the customer, pivot to the unique value proposition for the MSPs operations on how it’s going to make them more efficient, how their technicians can work less hours and enjoy that great culture you’ve created for them, or serve more customers, depending on what kind of, operation you’re running and what your KPIs are.

And then lastly, how is it going to help the MSP make more money? I think if you nail those first two, the third is a, it’s a given. If you’ve made the customer happy and you’ve made your technicians happy and you’ve made them more efficient. Then you’re probably making more money. So you can save that third one.

You should have it. We should be able to quantify that and explain it based upon examples, but I always put them in that order is, does that ask the question? It absolutely

Rich: does. I love that. Actually it’s not going to be true a hundred percent of the time Mark, but quite often.

Newcomers, vendors who are new to the MSP channel aren’t new to the channel per se, so they have a partner program, [00:35:00] but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a partner program that’s suitable for MSPs. From the MSP’s point of view, what are the attributes of a partner program that is aligned to their needs and their business model?

Mark: I would have to go back to my last three statements. I would say that most marketing material produced, whether it’s product marketing or partner marketing content, there tends to be a lot of blurs in there is designed to showcase the competitive differentiators, the efficiencies, the speeds and the feeds of the solution and misses the three most important points to a managed service provider because again, of the uniqueness of their business model being risk mitigation focused on customer satisfaction, focused on delivering consistent, predictable results of availability of services and operations for the customer.

You gotta be able to articulate that over and over again in your partner program and deliver content that supports that. So if you’re gonna deliver content Training resources, et cetera. It’s got to have that tone to it. It’s got to have that DNA in it. And it’s not going to come from the same people that produce product marketing for VARs, for DMRs, for distribution.

That is a completely different message. And the MSP doesn’t know what to do with that content. So I see one of the biggest failures and vendors coming in. Is the content and the training is portions of their partner program. They can put a big PRM up there or partner relationship management system up there, and they can have the distribution of that content and they can put SPFs and MDFs and scorecards and access to resources.

But if those resources, that content doesn’t carry those unique value propositions and make it easy for the MSP to recommunicate, that’s a proper phrase. Back to their customers why this is important to the customer because you articulated that in your first value proposition, if it doesn’t do that, then it’s not going to hit the mark.

And I don’t blame the vendors for that. If you’re a vendor and you own the MSP number right now, and you’re that person, probably you’re at the mercy of marketing dollars that are being directed towards other channels. And they’re getting priority over the MSP channel because they don’t, pennies versus dollars is how they tend to look at marketing budget and MSP versus bar.

That’s true. Those pennies add up with multipliers that we all know as vendors are why we’re in the services business. So absolutely looking at a partner program that has unique content specifically designed. Or managed service providers cognitive with their value propositions being unique, their business model being unique.

And the fact that your brand is not important to them their brand is important to them so that we can get into the co branding stuff, but I think that’s one on one.

Erick: Mark, this is really juicy stuff here for me now. So let me unpack, let me ask you to unpack it one more layer deeper.

Okay. So as at channel mashup, we work with vendors of all apes and sizes, all levels of maturity, but we’re doing a lot of work with new emerging vendors. So let me pivot the question a little bit differently. Okay. for you from a brand new emerging vendor. There are some table stakes as we like to call them when we’re consulting with our clients that say, Hey, you have to have these basic three or four things that are table stakes for your product or service to even have a chance of success at building an indirect Panel of MSPs to help grow and go to market together.

So can you share maybe some of those three or four different table stakes that we’re always talking to our new emerging vendor clients about what their product service or solution has to have, and in order to really, sit at the table and attract the attention of some of these MSPs.

Mark: I can tell you the ones that will immediately disqualify you from the majority of MSPs.

And if they don’t, then I would be concerned about taking them on as a customer. And these are so easy, I feel like I’m just, again, captain obvious shirt on here, pull it out, and say what’s just reality. Multi tenancy. You’re not going to sell into the MSP channel with multi, without multi tenancy from a product standpoint MSPs have to herd cats and they need a single painted blast to do that in, whether you deliver that through an OEM relationship or an integration with a single platform, or you provide that yourself, that is absolutely critical that [00:40:00] lends directly into APIs.

If you are thinking about going into this channel and you do not know which APIs you need to make available for whom, why, then you are going to fail. It is, you cannot get a siloed technology product point solution or platform in the MSP space without having your API house in order. It’s just not going to happen.

Billing, you’ve got to handle the billing conversation. And I don’t want to go into detail on what that means. But if there’s one thing that MSPs hate, it’s billing. It’s reconciliation of billing. There’s some great companies out there that have come up with some solutions for a price and will let you participate in a billing model that helps smooth that over.

But before you even roll out your pricing model, you got to understand what that’s going to look like from a billing model. So what type of cost per consumption are you going to put this is it all inclusive, is it Is there a cap on it? What kind of billing issues are you going to create for your MSPs and ultimately for their clients, whether they’re selling it to or through the MSP.

You’ve got to address those things and have a really good conversation about what billing looks like, what challenges you’re going to face and reconcile in that billing. And if you need to look at a third party solution to augment that billing to make it work for the MSP. So I think those are the three biggest, there’s white labeling, co branding.

Go to market content, educational focus, et cetera. There’s a lot of other things, but I think if you don’t have those three pillars you’re just don’t even start yet. Just save your money for a little bit longer. We will certainly point you in the right direction on those ones and be very transparent about it.

Erick: Yeah. I’m in violent agreement, Mark. If we don’t have. Multi tenancy available if we don’t have the integrations with the other platforms that MSPs rely on and if we can’t make it easier or, as easy as possible for MSPs to invoice their clients without having to go through, 55 somersaults to get it done, they’re already busy enough trying to get their invoicing out, so I’ll agree with those three.

Rich: Can I add one more? It’s closely related to the billing thing, but that would just be if your pricing model doesn’t align with the MSPs business model. It’s going to be a table stakes problem. If they’re charging the MSP is billing their customers. Per user per month, let’s say and you’re charging per year or making them buy 50 seats at a time You’re gonna have some trouble, getting momentum with msps

Mark: You’re right rich.

Let me and let me clarify For dramatic effect I say pack yourself up and go home. Okay. This is theater or radio. I forget. What is this podcast? Not having those things It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, not having a plan for those things is the deal breaker. And it goes back to the listening part and understanding your audience.

So let’s say integrations. You taught you, I said, APIs and say integration. We mean the same thing, Erick is do you have a Pax 8 integration. You have a connect wise integration. Do you have. Whatever. Those are the questions you’re going to get at the booth over and over again. Not having an answer for that is, is an answer.

So an answer can be, yeah, this is on the roadmap for X. Thank you for asking. Why is that important to you? Would you be willing to help us in modeling that out? We’ve got some starting things going on. A turn it into a sales opportunity. If you don’t have it, an opportunity for somebody to become a advisor or an early adopter in your program.

You can do that with the pricing. You can do that with the white labeling and the multi tenancy, but don’t necessarily throw out the baby with the bath water, like I suggested, but not having a plan or knowing which one of those things you should prioritize, whether it’s the integration of the pricing models or whenever, that’s probably where you get into hot water.

So it goes back to having a strategy that understands managed services.

Erick: Yeah great tag and rich. So Mark, channel vendors, no matter where they are in their growth cycle, let’s say they’re emerging, let’s say they’re growing, they’re accelerating. They’re not yet at yes, let’s say that they’re there and then they get to optimizing, right?

So we’ve talked about the life cycle of a channel vendors growth. It’s getting into the channel, growing with a channel. Which means that they’ve got a good program they’re recruiting partners effectively. And at some point during that maturity cycle, these channel vendors start looking more toward enabling their existing partners, not that they wait for this, there’s always a need for enablement, which means, sales, enabling their partners, getting them to sell more, but, through, through that life cycle, sometimes we see different.

Decisions being made around focus and budget and support and sales enabling an MSP [00:45:00] partner is uniquely different than sales enabling, a reseller or an agent or master agent, like you said earlier, it, we it’s a completely different through channel strategy here. So what must vendors do from a sales enablement?

Perspective in your opinion. And does that change over time as they grow their channels? And if so, how?

Mark: That’s like a four part question.

Erick: Yeah, let’s go.

Mark: Yeah, it’s late. So the first thing I would segment is whether they’re a cell to or sell through vendor. I think that’s going to change the strategy dramatically.

I’ll start with the easiest one. If it’s a cell to vendor, not a sell through vendor. Then the education is not going to be on sales training. It’s going to be on other ways to add value as a vendor. Meaning what can you do to help educate this MSP on selling their whole stack or being a better MSP? I look at some of the companies out there.

Can I use an example of Juan Hernandez with Super Ops? And are those guys, what they’re doing right now with putting out educational tracks, even leveraging you, Erick, to teach how to do AI sales and, or how to do sales as an MSP using LinkedIn sales navigator and chat GPT, just to set a point that they’re not selling their PSA RMM and doing that they’re selling their values Parker, because they’re a cell to company.

When you get into the cell through MSP model. Sales enablement is one of the last things that most vendors realize that is so critical because the MSPs are selling risk mitigation. And if you try to enable them to sell like you do a VAR, then you’re again missing the mark of what the messaging should be.

So getting the top track on what problem are we solving for the customer? How do we position that with the customer in a way that doesn’t make them feel stupid or inadequate or sense, creates a sense of urgency, which is what you want. So the customer will participate in the evaluation or the decision to make the purchase of an additional technology.

That needs to be a strategy and a process and a repeatable one that’s easy for the MSP to use. So I think we’re getting back into a sales playbook. And if I, if you ask a vendor, if they have a sales playbook for their MSPs, Not just for their salespeople, but for their MSPs, most of them don’t. The ones that do the MSPs love them because can I be honest for a second?

MSPs aren’t the best salespeople in the world. They are when they’re honest or marketing, but that’s a whole nother story, but they’re the most honest people in the world because most of them are engineers. So give them a talk track that reflects that characteristic of how they’re typically communicating.

Now, if you’ve got, tie wearing, that’s not me. Were any of us here, if you’ve got tie wearing salespeople out there for an MSP, that’s one talk track, you’re going to deliver. But you still want to be able to create some human connection between your solution and the problem that the customer has that the MSP can re communicate that message and get it to resonate with the customer.

And that can be a documented playbook. That’s not that hard.

Erick: So we’ve been talking a lot about vendors and giving them some insights into the MSP and what makes the MSP tick and, some tips on how to improve their channel outcomes. But it’s not all on the vendors or distributors, is it, Mark?

MSPs have a role to play and a responsibility. I’m going to call it the shared accountability model, borrowing from, another term that we’re familiar with. But there is a shared accountability and a shared responsibility model here, where the MSPs also have to do their part in making sure that the relationship Continues to thrive and grow.

So where do you see MSPs failing to hold up their end of the bargain, if you will?

Mark: I don’t think I see it as much with the more mature MSPs. And if not trying to belittle anybody listening, if you’re an MSP and you don’t feel like you have great vendor relations, then maybe you fall into this category Rich, you gave an excellent summary of.

The five lessons that CompTIA got out of the fastest growing MSPs are the most optimistic MSPs. I don’t remember what the name of the survey title was, but number five was they had really satisfied relationships with their vendors. So what they need to do specifically, I don’t know if I have an answer for that, but they need to figure it out is how important are those relationships to them, in the MSP channel, it seems Vendors come and go, but partners are very few.

And [00:50:00] to find those vendors that can be a partner with you in your business. If you find one that’s really genuinely interested in investing in you, oh, for goodness sake, don’t take that for granted. That can be the difference. When I started, When I did my first conversion from break, fix to manage services, we all remember a guy named Dan Wensley, right?

You’ve heard of him. He’s got a little operation called scale path, but he was out peddling a human robbery and a couple other people out peddling this level of platform stuff. And they offered to help me convert my business to manage services. And for me, there was value in that because I understood the model.

I just didn’t understand how to do it. Conceptually, it made sense, but there was a lot of tactical stuff I didn’t understand, and they were very patient. And as a result, my loyalty as an MSP is yes, I will give you testimonies. Yes. I will give you access to my data on how I’ve grown my margins by 200, 300 percent on hardware.

And you can use that up on stage. Yes. I will participate in feedback on roadmap items and how you can be a better vendor to other partners. So the free t shirts the unlimited bar tab. Thank you, Dan. I still owe you. Those were wonderful. But the ability to help shape a product that impacts my customers, that the vendor is in charge of to me, that was priceless.

So if you don’t feel involved with the vendor at that kind of level, then maybe they’re not the right vendor. Or maybe you’re just not asking, how can I help shape this product for the sake of the MSP community and the customers that we serve, because that is probably the funnest part of the job.

Erick: Yeah, I appreciate that. And I think from my perspective. If we’re working together I’m talking MSP and strategic vendor, then we both share a responsibility to each other to make time for each other. And I think that, like you said, for the more mature MSPs, they figured it out. But for some of the, less mature MSPs, the MSPs that are still trying to figure out and grow, to realize that, sometimes the vendors like you’ve talked about and help.

And if we’re not. Reaching out and asking and discovering what else is there in the partner program. Sometimes we miss out, sometimes vendors, and we know this because we’ve experienced it, right? Mark, sometimes vendors have all these resources available, but for whatever reason, it’s hard to find on their websites and, they, or they’re willing to help, but they just, haven’t really figured out what the best way to help is some of the most successful MSPs that I’ve worked with.

Have a dedicated resource in their organization. Maybe not their sole role or responsibility, but someone who is responsible at managing these strategic relationships and making sure that they are having these check in calls and working together and, daring the good, the bad and the ugly and trying to come together to try to solve issues or move the ball forward sometimes, vendors get MSPs do too.

And, by us reaching out and reminding them that, Hey, this is a strategic partnership. We’re willing to invest our time, energy, and effort in this relationship. So long as you meet us halfway, then we’ll be successful together. So you know, just my two cents.

Mark: No I remember several companies, we would have an MSP that was the loudest, noisiest, most obnoxious MSP constantly giving us that feedback.

You know what? That’s We hated it, but we really appreciated it. We, it took a little bit of humility to, to hear some of the things they said, but the fact they told us they cared enough to give us that feedback at the risk of us saying, yeah, you’re just a lousy partner. They were unashamed.

Some of them said it nicely. Some of them didn’t, but the feedback from an MSP on what they can do better with their channel I just was a natural critic of my vendors in a constructive way. And it was very beneficial for my business, extremely beneficial. It’s what ultimately brought me over to the vendor side was having that continual communication loop.

So I think you’re any MSP out there that’s not taking advantage of it again you’re either not taking advantage of it, or you’ve got the wrong vendor.

Rich: Mark, always a pleasure talking about this stuff with you. Truly. Every time we have this kind of conversation with you, I can really feel the the experience and the frontline lessons learned and bruises suffered through the years.

This is stuff that you’ve not just studied and consulted about, you’ve actually lived it. So it’s it, from my perspective, it’s very interesting to hear your perspective on this. I’ll remind folks in the audience. This was all inspired by our three part blog series that Mark wrote for us once upon a time.

Go to the show notes for this episode. We’ll have links to all three of those articles for you. And again, I encourage you to read those. And just check out some of the other stuff on the Channel Master blog. Because that thing Mark was just referring to [00:55:00] about Comptia and the five characteristics of the fastest growing MSPs.

I believe that was a blog post. That you’ll find there as well. Folks, we’re gonna take a break now when Erick and I come back on the other side We’ll have share a few final thoughts about our conversation with our colleague mark crawl here Maybe have a little fun wrap up the episode. So stick around We are going to be right back

and welcome back to part three of this episode of the msp chat podcast Erick, Truly, I meant what I just said. I always enjoy having that kind of conversation You with mark or really anybody who has been in both of those positions the msp position and I want to point out one thing. Actually before I forget cause Mark mentioned at one point in that conversation, Juan Fernandez from Super Ops total fluke folks, cause truly Mark had no idea about this, but the very next episode of MSP chat, which comes out in just a few days.

Features an interview with Juan Fernandez of Super Ops. Keep an eye out for that. Tune into that and you’ll get a feel for why so many people consider him a model to emulate on the vendor side of that relationship, Erick, any particular thoughts from the chat with Mark that jump out at you?

Erick: Boy, so many. I think, if we could get AI to parse through everything that Mark said and break kind of this. Best practices guide of, how to build strong panel programs and relationships for both vendors and MSPs. So many nuggets of wisdom there from, just.

MSPs are looking for in a relationship with their vendors. How vendors, sharing with vendors, how to understand MSPs a little bit more and what’s important to them. And then just the overarching. Requirement of good communication, good, bad or wrong, having a strong enough relationship that allows the type of honest, transparent communication.

And, this isn’t exactly how Mark set it, but basically, don’t take it personally, right? He gave some really great. Examples that only someone with his experience working in all these different roles with all these different vendors can share, all about, look, the harshest criticism sometimes is the hardest to take, but sometimes can be the most valuable.

Yeah, so many things that I’m still processing,

Rich: And we don’t have time to get into it in detail, but there was, when we were wrapping up with that conversation that you initiated there out asking, reaching out to the vendors and exploring resources you might not be taking advantage of.

We’ve spoken on other podcasts before about MDF. As a particular example of that, because I know I’ve spoken to vendors many times where the issue isn’t I run out of MDF for my partners. There’s more demand than supply. It’s exactly the opposite. Nobody, I’ve got these dollars that nobody’s using and they’re sitting there because people don’t ask are there marketing dollars available to me?

And do I qualify for that? How do I get, and that’s. Free money you can put to work on generating leads. So just one small example of why it’s so smart to to be in regular contact with your vendors and talk about what they can do to support you. Because generally speaking, they don’t grow unless you do.

And so they want to help you grow. Yeah, folks that leaves us with time for just one last thing on this episode of msp chat. Erick i’ve been using ai a lot, since chat gpt Revolutionized the ai field and put generative ai on everybody’s radar but pretty much i’ve been using it for productivity now I know and I follow people who are using it just for entertainment and for fun I haven’t been doing a lot of that myself You And then just this past weekend I heard about an AI service called Suno, S U N O, and it’s an AI song generator.

Now there are going to be people in the audience who have heard about this kind of thing months and months ago, this is old news to them, this was brand new to me. And so I go to suno. ai and I start playing around with it and just randomly, Erick, the first thing I put in there just to see what it could do was a prompt where I asked it for a bluegrass song about a podcast called MSP Chat.

And so with some assistance from our editor here, we’re going to play you A little bit of the audio generated 100 percent from scratch by AI in response to that prompt.

Erick: Yeah, Rich, this is so fun and amazing at the same time. I know you texted me over the weekend and said, Hey, check this out.

This is so much fun. And I listened to it and I went, Dang, that is amazing. So now AI is just generating [01:00:00] a song, lyrics and music and singing it. And it’s crazy how decently good it is when you really consider how it came about. So Rich, what are the inputs that you dropped in to Suno to get it to create this pretty catchy bluegrass song about the MSP chat podcast?

Rich: So first, let’s take a pause here and let people listen to about 30 seconds or so of the song. I’m not gonna answer that because the answer is actually interesting. Take a listen, folks. To Down Home with MSP Chat.

Okay that is just plain fun. That, that just comes out of nowhere. AI just And you can switch genres. In fact, I think I sent you a sort of lounge singer Tony Bennett theme song for MSPG. Endlessly you can do this. And it is incredible fun. You asked the inputs, the prompt.

Here’s what is super interesting to me about this. Truly, the only thing I asked for was a bluegrass song about a podcast called MSP Chat. I didn’t explain what an MSP is, didn’t say anything about the tech industry. That is all I said. And you, I’m sure you’ve had this experience too, Erick. You go onto Google and you do a keyword search on MSP this or that and you’ll get all sorts of stuff about Minneapolis because MSP is, the airport code over there.

None of that here. You look at the lyrics for the song and it’s, it, they knew somehow what an MSP is. They knew this podcast was about, computers and technology. It’s actually a little bit eerie. It’s a little

Erick: Yeah, that’s one way to put it. So it, it definitely did something in the background to find our podcast, read somehow about what it’s about and just go, I thought, you put in some keywords or things like that, or, tell us a little bit about, what you want us to write the song about.

None of that. You just put in the name of the podcast and let it go.

Rich: That is all it’s a podcast and it’s called MSP chat. And yeah, you’re right. You can’t help, but wonder if this system was trained on our podcast or on, on something very similar, because it just knew what to write that song about.

Erick: Yeah, because you’re right. You put MSP in, in any search engine. And the first like number one hit is Miami, Minneapolis, St. Paul international airport. That’s what the acronym MSP has been forever before managed services anyway, but it is super fun. So I hope everybody. Has a little fun with it, test it out.

I could, find so many ways to have fun with it. Like congratulating people on anniversaries, birthdays, congratulating a client on an anniversary. How unique and different is that made possible by AI?

Rich: Those are great ideas. And here’s another reason to go to the show notes.

We’ll include links. Actually, I’ll, we’ll give you a link to the complete Bluegrass song. We’ll give you a link to the Tony Bennett version of the theme song as well. Totally different lyrics, but totally apt as well. And then you’ll be able to get a link to Suno AI from there and play around with it yourself.

If you come up with something fun, tell us about it, folks, because we’re we’re really enjoying it here. That is all the time we have this week for you on the MSP Chat Podcast we’re going to be back actually just in a few days this time with another episode for you featuring an interview with Juan Fernandez from Super Ops.

Until then, folks, if you are listening to the audio version of the show, but you’re curious to maybe check it out on a video as well, we are available on YouTube. Go ahead and search for MSP Chat if you’re watching the YouTube, but you’re also into audio podcasts, you want to check us out there.

Wherever it is that you get your audio podcast, you’re probably going to find us there, too. Either way, please subscribe, rate, review. It’s going to help other people find the show, too, and we would very much appreciate it. And this Program is produced by the great russ johns. Russ would be happy to produce your podcast for you, too You can learn more about him at russjohns.

com You can learn more about channel mastered the company responsible for this podcast at www. channelmastered. com So once again folks, thanks for listening. Thanks for watching. We’re gonna see you again real soon until then, please remember You can’t spell champ without M S [01:05:00] P.