The ingredients for a successful vendor-MSP partnership

2 paper heads with comment boxes cut out

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that truly engage with their vendor and use all available resources and capabilities can scale and grow faster. A strong, strategic partnership with carefully selected vendors can help MSPs develop and strengthen their business.

Many MSPs, and in particular the smaller MSPs, may not have the specialist skillset or capability required to build sales and marketing into their strategic business plan. A vendor can support those MSPs by tapping into their internal expertise and provide guidance on how the MSP can promote their services and take their services to market. They can also advise on target markets to prioritise - all the while drawing on best practice from their own experiences and working with other MSPs.

To make a strategic business plan work for them, an MSP needs to make a true commitment and build trust and ongoing engagement with the vendor. Both the vendor and MSP will need to create in-depth development and growth plans with an agreement to hold each other accountable. A vendor can also help the MSP execute a strategic business plan by providing an overlay of services that the MSP is unable to provide themselves. These may include technical and marketing resources, strategic guidance from the management team, as well as a possible commercial investment such as marketing development funds.

A strong vendor partnership can also enhance operational efficiency through the use of a vendor’s business management products, which allow MSPs to sell more and reduce the number of resources required by automating and simplifying many business processes.

Strong technology collaborations

Another important consideration for an MSP is how well its vendors collaborate and work with each other as technology partners. Listing company names on each other’s websites are not enough; does the relationship go deeper and allow for real technology integration? This is important to know as it opens up ways for the MSP to create innovative services. If an MSP works closely with a group of vendors who have developed strong bonds, they will know that there is a dependable ecosystem that can support them.

Access to resources

MSPs will need more than generic whitepapers or product training that tends to only tell them what they already know. MSPs want to become experts in the technology and services they sell – and ultimately, their vendor partners want them to be as self-sufficient as possible. To ensure they acquire the right knowledge, it’s essential for MSPs to be clear about the training and information they need, and to ensure it is specific to their target market.

A good training programme will also help MSPs attract, develop, and retain strong talent. A vendor that offers knowledge transfer via webinars, regular updates and interactive sessions will help keep MSP employees up-to-date on the latest technology solutions and delivery services.

Speaking from the heart

As a former MSP, I understand what’s necessary to create a strong partnership with a vendor. When it comes to building relationships between technology vendors and MSPs, it has to go beyond purely transactional, which is the traditional vendor-buyer approach. Creating a two-way dialogue is key. Vendors need to listen to the MSPs they serve and find out what products, services and support they really want. MSPs need to proactively engage with their chosen vendors’ account teams to ask for the right tools, price promotions and bundles that will help MSPs better service their clients, find new opportunities and gain a competitive advantage.

MSPs often don’t have the time or budget to support full-scale marketing programmes. Vendor partners can help fill this gap. Important questions to ask include: How does the vendor partner invest in making MSPs successful? Are lead generation activities designed to support MSPs’ sales efforts? What collateral, pricing, programmes do they provide so that MSPs can go out there with a strong offering, grow their client base and increase sales?

To make the most of the partnership, MSPs have to clearly articulate what they need from the vendor. And, in turn, the vendor partner must make it easy for MSPs to access the resources and materials needed to sell services.

Don’t be shy. MSPs should ask vendor partners how they can help and what support they can provide. For example, they may be able to offer more flexible payment plans or better discounts, which can help with cash flow. Lean on them as they have valuable advice and expertise to share.

Team up for success

All too often, MSPs criticise vendors for not offering the right support, but this kind of partnership is a two-way street. To create a win-win partnership, MSPs need to fully engage with vendors and set common and achievable goals. Taking the time to find the right strategic partner is an investment that will soon pay off. When MSPs build trusted partnerships with their vendors, it can significantly impact their company’s success for the better.

Steve Clark is sales director with Datto