Who are you to your customers?

Who do you want to be? How do you want them to regard you? Are you a managed service provider (MSP), or do you want your customers to think of you differently?

Howard M. Cohen

AUTHOR: Senior Resultant,
Howard M. Cohen

What’s in a name?

Today, I’m known by the title, “Senior Resultant,” because during my entire upbringing in the channel it was impressed upon me that results are the only thing that matters. Positive results. Superior business outcomes. It has become my core focus.

I got my very first job in the channel around the time IBM started calling it the channel, the reseller channel. That job involved my selling Apple computers in a small retail store on Long Island.

When asked what title wanted to be printed on my business card, I requested, “Systems Consultant.” It had already been impressed upon me that people would more readily purchase these new systems if they knew they had someone who could help them use them. I didn’t see myself so much as a “salesman” as I did as a consultant, an advisor.

Who sells managed services?

Today, we’re not “resellers” anymore. We refer to ourselves as Managed Service Providers, MSPs. There are significant efforts underway to establish MSPs as true professionals at the same level as lawyers, accountants, and doctors. Real licensing and accreditation. Documented credibility. This has been a long-held dream.

But think about this. Who sells the services of other professionals? Who sells a law firm’s services? A medical practice? Who sells services for accountants?

These professionals leverage their excellent service to earn referrals that bring them new clients.

There are certainly some enterprising law firms, especially personal injury attorneys, who run commercials and post ads, and there are some phone and web services helping people find professionals, but for the most part, these professionals leverage their excellent service to earn referrals that bring them new clients.

Leveraging your own excellent service

You’ve probably been besieged from time to time by “experts” offering you all manner of sales training. It is possible, however, that training in “sales” is not what you need. In fact, you may already have what you need, but need to learn how to leverage it.

Your greatest sales tool is your own reputation.

No matter what anyone tells you, your greatest sales tool is your own reputation. When your customers are truly pleased with the services you provide, they actively want to promote you to their friends. Most people love to share the excellent resources they’ve found. You very much want to be one of those.

If you think back, it’s likely you’ve had customers refer their friends to you. You learn about it when those friends reach out to you for help. It’s a great feeling, probably one of the best feelings we get to experience in business. Someone calling you to ask you to provide services to them. No cost of sales, financial or otherwise. You earned that new customer.

Here’s the thing you may not be thinking of. Many people simply never think of referring you to friends. If they thought about it, they’d gladly recommend your services to others, but they simply don’t think about it. They’re not bad people. It’s just not what’s on their mind.

According to Dale Carnegie, 91% of customers say they’d gladly give a referral if asked.

So going back to Sales 101 for just a moment; here’s one very useful piece of advice. The sale isn’t over until you’ve asked for referrals. According to Dale Carnegie, 91% of customers say they’d gladly give a referral if asked to, but only 11% of salespeople actually do!

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Not sure how to ask?

Obviously, you’re in great company. Were you to work your way down to the truth, most salespeople actually do know how to ask, they just lack the courage to do it. So, let’s use your knowledge to overcome that issue.

When you’ve done a good job for a customer, more often than not you know you did. You’re confident that they’re very satisfied. Following the sales wisdom that you never ask a question for which you don’t already know the answer, start by asking, “How did we do? Are you fully satisfied with the service we’ve just delivered?” or something similar to that.

When your customer answers in the affirmative, simply follow with the question, “Would you be willing to refer our service to a friend or associate of yours?”

It would be surprising if the customer answers “no.” Should that happen, you must see that as an opportunity to learn the truth about their real level of satisfaction. They obviously weren’t completely satisfied, even though they said they were. No matter what, asking why they wouldn’t recommend you benefits you tremendously.

Growing your business on referrals alone

Any truly professional marketer will tell you that there’s nothing they can do for you that equals the marketing power and value of a customer referral. It is, has always been, and will always be the most powerful marketing tool of all. Many professional practices have built their success on referrals alone with no other marketing activities.

Ultimately, this great truth serves to remind us that the most important thing we do as professionals is to build and maintain relationships. Nothing serves us as powerfully as our contact network. Cultivate it. Pay attention. Keep in touch. Help others whenever you can, because, undoubtedly, the more good you do for more people, the more good finds its way back to you.


About the author

Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry, an authorized CompTIA instructor, and a regular contributor to many IT industry publications. After 35 years as an IT industry executive, Howard has been writing for and about the channel since 2009.

He has served on many vendor advisory panels including the Apple, Compaq, HP, IBM, and NEC Service Advisory Councils. He has also served on the Ingram Micro Service Network board and as a U.S. Board member of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. 

Howard is a well-known frequent speaker at IT industry events including Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (now Inspire), Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon. 

Howard refers to himself as a “Senior Resultant” because he has always understood that we are all measured only by our results. Connect with Howard at hmc@hmcwritenow.com and review his portfolio at www.authory.com/howardmcohen.