Jeff worked for eight months on this opportunity. He and Grace, the CFO of a well known food distribution company, had been introduced at a networking event in the spring and agreed to keep in contact. During the summer months, he learned about Grace’s company. At the same time, her comfort level with his input increased as well. Around Labor Day, she mentioned that management was investigating the idea of redacting the company’s internal IT support and finding a third party to provide that service. By Halloween, Jeff had made a proposal, and by Thanksgiving, Grace was recommending that solution to the board. Having Jeff’s company manage their tech-infrastruture would reduce costs by 44% while offering more comprehensive service.
He received a call from Grace the week before Christmas. His company won the contract, and it was substantial.
The implementation began on January 2nd with the goal of having Jeff’s company managing the entire IT department by February 1st. But almost immediately, things began going wrong. There were a number of machines still running Windows XP and Windows Vista. There were machines that were using the same licenses of needed software. Warranty documentation was almost nonexistent. Passwords to servers and firewalls had been lost. Different offices were using different VOIP providers and security platforms.
Grace was furious and second-guessing her decision. “Jeff,” she said, “I put my support behind this proposal and now it’s making me look incompetent.” Jeff was frustrated. His technical team told him that the on-boarding and implementation was going to take a lot more time than previously forecasted and the customer was going to have to upgrade a lot of hardware and software just to get things functioning properly.
The truth is that finding prospects in need of your service is only one part of the equation. In many cases, its the ONLY part that your sales and marketing team are paying attention to, much to the detriment of your technical team. Because of the time it takes for most enterprise prospects to evaluate your offerings and make a decision, the moment they finally say “yes” can make it feel like the hard work is done and there is cause for celebration. But what do you really know about the customer? What do you know about the situation you are about to enter? If you are an IT services provider, evaluating client and prospect maturity should take place in advance of signing any contracts and starting any work.
That’s not to say that every client engagement will be an ideal situation. In reality, very few clients have their IT infrastructure fully optimized and managed; that’s why they’ve called you to help! But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add a step in the sales process that evaluates exactly what environment is awaiting your technical team should you win the business. Whether running a health-report across the network or making an on-site visit to audit the system architecture as a whole, the discovery process should take place in advance of any commitments by you or your client.
The most successful managed services and solutions providers have minimum requirements for each device (workstation, network security, server, storage, etc.) that must be met in advance of ongoing service starting. And if the client has assets that don’t meet those minimum requirements, they can either upgrade or find someone else to work with. If you don’t have the minimum compatibility requirements for your service documented and ready to present to prospective clients, you need to address that shortcoming right away. While this may seem harsh, it is certainly more reasonable then entering into a work agreement that is destined for failure and frustration for everyone involved.
In the instance above, Jeff’s optimism about bringing on a new client turned into frustration and disappointment for everyone involved. He knew that his company’s services were a great fit for Grace’s organization. If only he had paused long enough to ask if the client was a also good fit for their offerings. Just as important, if not more, than the services you provide is the state of the organization with which you are hoping to work. Prospect maturity will determine success or failure more than any other component of your working relationship.
As eager as you are for the next sale, don’t fall in to the trap of doing “anything for a dollar.” The right clients can help your business thrive, but the wrong clients can spell disaster, cost money, and divert your attention from profitable clients. Click here to learn how Mosaic NetworX evaluates prospect maturity to make sure each client engagement is a success before it begins!