What Customers Say When You Ask the Right Questions: Lessons from CompTIA AMM

IT services professionals are typically top-notch at solving extremely complicated technology issues and developing systems that transform their clients’ businesses. But clairvoyance is not usually part of their skill set. Nor is a strong ability for and comfort level with asking the tough questions.

That can be quite detrimental to providers trying to remain competitive in today’s tech environment. After all, remote monitoring and management tools can only go so far. It’s more imperative than ever for MSPs, VARs and systems integrators to be closely connected to their clients, to be able to gauge much more than “speeds and feeds” and the latest system statuses. Technological prowess only goes so far in the effort to win new business today.

As members of the CompTIA End User Commission emphasized during their open forum discussion with the joint CompTIA Councils and Communities at AMM, IT providers need to engage in deeper, broader conversations with their business customers. The most successful VARs and MSPs are those who are truly enlightened on the unique needs of their clients. They invest more time learning about the markets they serve and the competitive landscape, and understand the rules and regulations before making that initial call to a prospective client. Just as critically, they know what questions to ask when they do get time with a business owner or other decisions maker. If you waste their time, you stand a good chance of missing out on a sale.            

As EUC member Lori Bruzek, Technology Director for the Cedar Rapids School District, suggested, doing a little homework on your prospective clients’ business needs is essential. “First off, they must start understanding the environment. Education is a different beast than business, but there are also a lot of similarities with that model. When you have 20,000 users and an environment that is pretty open, it creates different challenges for IT.” Those obstacles can be significant for a school district covering 121 square miles with 31 schools and more than 16,000 students.

Understanding those concerns is critical, as is respecting the workload demands of prospective business customers. “If the person trying to get on my calendar doesn’t even have the basic understanding of what we’re doing, their call is not worth my time,” stressed Armin Roeseler, Managing Principal & CIO of Fortacs Grop, LLC and former CIO of DirectBuy. “One of my pet peeves is having someone just show up in my office and asking about what we’re doing without conducting research on the company or me. Just trying to get facetime is a real turnoff.”

Despite all years of discussions on the dos and don’ts of IT services sales, some providers still send their teams out unprepared or, worse, with the wrong approach. Instead of focusing on people, they spew out the “speeds and feeds” and other product/service information before engaging their prospects in a constructive conversation. “They don’t discuss benefits for our business and walk through details I care about in potential upgrades,” added Roeseler. “Help me understand the business context of how these new products and services can help me and my company develop a path forward. If they can engage with me at that level, I make time to sit down and work with them.”  

You get that right by doing your homework. Research the company through its website and social media forums, and check out a little information on those you may meet with by looking at their LinkedIn profiles and asking others about their primary objectives. The objective is not to become a super-sleuth and spy on prospective customers, but to ensure they know you care enough not to waste their time with basic questions and unproductive chatter. A little extra time upfront can make or break a potential business relationship.