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Savvy managed service providers (MSPs) realize that any type of ongoing IT skills shortage creates opportunities for them. According to a recent online survey of IT managers conducted by the recruitment firm Robert Half, there are primary areas where IT managers are looking to outside contractors for help. These include software development (39 percent), security, privacy and compliance (36 percent), cloud architecture and operation (33 percent) and technology process automation (31 percent).

Despite the number of layoffs occurring, a full 90 percent also said finding top talent remains a challenge, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) plan to increase their reliance on contractors in 2024.

One major factor is the cost to hire and retain IT professionals. The survey notes that salaries for IT professionals with cybersecurity (55 percent), cloud (51 percent), artificial intelligence/machine learning (46 percent), software development (44 percent), and data science/database management (33 percent) expertise have all increased.

During uncertain economic times, organizations are also reluctant to fill or create new positions. That usually means asking the existing IT staff to do more. In fact, the survey identifies heavy workloads (57 percent) as the leading cause of employee burnout, which inevitably leads to more reliance on external expertise to reduce. All things being equal in terms of salary, an IT professional will migrate toward organizations with less stress. When organizations find it difficult to replace that expertise, they will eventually look to MSPs for help.

IT vendors have a vested interest in facilitating these conversations. If there is no one in an organization knows how to manage what they are providing, there is zero chance an organization will buy it. Introducing potential customers to MSPs is, for most IT vendors, a matter of survival.

Building trust

Most IT leaders have a natural bias toward hiring IT professionals versus relying on contractors or service providers. As IT becomes more challenging to manage, there are simply not enough IT professionals with the required expertise.

IT leaders are always reluctant to hire anyone they might have to terminate later. Given the labor laws that exist in many states, firing someone can take months, and the sad truth is many IT leaders don’t have enough budget to train someone to perform adequately. Nor do they always have the luxury of waiting for someone to get up to speed as they hopefully gain the expertise needed over the course of several months.

MSPs should tread lightly when approaching any of these topics. Most IT leaders are well aware of the predicaments they face. They often crave a sympathetic ear that feels their pain before pitching them a solution. Instead of building a relationship, many MSPs appear overly anxious to close a deal simply because a sales representative is trying to make a monthly deal quota. They too quickly start touting specific services, also known as bag diving, before an IT client is comfortable enough to consider that option.

Clients, much like a significant other, need to be wooed. The most effective sales pitch is often asking if there is anything a client needs help tackling. If the client trusts an MSP, it’s usually not long before some good suggestions that start with the phrase “you know” are shared.

Photo: Mikael Damkier / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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