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Business partnerships can be structured around several factors—shared opportunities, complementary technologies or customer bases, long-standing personal relationships, or even the sharing of mutual competitors. Trust is critical, of course, but there is another element that is also important when it comes to partnerships: empathy.

Understanding creates more robust customer relationships

Empathy is an increasingly important concept in business consulting for internal programs and customer relationship development. Companies are attempting to adopt the mantra of fish-out-of-water soccer coach Ted Lasso from the popular Apple TV series: “Be curious, not judgmental.”

For MSPs, this means asking customers what they need and listening to them not because every problem represents a sales opportunity but because that understanding can create a stronger partnership. Eventually, those stronger bonds can lead to business opportunities that benefit everyone.

Knowledge leads to empathy

The old business model of pushing boxes or licenses has diminishing returns for MSPs. Companies today are looking for solutions to specific business challenges. As such, taking time to listen to your customers and learn as much as possible about their business is the first step toward becoming empathetic. Next, you must learn to recognize that technology products are just one part of the solution you deliver to solve your customer’s business challenges.

Being empathetic also means taking an outside-in approach and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. It is only when you establish consultative partnerships using an outcomes-focused approach, or one that involves understanding your customers’ needs and goals and putting their managed services offerings into the context of the entire IT framework (including technology and services from other partners), that you can create a winning situation for both you and your customer.

Empathy creates opportunity

Leaning in on empathy during—and after—the sales cycle is also a critical differentiator. This is especially true for customers who may hesitate to move into new product offerings like cloud or managed security services.

Lining up their current and future business needs/goals against these products or service offerings can help move the needle on closing new business. For instance, you may be able to uncover new opportunities with existing customers and even help them plan new service offerings not currently part of their product suite.

Empathy is also critical in change management, such as digital transformations. As an MSP, you are essential in IT outsourcing, up-leveling your customers’ cybersecurity postures and workforce productivity. Doubling down on empathy during these times is vital in helping you successfully guide your customer through change management.

The more you understand how you can be a part of the solution you provide to your customers, the better your partnerships will be.

Photo: metamorworks / Shutterstock

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Jason Beal

Posted by Jason Beal

Jason Beal is Vice President, Worldwide Partner Ecosystems at Barracuda, leading global channel strategy and development with a strong focus on driving growth across the Barracuda global partner ecosystem. He brings more than 20 years of channel leadership experience, with a focus on channel ecosystem launch, and development and expansion in cybersecurity businesses.


  1. Empathy, is a lost art. We need to put it back in the forefront.


  2. Empathy should be one of the most requested skill, encouraged and trained among employees


  3. Very true. I try to apply this to my daily activities.


  4. “Being empathetic also means taking an outside-in approach and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.”

    I think for many IT professionals, this is difficult simply because we’re not doing their job. Having a 1 on 1 sit down over job functions/tasks/responsibilities goes a long way when recommending solutions. I’ve heard several clients ask for sit downs to go over workflow, and I think that helps a lot.


  5. Good article. Empathy is important.


  6. This video clip from Simon Sinek says it all:
    “We don’t do business with companies. We do business with people.”


  7. Hits the nail on the head


  8. Empathy should apply to customers, employees, and coworkers.


  9. Wonderful article! Sharing with my team.


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