As a managed services provider, your “process” is more than just how you provide services to your clients every single day. It’s your key value differentiator — the rock-solid foundation upon which your competitive advantage is formed. Nobody does what you do quite how you do it, which is what allows you to stand out in a crowd and prove that you ARE the right partner for the right job at exactly the right time.
So why, then, would you be willing to give something so valuable away for free? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you offer a free technology audit when pitching your MSP services.
I was on the phone with a client a few weeks ago and the topic of whether or not to offer a paid technology audit came up. I’ve got my own opinions, but I wanted to hear his thoughts. He said that his company absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, no exceptions, requires all prospective clients to go through a paid technology audit before he’ll even think about producing a proposal.
Later that very same day, I had a call with another client and once again, the topic came up. In this case, her answer was 100% different — she could never imagine charging for a technology audit, she said, as she viewed it as a cost of doing business. She sees her technology audit as part of the sales process and you can’t expect to get paid before you make the sale — that’s just the way things work.
Well, in my opinion, that’s not the way things SHOULD work. At least, not anymore.
To charge, or not to charge? That is the question
For most managed service providers, a technology audit is a critical part of the process of “getting to know” your own potential clients. It represents a tremendous amount of time and effort and involves you actively using your expertise to uncover that prospect’s pains, all while uncovering the areas where you could provide the most value.
How can you expect to give that process the care, the attention-to-detail, and the commitment it demands if you’re not going to be charging for it?
How can you expect to give that process [your technology audit] the care, the attention-to-detail, and the commitment it demands if you’re not going to be charging for it?
If one of your current clients was making significant changes to their infrastructure to the point where they were essentially a new business and wanted you to do that type of work, you’d charge them an hourly rate. It wouldn’t even be a question.
Why is it “just the way things work” that you should do it for free for someone who isn’t even under contract yet?
Why charging actually makes more sense
In truth, charging for your technology audit isn’t just “the right thing to do” in terms of your own bottom line. It makes more sense than the alternative for both parties — it’s just that most people don’t realize it yet.
This “getting to know you” process is something that your prospects are quite familiar with and, in truth, are already used to paying for in other parts of their life. If your client has ever been to a doctor’s office, or a law firm, or has worked with a CPA, guess what — they’ve paid for that initial consultation to see if that person is “the right fit.” Why should you be any different?
Likewise, charging for your technology audit actually removes risk from both parties. Your prospect gets the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing you’re providing them with a true service (because they’re paying for it), and you get the benefit of knowing whether or not a relationship is going to work out after 10 to 20 hours instead of 100+. Any “red flags” that point to the fact you shouldn’t commit to a longer project are only going to reveal themselves after money starts exchanging hands anyway.
Why delay that any longer than you have to?
It’s all about the buildup
But at the same time, I also want to make something else clear: at no point am I advocating for the fact that you should come right out of the gate, guns blazing, ready to charge someone for every interaction you have with them. You can’t start charging for a technology audit if you haven’t set that expectation in the rest of your sales and marketing process.
Instead, you just need to wine them and dine them a little bit. Show them that not only is a technology audit necessary to begin your relationship on the right foot, but that charging for it makes perfect sense for all of the reasons outlined above.
If you’re a brand-new MSP, you can even get away with keeping your technology audit “unpaid” — for a time. But if you go this route, you’ll want to make it very clear to your prospect that this isn’t a free service that you provide to any business that approaches you. Instead, your audit is an investment you’re making into your relationship because you view this particular prospect as someone whose business appears to be a particularly good fit for your business, and the only way for you to find out for sure is through your audit process. Still, you’ll eventually want to start charging for it or you’ll only continue to attract the type of client who is the bane of MSPs everywhere — the one who is just in it for the “free stuff.”
And above all else, you must DO the audit — don’t think about skipping this step, as it won’t do anybody involved any good. Trying to pitch a managed services proposal without first taking the time to understand your prospect’s problems will lead to a situation where they’ll never buy because, at that point, you’re not selling value. You’re selling services. We’ve written about that extensively in the past, and it’s not going to help you solve their problem, which is all they want you to do in the first place.
Where does your technology audit fit in your sales and marketing process?
Are you interested in implementing a paid technology audit into your sales and marketing process but not quite sure where and when to introduce the idea? At my MSP marketing agency, we’re helping our clients answer questions like these and more. If you’re interested in speaking with myself or a colleague about your particular situation, your next move is simple — apply for complimentary one-on-one 60 minute strategy call with Tech Pro Marketing and we’ll schedule a time to connect.
Photo: Alfa Photo / Shutterstock.
In your opionion we shouldn’t offer a free audit. But you off a complimentary one-on-one 60 minute strategy call.
Isn’t this ironic?
Your point is actually a very common point of confusion, and if you don’t have your sales process totally mapped out, it’s easy to mix these two ideas up.
We actually do charge for our equivalent of the technology audit (we call it a “strategy intensive”,) but it’s not something that we advertise on the website.
Our “strategy call” offer is really the equivalent of what an MSP would call a “technology consultation” or even just a “getting-to-know-you-call,” which is a much smaller investment of your time, where your goal is to:
-Qualify your prospect
-Pitch your paid audit/discovery offer
So, to be clear, I’m not proposing that you charge for an introductory phone call. I’m proposing that you put a step in between your introductory phone call, and your pitch for MSP services, and you charge for THAT.
If you follow a similar process, it will look like this:
marketing –> free consultation call –> paid audit –> MSP services
Thanks for the comment and I hope that clarifies things for you!