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I can’t think of a single reason you shouldn’t heavily consider moving more into Co-Managed IT. Most of the new clients we’ve added in the last 12 months have been Co-Managed. They are typically larger, invest more in technology, and can be the champion behind your suggestions and recommendations.

That being said, it’s not a quick or easy thing to do.

I’ll be breaking this blog up into two sections: Selling and Managing. Let’s get started!

Selling Co-Managed IT

You have two primary prospects when going after Co-Managed: the CEO (or similar titles) and the IT Director. We have primarily focused on targeting the IT Director, but we’ll briefly cover both.

Selling to Executives

The key pieces we discuss are the benefits of having internal and external IT support, rather than just one or the other. Sounds obvious, right? We specifically talk about reducing burnout on their current IT person. They need to be able to take vacation without checking on service tickets, and you can’t go a day without your users getting the help they need.

We of course discuss the ability to scale up and down support as they grow or expand. This makes budgeting easier. They save time and money on recruitment and do not have another FTE to worry about.

The piece that always gets head nods is continuity. What happens when the person holding the keys to the kingdom leaves? We say this in a way that does not make the internal IT person look bad. We point out the obvious fact that most professionals do not stay at a company for more than 5 years. What happens next?

With an MSP, your documentation, processes, and IT are unaffected as you take time to find a replacement internal IT candidate. This eliminates having to scramble to find a quick replacement when the internal IT worker inevitably leaves the company. That peace of mind goes a long way.

There are the more obvious talking points as well. Having a candidate that understands networking, cybersecurity, end user support, backup management and testing, etc. is a very expensive person. With an MSP, you can focus on having a lower level individual that makes response immediate (a difficult thing for any MSP to promise). They are also easier to recruit and have lower expectations put on them.

Here is a testimonial video we received from our client Citrus Connection. It’s important to have case studies and video testimonials from every arrangement we’ll be discussing today.

If they prefer having a CIO/IT Director role, that’s fine too. They may already have a high-level person in the organization. Perfect! That person has a major opportunity cost replying to password resets! They need to be focused on client specific applications, working on improving the interoperability of the technology, and keeping up with the latest and greatest with meetings with the MSP and external research. Understanding that WILL be one of their challenges and describing the larger business issue with this is critical. You will get head nods when you explain they are paying this high-level person to do something your team can easily offload, allowing them to continue to improve the business operation of their company.

All the points I’m discussing here are the same challenges and opportunities you want to include in your marketing campaign to this marketing persona. That’s the exact approach we took when crafting our Co-Managed campaign to executives. Here is an example from this campaign to help you understand the content you can use if you’re a member or create if you’re not:

Selling to IT Directors

Ironically, even though we put more emphasis on marketing to executives, many of the sales conversations we’re having are with the IT Director. It’s important to adjust the talking points when speaking with the IT Director. Let’s discuss.

Oftentimes, the IT Director is looking to bring on a full-time employee to assist with the day to day because they are feeling overwhelmed. They believe with more help they can free up their time, which is true. However, it’s hard for them to get buy in for this from executives at times. Managing people is never an exciting endeavor, and most executives are in the realm of “Hire slow and fire fast” which is not necessarily bad.

Change the focal point to illustrate how an MSP can take the busy work off the IT Director AND help with the special projects that they already have in their mind! They already want to move to the cloud, AZURE AD, get compliant, etc. They know they need to, but they think it falls completely on them. That’s why they need the help desk tickets off their plate.

When you explain that you take the help desk off their plate and they have full access to your level 3 team, you get a lot of head nods.

They start doing the math. Even though it may be more expensive than having a full-time employee in the co-managed space (since they are oftentimes larger organizations), they see the benefit of have a team of specialists to take a holistic approach on their next project or to bounce ideas off.

You then shift to the toolbox.

This is going to differ per MSP, but we provide access to our RMM, service board (only for that client), documentation for that client through MyGlue (IT Glues client facing interface), network mapping tools, etc. The expense these tools would have for this IT Director are great. Instead of having to get additional budget approved for each of these important line items, they get it all with this partnership!

We have a short presentation explaining each tool in the toolbox and how the internal IT gets to use them to make their lives easier. This surprisingly strikes home with the IT Directors and the executives.

IT Directors are becoming much more comfortable with Co-Managed. In some cases, we are introducing it for the first time, but most of the time they at least have a general understanding of the necessity. In both situations, it’s hyper important that they feel confident and comfortable. Make sure you show video, testimonials, and case studies from HAPPY IT Directors working with you. This is critical to show that others trust you and you are making them look good!

Here’s an example of one I use often:

Another point that other MSPs may find contentious is project work. We virtually never complete project work for clients that do not have a managed agreement. However, this is the one time we make exception. If they are a large enough opportunity, we will complete ongoing projects to show the quality of work we provide and have the IT Director get used to working with us. I will even offer this when a conversation stales out. It’s an incredible way to get our foot in the door and has led to winning our largest client.  

Ongoing Management of a Co-Managed IT Client

A word of caution

I want to preface this with saying it’s impossible for all of these partnerships to go perfectly. However, when they do go awry, the client usually sides with our MSP. That did not happen by accident.

Our goal is to always build trust with the entire team (executives and IT Director alike). We are not completely beholden to the IT Director even when they hired us (back to that continuity conversation earlier). We need to make sure we are assisting and providing good recommendations to improve the client’s business.

Sometimes, decisions are made that we disagree with. If it does not hinder the client’s security or majorly impact how we can support them (for instance, wanting to move to Workspace when we only support Microsoft 365. That would be considered major), we will let it slide after some strong recommendations.

In other scenarios, the IT person or executives are wanting to make a change that would be a net negative for the company. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down. But do not just say “no” or explain in technical terms. Use analogies or metaphors to describe your recommendations versus the decision they are trying to make.

In these situations, sometimes someone gets fired. If you did a good job on trust building and being a solid partner, it likely will not be you.

Expectations of Co-Managed IT Clients

One of the most important things to consider is the higher expectations from Co-Managed. Sure, your client with 30 seats does not care as much about reporting or those Quarterly Business Reviews, but you better believe the larger organization wants to see clear and concise reporting of the behind the scenes, security, ticketing, and escalation that is happening monthly. If you do not have good reporting mechanisms or think “clients don’t care”, it’s time to change that mindset for these larger opportunities.

If the internal IT is the first line of defense, you need to be all over it when they do escalate something. Make sure your dispatcher and/or your techs know that Co-Managed response does have a higher level of urgency. I have seen this help us time and time again.

Be active in your VCIO role

Introduce new recommendations often and when there is anything in your stack that could benefit their business.

Here’s an example:

We have a large law firm that was spending at least $2,000 a month on computer provisioning. I really wanted them to move to the Business Premium license for a plethora of reasons. These reasons were discussed with the internal IT and executives, but do you know where I spent most of my time talking? Provisioning with Intune.

I explained that Intune and autopilot makes provisioning significantly easier. It’s a net benefit for our team because we do not have to spend time setting up computers, and it’s a massive benefit for them because they will be spending about the same amount of money every month as they are now but with the additional security benefits of Business Premium.

Showing up with recommendations like this makes the client secure and you get them in a better spot. It also shows you’re there for more than just completing service tickets!

Recruitment

When the internal IT person does inevitably leave, you need to be very involved with the replacement process. I know this falls outside of our scope, but it is mutually beneficial to find the right candidate.

I will help them with job descriptions, initial interviews, and follow up interviews. This shows you’re a true partner and helps you get a candidate in the door that is the right fit.

In addition, because you were involved with the hiring process, the internal IT is oftentimes much more beholden to your recommendations and ideas.

Defining Roles

The roles of the MSP versus the internal IT need to be clearly defined. This cannot be understated. For instance, are all tickets going to the internal IT first and then they escalate after specific criteria? Are all tickets coming to the MSP first?

Who manages the cybersecurity of the organization? Most likely this will be you.

Many Co-Managed partnerships will be very similar in “who does what”, but it can vary. You need to be able to be flexible and you must clearly defined the roles up front.

Here’s an example of content we use in our marketing campaign to educate this important component to the prospects (and clients) we’re educating:

Conclusion

Co-Managed IT is likely to grow. We’re having more conversations than ever because organizations are seeing the clear benefit of a partnership like this. Do not fall behind and think “we don’t do that” or “I don’t know how to market.” The fact that you read this entire blog means you’re interested in moving more into Co-Managed or already doing this well and looking to improve. Well done!

A good place to start is getting an inexpensive membership to MSP Camp (if your area is open) and start using the content in our Co-Managed campaign to market and sell Co-Managed IT.

If you have any questions or need any help with Co-Managed IT, please reach out anytime by hitting the live chat or sending an email to Taher@msp-camp.com.