Rampant Referrals For MSPs – Part 7

Rampant Referrals - Part 12

Okay, so as a quick recap, last time we looked at how referrals can be sabotaged in terms of personality issues. Specifically, we looked at :

– Underestimating the Importance of Soft Skills
– Lack of Personal Connection
– Lack of Professionalism
And then we looked at the personality traits to foster, namely empathy, trustworthiness, enthusiasm, and likeability.

I also included some classic books that might be relevant for people to read. The research I undertook for this revealed some interesting insights. For example, did you know that similarity has a stronger positive relationship with trust than supplier likeability? That means that business-people are more likely to trust individuals who they believe are similar to them more than people they like (Smeltzer, 2006) … interesting stuff!

And now we need to move onto a subject closer to my heart, and that’s communication and how the lack of it impacts your referrals.

Categories of Communications

There are 4 main categories outlined here, although there are more.

1 – Internal to Internal : i.e. MSP Staff to MSP Staff

2 – Internal to External : i.e. MSP Staff to Stakeholders’ Staff

3 – External (Internal) to External (Internal) : Stakeholders’ Staff to Stakeholder’s Staff’

4 – External (Internal) to External (External) : Stakeholders’ Staff To Stakeholders’ Stakeholders

Remember throughout this process that all referral-opportunities are gold-dust, even if the referral might be for another company – you can still leverage the value from it from another company. Therefore it pays to be open-minded about all the referrals that are available.

Some Examples :

1 – Internal to Internal : i.e. MSP Staff to MSP Staff

Problem : Poor internal communications.
Impact : Opportunities can be missed due to a lack of internal communications within an MSP.

For example, do your support staff speak to your marketing staff? Perhaps a tech-support staff-member could have a conversation with a client who is unhappy with their CRM Company or who need a training company? This could be an ideal referral for another company so make sure you leverage it !

Perhaps your part-time cleaning person works in another office and maybe they could see where a people leave passwords stuck to their monitor lying around or perhaps they have an old on-premise server or have old kit. Making a growing database of referrals referral-triggers such as these can help in training here when speaking with staff across the board – especially new ones.

How likely is it that these opportunities are being missed due to the lack of a structured internal communication process.

Solution : Encourage regular internal discussion. Perhaps make this part of your weekly staff-meeting. Crucially, make it structured and ensure all your staff-members contribute each week and – just as importantly – ensure they read the minutes of the meeting each week, especially if they missed the meeting.

To reiterate, make the idea of looking for referral-triggers and opportunities a part of your team’s communications process and ask your staff-members to bring opportunities to the meeting each week and you can do this by giving them a ready-reckoner for looking for ‘Sales-Signals’* (To be covered in a later episode )

2 – Internal to External : MSP Staff to Stakeholders’ Staff

Problem : Poor internal-external communication.
Impact : I would go as far as to say that most missed referral-opportunities can be attributed due to poor internal-external communication.

How good are you and your team at communicating regularly and effectively with all of your stakeholders? Not just clients but prospects, suppliers, partners, peers and your business-community at large?

Solution : Make sure you have regular, relevant, informative and educational lines of communication open for all your stakeholders. for prospects, try implementing a DRIP campaign : Differentiate, Remind, Inform, Persuade : The Weekly MKLINK Newsletter contents are a pretty good place to start!

For existing clients, try a retention campaign. That means helpful communications outside of just operational communications such as their backup reports. To start with, run things like scheduling regular customer feedback, education & training emails, webinars and videos – again the MKLINK content is a good place to draw from. You can and should also run face-to-face meetings and events.

For your suppliers, you can make sure you provide regular feedback for them and ask them for news and updates and training opportunities – you’re literally in the middle here between them and your clients, so leverage that position to the full!

For your peers, you can attend industry events – such as Comptia or the MKLINK events, where you should proactively network and stay in touch with these contacts and joint-venture with them.

With your referral partners (perhaps a CRM company or a software company) you can provide guest content and exposure for them and they can give you guest content and exposure in return.

All of these channels : prospects, clients, suppliers, peers and partners should all be communicated with regularly and in such a way that sales-signals can be harvested for yourself, for them and for others to leverage as well.

3 – External to External : Stakeholders’ Staff to Stakeholders’ Staff i.e. External (Internal) to External (Internal)

Problem : Poor internal communications within your stakeholders’ organisations. In much the same way you might have poor communication between your staff members, so can your clients and prospects and suppliers and partners and peers and so on with their staff members.

Impact : Having stakeholders with poor internal communications means that you can’t harvest the conversations that they don’t have. i.e. you miss their referral opportunities.

Solution : Obviously, unlike your own company, you have a lot less say and a lot less sway in how another company runs their internal communications. But it’s not zero. If you think about it, your clients look to you for technical advice and leadership. Assuming then that you provide them with regular IT content and training (i.e. the kind of IT content and training and videos and live webinars for MSPs’ clients that MKLINK provides) then this creates a significant opportunity for you.

If you remember back to a previous section, you’ll recall that people will take action either because they want to or because they have to. So, why would your stakeholders want to be communicating internally amongst themselves about you and your services?

Alternatively, why would your stakeholders have to be communicating internally about you and your services? I’d suggest you think of as many reasons as you can.

Let’s look at a few options :

If they wanted to talk about your services, it could be because your interactions with them are fun and engaging. Maybe it could be some educational role-play around hacking and phishing and social engineering. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to make something that’s useful but also fun and engaging.

Alternatively, if they had to talk about your services, it could be because they need to discuss and practice a disaster-recovery procedure which you’ve written once a quarter as part of their operations manual. You could ensure that your branding was all over it and it could include hyperlinks to your website for recent updates. Ditto for their backup-procedures or onboarding procedures etc … like I say, write down some ideas for yourself. That’s for existing clients. What about clients who are themselves onboarding a new supplier? Perhaps you can give them a security checklist that they need to comply with and which you can audit? The idea here is to think of and map-out of all the communication touch-points that your stakeholders have internally and see if there is any relevant collateral or procedures where you can get involved and ensure that your corporate message and branding are all over it. Repeat the process for each type of stake-holder from clients to peers to prospects to partners.

Remember that the more you help procedurise this for them and doing the heavy-lifting, the more you’ll end up controlling their internal narrative. Most people will have massive gaps in their procedures that you can help them with and they’ll likely not do this for themselves. Frameworks like ISO27001 might be a good place to start – obviously there are others. Even onboarding a new member of staff is something that you can map-out for your prospects and clients and partners in terms of procedures and training.

4 – External (Internal) to External (External) : Stakeholders’ Staff To Stakeholders’ Stakeholders

Problem : Your stakeholders don’t communicate about you beyond themselves. I.e. you’re not being communicated to other stakeholders.
Impact : The referrals you receive will be dramatically reduced if your overal word-of-mouth marketing reach doesn’t extend beyond your immediate stakeholders.
Solution : Once again, the objective is to encourage your stakeholders to communicate about you and your services to as many other stakeholders as possible within their network and sphere of influence.

Again, let’s remember to look through the lenses of motivating people to do things because they want to or have to. Most of your stakeholders will want to look good and feel good. This is an opportunity to provide them with collateral they can use to involve other stakeholders. On one side of the spectrum, that could include giving them some wall-posters and other promotional material they can have and also disseminate to their own stakeholders. A great example of this is one MSP we worked with produced IT-Packs for a commercial property agent to give to clients that were moving into an office-block. This thinking could be extended to facilities management companies and other external stakeholders.

On the other side of the spectrum, you can provide a complete end-to-end training and content solution for them. Fon instance, you could help one of your clients organise an event for their own clients and stakeholders. Let’s say you have a client who is a B2B provider, such as a local HR company or a national software provider. In either case, if you can help them add value to their own stakeholders by providing information, training and procedures around the nexus of your industry and theirs, where you can piggy-back on top of all their business-contacts and goodwill and reach and exposure – all for the sake of a little thought and effort. This is the topic of another day but there are countless opportunities where you can provide regular value in order to gain exposure to the stakeholders of your stakeholders.

To be clear, you’ll need to do the joined up thinking for them of course but this – in my opinion – is one of your best strategies to dramatically increase the conversations people are having about you and all the effort you put into this stays within the goodwill and value of your business. That’s unlike throwing money at Google which typically just reduces your cashflow and benefits the shareholders of Google.

So, In this episode, I’ve quickly covered the 4 main ‘silos’ of communication and in the next episode, we’ll drill a little deeper into how to counter the communications problems within these silos which can be sabotaging your referral flow.

References
The Meaning and Origin of Trust in Buyer-Supplier Relationship
Smeltzer, L.R. (2006)

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Mike Knight