Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Definitive Guide to Buying the Managed Services Operations Manual

Wow. Some books take a month to be "born" into the world.

I guess I should expect something like that from a work like this.



"The Books" are now available as paperbacks (individually and as a set), ebooks in PDF format, ebooks in epub (Nook, kobo, Sony reader, etc.), and in Amazon Kindle format.

That's a lot of work! Trust me. This stuff doesn't just happen!

Now you can get whatever form you want. Here's where you can buy the books - together or separately:

Book(s)FormatISBNSMBBooks.comAmazon.comSmashwords
4-Vol SetPaperback978-0-9905923-1-0
Not Yet

4-Vol SetPDFN/A


4-Vol SetePub Format
(Nook, Sony, etc.)
978-0-9905923-7-2

4-Vol SetKindle Format
978-0-9905923-6-5
Not Yet

Vol 1: Front OfficePaperback
978-0-9905923-2-7


Vol 1: Front OfficeePub Format
978-0-9905923-9-6


Vol 1: Front OfficeKindle Format
978-1-942115-03-8



Vol 2:  EmployeesPaperback
978-0-9905923-3-4


Vol 2:  EmployeesePub Format
978-1-942115-00-7


Vol 2:  EmployeesKindle Format
978-1-942115-04-5




Vol 3: Service DeptPaperback
978-0-9905923-4-1


Vol 3: Service DeptePub Format
978-1-942115-01-4


Vol 3: Service DeptKindle Format
978-1-942115-05-2




Vol 4: Service DeliveryPaperback
978-0-9905923-5-8


Vol 4: Service DeliveryePub Format
978-1-942115-02-1


Vol 4: Service DeliveryKindle Format
978-1-942115-06-9



As you can see, we've had two bits of trouble getting Amazon.com to sell our books as a bundle. They're selling the paperbacks separately. If you want to buy them separately, use the links above. So far we've not been able to get them to sell the bundle with ISBN #978-0-9905923-1-0.

We could theoretically sell the bundle as one Kindle-formatted book, but Amazon has severe restrictions on pricing. Since we can't get the wholesale price we need, we can't sell via the official Kindle store.

But there's good news for Kindle folks: We paid to have the books formatted in Kindle format, so you can buy from our web site. You'll receive a zip file with the .mobi file and the downloadable contents. Just download the file and load it on your Kindle. It will just work.

NOTE: Our price for the 4-book set goes up to $279.95 on October 1st.

Buy now to get in on the $199 early-bird price!

:-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Line of Business Training - Who Does It and Who Pays?

We get mail . . .

Josh sent in the following email regarding something I wrote in Managed Services in a Month.

- - - - -

Hello Karl,

I've finished reading your Managed Services In A Month book and really
enjoyed it. Very thorough and insightful. Brutally honest and I appreciate
that. Something I needed to hear.

One question I have: on Pg.180 you mention "some LOBs require a good deal of
training in order for you to support them properly".

Are you inferring that the LOB application training expenses should be
passed onto the client? If so, how would you approach the client to request
reimbursement?

Would there be a difference (in cost) if the client was new or if the client
was existing (they add on a new LOB application that I have no experience
with)?

Is it kind of like the managed services contract setup fee: good clients
waive the setup fee, bad or new clients charge the amount you want?

Regards,

Joshua

- - - - -

Here's my two cents worth on LOB training: It depends. There are three primary instances when you need to know about LOBs - line of business applications.

1) This is your focus. For example, if you support Dentrix or American Contractor as your primary business. If that's the case, you should be completely responsible for your own/your staff's training. This is similar to focusing on Microsoft. You train yourself on MS products on your own nickel because it's central to what you do.

Having said that, you should also charge more as a specialist in this software than other LOB software. If you really are an expert in something, then charge expert prices.

One advantage to niching a market is that you can subscribe to their newsgroups and forums. You can answer questions online to user problems. You can learn to speak their language and be sought after. Who knows how to migrate this specific high-end system? You do. So the clients come looking for you.

2) Your largest client uses a specific LOB. If you get a big chunk of money (10% or 20% or more of your gross) from a client who relies on a specific LOB, you need to know something about that product.

In some cases, you'll do some one-the-job training and be able to document processes for setup, upgrades, and migrations. But occasionally you'll need to get some real training on a product. If that's the case, then you need to decide who's paying

Some of these LOB software packages require training that's in the neighborhood of $10,000. Others are $1,500. At the low end, it's probably worth doing to keep your largest client. At the high end, it's worth having a discussion with the client that involves a split on the cost of training plus a long-term commitment to services.

The really good news about expensive training is that it never goes to waste if you become an expert in the field. Let's face it: There aren't many companies willing to spend $10K on training for a single product. That means that the LOB company will start referring people to you because there just aren't that many people who have made that kind of commitment.

3) You can't know everything. The third scenario is the most common. You might have one dentist, one real estate agent, one property manager, one construction contractor, one printer, etc.

You can't know every line of business application out there. THAT's why we require that client have support for their line of business applications. We can solve problems really fast if we can get a technician on the phone and talk nerd-to-nerd.

If you tried to get training and be competent on five LOBs, if could cost you a fortune. But it costs each client the cost of maintenance to have top-shelf support available to them. This is a pretty easy sell because you're not asking them to give you more money. You're asking them to spend money, but you don't get any of it.


The Manage Service Approach

I am happy to include "vendor management" in our platinum level plan. That means we manage the LOBs, we contact tech support, and the client is not involved in that piece of support.

We have the documentation. We're not going to let them screw up the security in active directory. We're not going to let them access the system as administrator whenever they want. And we're not going to let them apply a conflicting IP address to a piece of equipment on the network.

Remember: you are the first line of defense against LOB vendors. If they come in and screw things up, you will be the one that gets the call. So it's in your best interest to help them NOT mess things up in the first place.


I hope that answers the question. Feel free to leave comments here or email me if you have other questions.

:-)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Robin Hits the Road - IT Marketing at Its Best!

You may have heard that Robin Robins is hitting the road to do some highly focused Marketing training for MSPs, VARs, and IT Service providers.

I'm sorry I'm late to getting this out for the Show in L.A. But if you're in Boston, Orland, Chicago, or DC, check it out.

I had lunch with Robin in San Diego a few years ago and she confided in me that she really doesn't like to do the "roadshow" travel. She's got a personal health routine, a family, and a business to look after. So she hasn't been out on the road for five years.

I don't know if that means it will be another five years . . . but you should definitely check this out.

Just so you know - no bullshit (and I'm not being paid to say this) - I bought Robin's materials in 2004. Since then I have bought monthly subscriptions, bundles, bootcamps, and more. Her stuff works. And her bundles will always make you more money than they cost - IF you use them.

Anyway, here's the press release:

- - - - -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Robin Robins To Host Five-City Implementation Roadshow Benefiting Over 500 MSP’s Nationwide

Franklin, TN — Robin Robins, founder and owner of Technology Marketing Toolkit, will hit the road this fall for a five-city implementation roadshow beginning September 9th in Los Angeles and will feature stops in Boston, Orlando, Chicago and wrapping up in Washington DC in November.

Robin will spend two full days in each city sharing dozens of proven marketing campaigns that have successful track records of igniting sales, boosting profits and securing better quality clients for thousands of IT service businesses worldwide.  Attendees will leave this event with everything the need to quickly implement a clear, actionable, and effective marketing plan for the IT service businesses.

Since this is the first time Robin has hit the road like this since 2009, tickets in all cities are selling extremely fast.

“The last time I was out for a roadshow like this was 2009, so I’m certainly overdue to get back on my client’s turf and work with them one on one,” said Robins.  “I’m excited to reengage with my members and clients and help them get motivated on their marketing again,” she continued.  “I have to throw a big thank you out to our event sponsors eFolder and Sophos for helping me make this possible, and in turn, I’m thrilled to be able to open this event up to their partners as well.”

For more information or to attend Robin Robin’s 2014 IT Sales and Marketing Roadshow, please visit www.itmarketingroadshow.com or call Robin’s office directly at 615-790-5011.


About Robin Robins and Technology Marketing Toolkit

There is no doubt about it: Robin Robins  has helped more MSPs and IT service businesses to double – even triple – sales, profits and MRR growth than any other marketing consultant in the IT services industry, period.  As a trusted advisor to over 7,000 IT service business owners for over 12 years, Robin knows a thing or two about what it takes to grow sales, recurring revenue streams and a profitable client base for an IT service business.

For additional free resources, videos and articles on marketing your IT service business, plus to request a FREE, customized marketing consultation, go to www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com.

###
Boston
Thursday, September 18-19, 2014
Location: Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel
Register Here


Orlando
Tuesday, September 30 -
Wednesday,
October 1, 2014
Location: Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel
Register Here


Chicago
Tuesday, October 28- 29, 2014
Location: Chicago Marriott O'Hare
Register Here


Washington D.C.
Tuesday, November 18-19, 2014
Location: Embassy Suites Old Town Alexandria
Register Here

:-)

Friday, September 12, 2014

SOP: The Network Documentation Binder

The Network Documentation Binder is exactly what it sounds like. Originally, this was simply something that emerged from the way I ran my consulting business. Then it emerged into the Network Documentation Workbook. After that, we literally used that workbook and the forms in it to maintain our clients’ networks.

Find out more about the Network Documentation Workbook at www.networkdocumentationworkbook.com.

Here’s the sad truth about documentation in our industry: It sucks! There are 948,253 different ways to document a network. And 99% of the time, that documentation is either in the head of the technology consultant or in the possession of the technology consultant.

That information belongs to the client. The client should have a copy. The copy at the client office should be up to date. If you’re a small shop and you personally die or are incapacitated for some reason, the client needs to be able to hire a competent technician and that person should be able figure out the network VERY quickly based on the documentation.

That almost never happens. I can honestly say that we have seen exactly ONE well-documented network with a new client since I went into consulting full time in October of 1995. One.
All the other networks – hundreds of them – had either zero documentation, very poor documentation, or some amount of poor documentation maintained by the owner or onsite IT person.

Here’s the most interesting change in the last twenty years: Consultants have gotten better and better at tracking these thing. We have tools. We have resources. We have a PSA and SharePoint and OneNote, and all kinds of cool stuff.

But we haven’t been good at making sure the client has a copy of all that stuff. Even if you have an awesome system for documentation, you need to make sure that you print it out and give it to the client at least once a year.

Holding Documentation Hostage is NOT Job Security [Rant]

This is one of my absolute pet peeves. I hate the fact that our industry is filled with people who think that they might keep a client because the client doesn't know the passwords, the configurations, the warranty information, etc.

Time and time again, we have acquired new clients who had zero documentation. Many of them could not get the passwords from their old I.T. consultant. The consultants literally refused to give the client access to their own equipment.

This is a favorite rant of mine. Why don’t these consultants get sued all the time? How come clients never have their attorney write a letter simply stating that the client has paid all their bills, nothing is in dispute, and the client owns the information stored by the I.T. consultant?
It doesn't have to be a nasty-gram. The letter can be very nice but stern. But it never happens. Ever. Ever.

We have had clients pay us thousands of dollars to crack into their systems and then re-document them rather than face off against their former consultant. This is beyond my comprehension. (It does, however, give me a level of confidence that I won’t be in a lawsuit. If they’re not going to sue someone like that, they sure as hell won’t sue someone who is conscientious.)

Anyway . . . remember the context here. Keeping passwords secret and not giving the client access to their own documentation was not a successful job security strategy for 100% of the “other” I.T. consultants we followed.

When a client has decided to find a new consultant – for whatever reason – the client is about 90% gone. If they no longer want you for their tech support, they will leave. And my experience is that they will pay large sums of money to make that happen. So hoarding some passwords won’t do you any good.

One of the reasons I wrote my first book, most of my intervening books, and the this four-book series, is to raise the quality of service provided by technology consultants. Keeping passwords and bullying (former) clients is childish and unprofessional.

The client has paid for the hardware, the software, the installation, the support, the maintenance, and the wires in the wall. They own it. Every bit of it. Unless you have a HaaS agreement (hardware as a service), you own nothing.

That means the passwords belong to the client. The configuration information belongs to the client. The configuration backup files belong to the client.

Be Professional!

What’s the most professional way to handle all this? Do the best job you can of documenting the client’s systems. But make sure the client gets a copy at least once a year.

In fact, I recommend that you send someone to get a photocopy of the client’s documentation binder once a year and put it that into the PSA as a PDF document.

When you lose a client, graciously make sure all of their documentation is up to spec. Print it out and update their binder. And then hand it to the owner with a stern warning: Let the new I.T. Consultant use this, but never let them take it out of the building.

We had a client who left us for two years and then came back. They were with us for ten years. One of our people had a disagreement with their new front office manager, and the owner decided to side with her office manager (which is probably the right thing to do).

Anyway, they fired us and hired someone else. We created a service request to make sure all the documentation was up to spec and perfect. After all, if we leave with class and style, we might just get invited back some day.

Just at that time, one of our employees decided to spread his wings and go work for a larger organization. Well, he ended up working for the company that had taken over our client.

When we met up for beers shortly thereafter, he reported that there was zero documentation of the site. The new company had removed the network documentation binder and put nothing in its place.

In fact, the new company had a manager who believed that his personal possession of this kind of information gave him power and job security. So no one could touch a router except him. No one could touch Active Directory except him.

It was, in Josh’s opinion, a huge step backward. I agreed.

After two years, the client came back to us and we re-created all of their documentation. Plus we made sure they knew that they need to guard and value that documentation as a valuable resource.

The Network Documentation Binder – NDB
[End of Rant]

I went through all that to make the point: Documentation is important. In fact, it is central to what you do. Look at this four-book series. It’s all about documenting your processes and procedures. Time and time again we talk about documenting client systems.
Documentation should be the one thing that differentiates you from the competition. What you do. What you see. Everything.

So the Network Documentation Binder – or NDB – evolved out of our standard practice of documenting machines, networks, and configurations. Remember, back in the days of NT 4.0, you needed the drives for everything or you could not load the operating system.

So the Machine Spec Sheet emerged so that we knew which video card was used and could have those drivers ready if something went wrong. And the NIC. And the sound card. And so forth.
Automated systems, such as your remote monitoring tool, give you massive reports with all this data. But the useful 6-10 items of data are hidden among 1,000 other items you do not care about.

In 20+ years managing I.T., I have never found it useful to list every .dll version of every DLL on every computer in an office. But I have found it extremely useful to know the exact video card or network card!

The NDB has these basic components:
·         Title Page/Front Cover
·         Table of Contents
·         Fix-It Request List
·         Fix-It List Priorities
·         Backup Log
·         Notes Sheet
·         Network Diagram
·         Network Summary Page
·         Shared Resources
·         Exchange Specifications
·         Server Software Summary
·         IP Address Allocation
·         Hard-Coded IP Addresses
·         Router Configuration
·         Firewall Configuration
·         Machine Specifications
·         User Records
·         Product Information
·         Internet Domain Registration Information
·         Backup Procedures
·         Monthly Maintenance Checklist
·         Password Policy
. . . most of which are discussed in this four-book series.

The NDB is not intended to be 100% of the information about any machine or the network. It IS intended to give you the important and non-obvious information you need to get systems working again when they break.

How do you make that massive network-connected faxer-scanner-printer connect to the server, deliver faxes to the intended recipient’s email, and drop scans into the correct directories on the public share? I don’t know – but it’s in the documentation!

More fundamentally: How many physical drives are in the server? How are the RAID arrays configured? What’s the domain administrator password? How is the firewall configured? And what is the backup strategy? (See Section III of this volume.)

The NDB covers the basics of users and desktops because, to be honest, those are simple and mostly-disposable resources. All the important company data are stored on the server and backed up. So if a user leaves the company or a desktop computer crashes, no company-critical data are lost. Still – there’s enough information there so that re-building a desktop is as fast as possible.

On the more arcane configurations, the NDB does into more detail. Which publicly-visible ports are forwarded to the server? How do users gain remote access to their desktops? How is the BDR (backup and disaster recovery) device accessed in an emergency?

Implementation

There are two basic approaches to building your NDB. First, you will gather up some information when you take on the client. Remember Chapter One: Your First Client Visit. An ideal first job will touch each computer.

Whether it’s installing RMM agents or doing desktop tune-ups, the opportunity to touch every machines means you can start building the machine spec sheets. You’ll also need to know the IP addressing of the network, and some information about the server and firewall.
Make it a policy and a norm within your business: Every time you touch a piece of equipment, you document it.

The second approach is to do the documentation all at once. You’ll miss a few things because you don’t know they exist. But for the most part, you can document most small networks in one or two hours. This is also a good first job. Just hang out in the client’s office awhile and get to know people.

When you’re done with the documentation, photo-copy or scan everything (whichever is easier and faster for the client) so that you can have someone enter it into your PSA. The client should have a physical Network Documentation Binder that lives next to the server. You should have all of that information as one or more documents in your PSA.

Here are the two easy methods for keeping the NDB up to date:

1)      Whenever you make a change and you are on site, enter the change into the NDB. Sometimes this means updating existing pages. Other times it means that you will create a new page. Just do it.

2)      If you are working remotely and make some significant change, take a screen shot or create a PDF document. Then email that document to your in-house contact and ask them to a) Place it in the “c:\!Tech\Tech Notes” directory on the server, and b) Print it out and put it in the NDB.

Each month, when you do monthly maintenance, you will need to add a few notes to the NDB, and maybe straighten it up a bit.

I know it sounds morbid, but the ultimate test of your success is that you could be hit by a bus and your company would still continue to provide perfect service to the client because everyone documented everything they did.

For most clients, the NDB is maybe 25 pages. For some, it starts out as ten. There’s one for each server, one for each workstation, maybe three for the network, and one for each major device or line of business application (LOB).

The NDB is never intended to be a 200-300 page document that no one ever reads. Just the opposite. It is the most basic, most fundamental, most important information that a competent technician will need to come up to speed very quickly if you and your company are suddenly gone.


:-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Special MSP Reward in Bigger-Brains Kickstarter Campaign

Suddenly, it's a big news week. All I had to do was to go out of town for four days. :-)

Our friends over at Bigger-Brains are running a special Kickstarter campaign to raise money for some new training courses. Chip Reaves from Bigger-Brains was on our Odd Tuesdays podcast in March. You can here that here: http://www.oddtuesdays.com/2014/03/lead-with-training-follow-with-managed-services/.

Please consider donating to BB's Kickstarter campaign.

Here's the press release from BiggerMSP.com: http://biggermsp.com/2014/09/10/kickstarter-campaign-launches-for-msps/

- - - - -
Anderson, SC, September 9, 2014 – BiggerMSP.com announces a new line of Bigger-Brains “mini-courses”, launching through Kickstarter.com.   The first three mini-courses focus on productivity topics, including Time Management, File Organization, and Email Management, and include a special bonus for MSPs who purchase through the Kickstarter campaign.

“I was working with an attorney recently, helping them with an email issue” said longtime MSP and Bigger Brains President Chip Reaves.  “He had a terrible email setup – over 20,000 emails in his Outlook inbox and no subfolders.  He deleted spam, but otherwise everything he ever received was kept in his inbox, until the system inevitably overloaded and crashed every few years, at which point his former IT consultant would move a block of emails into an archive PST.”

“So here was a very talented business professional, who had never been shown that there is a better way to manage his email.  And he’s definitely not alone!  We had started work on some new mini-courses for Bigger Brains, and I knew at that point that we should include topics that would help me educate my clients, and which other MSPs could use with their clients as well.”

The Bigger Brains Kickstarter campaign, which runs through October 3rd, includes “rewards” for $120 or $160 that let MSPs custom-brand these courses and offer them to their clients directly from the MSPs website.

Designed to be just 10 minutes each, these mini-courses use video, audio, and animation to quickly convey useful skills in each topic area.  Future mini-courses are already planned in topics such as Team Management, Procrastination, and iPad Skills.

The Bigger Brains Kickstarter campaign is online at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chipreaves/brain-bites-mini-courses-on-time-management-and-pr

About Bigger Brains

Bigger Brains is a premium eLearning content company, creating “uniquely engaging” eLearning courses which keep students interested and engaged with the training while facilitating effective knowledge transfer.

All Bigger Brains courses are filmed with multiple cameras and multiple presenters, providing opportunities for dialogue, interrogation, conversation, and humor that aren’t available in most traditional eLearning content.  Titles include Microsoft Office & Office 365, QuickBooks, Sales & Marketing, Productivity, and more.

MSPs can sign up for the Bigger Brains reseller program through BiggerMSP.com.  Subscription plans for MSPs are available which include a block of client seats for all Bigger-Brains courses as well as custom-branded social media videos from MSPpromos.com

- - - - -
:-)

GFI Max Evolves Into Two Companies

At the GFI Max 2014 conference in Orlando on Monday, General Manager Alistair Forbes announced that GFI was going to separate their MSP-focused product line from their private cloud solution line.

Starting October 1st, 2014, you'll see messaging from LogicNow for the MSP products (RMM, email security, backup/DR) and GFI for the private cloud solutions.

Here's the official email sent out to the attendees as the announcement was being made from the stage.

- - - - -

Dear GFI MAX customer

I am writing to give you advance notice that we are announcing later today that effective October 01, we are re-organizing the GFI business to create two separate companies. Our cloud-based division will be renamed LogicNow, a new company encompassing the GFI MAX range of RMM services, our cloud-based email security solutions, and IASO cloud-based backup and recovery solutions. Our GFI business will focus on private cloud solutions for end-user businesses. Both companies remain under the same ownership but will operate as separate entities going forward.

This change marks a turning point for MAX. In 10 years we have evolved from new market entrant to the most widely adopted Managed Service Provider platform globally – by some distance. A mark of the confidence placed in us by more than 10,000 MSPs like you. We appreciate and value that confidence and are committed to continue to earn it.

We are making this change in order to focus our activities and investments ever more clearly on developing products and services that will meet your present and future needs as a growing MSP. GFI MAX, which will continue to be 100% focused on the needs of the growing MSP and IT support markets, will be renamed MAXfocus. I and the other members of the current management team will continue to lead the business to deliver the best solutions we can. We remain as passionate about and committed to your success as we have always been.

As a consequence of these changes, you will start to see communications from us under the LogicNow brand from October 01. This will include name changes within our products, new email addresses (logicnow.com), a new web site (maxfocus.com) and invoices and statements. We will work to ensure that these changes are as smooth as possible and that you do not experience any disruption on the way. Your day-to-day contacts will remain the same but if you require further information please do not hesitate to contact the management team via the email address max.cares@gfi.com

I thank you for your business to date and look forward to working with you going forward.

Yours sincerely

Alistair Forbes
General Manager
max.cares@gfi.com

:-)

Friday, September 05, 2014

SOP: Misc. Tools For Running Your Business

In Volume Three of the new this book series The Managed Services Operations Manual, we look at "Approved Tools" for your technicians. You should also make intentional decisions about tools for your company as a whole. For most of us, these are pretty common: Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and Adobe Acrobat.

But you and your team use lots of other tools as well. You might be comfortable letting everyone do whatever they want, but you'll want to standardize as your company gets larger. The most important factors to consider here are: 1) Who needs to share this information? and 2) How will you access this information if someone leaves the company?

For example, you might be just fine letting some people use Google Docs. To what extent do these need to be compatible with Microsoft Office formats? And where are they stored? Under which logons? Do you have local copies, or copies in a company-owned cloud account?

Here are a few tools to consider. In each case, you should decide the questions above - who needs to share, and what do you do when someone leave?

Remote Access tool. Is the tool built into your RMM software the only approved remote management tool?

A Password Safe. We use TK8 Safe (www.tk8.com/safe). It is great for storing passwords in an encrypted file. The managers store each other's TK8 passwords in our files so that we can get to the other files in an emergency.

Internet Browsers. In most cases, it doesn't matter which browser people use. But you may find that specific browsers will be more secure or user-friendly with a given LOB - line of business application.

Graphics programs. These include the standards such as Adobe Photoshop for 2-D graphics, Camtasia for video production, Microsoft Visio for network diagrams, and Dreamweaver for web development. (See www.adobe.com, www.techsmith.com, and office.microsoft.com/en-us/visio.)

Audio editing. If you produce audio, such as podcasts, you should standardize on an editing tool. I have really been impressed with Sony SoundForge, Adobe Audition, and the audio editor built into the Roxio Creator Suite. (See www.sonycreativesoftware.com, www.adobe.com, and www.roxio.com.)

All the software in this blog post is probably "less important" than the previous five SOP blog posts, but standardization will save you money in the long run. Plus it makes life a lot easier when someone leaves.

:-)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Technology Pros: New Networking Opportunity with ULink Networks

Awhile back I announced a webinar with Adam Frick and Jim Pelley from The ULink Network - www.ulinknetwork.com. We held that webinar today and the recording is here:


Here's a quick summary for folks in the I.T. Consulting business:

- Jim and Adam are true community builders here in Northern California. Both are repeat entrepreneurs who got together to build an amazing business networking group.

- The ULink Network uses a app - demonstrated here - to manage referrals.

- Jim and Adam are going to announce a pilot program geared specifically at technology consultants who want to build their networks and grow their reputation among clients as a business connector.


A Business Connector 

One of the many roles you can play in any community is that of connector. A Business Connector is someone who introduces people to each other who should (or could) be doing business together. It's a lot more than just being a referral partner.

A business connector makes the effort to introduce people simply because he realizes that they seem like a good fit. Or one of them is looking for something the other might be able to help with.

This is much better than merely being a referral partner. Why? Because

1) You make connections even when you have nothing personal to gain. You give first.

2) You connect people based on factors that are not directly related to trading dollars for goods and services. For example, you might introduce people because they both enjoy the same hobby or their kids share the same sport. You help them grow a true network of friends as well as business associates.

3) You become a resource. You become a person people can trust. You become someone who might be able to help - even if the problem is not related to servers and switches and laptops.

One of the best connectors in my life and business is Hank, my accountant. Hank has done my taxes for more than twenty years. Business, personal, trust, rental properties, etc. Everything Hank is a true adviser and someone what I can turn to for all kinds of help. He isn't an attorney or a property manager. But he knows some really good ones. And he share them with me when I need help.


The ULink Connection

Imagine growing your business by being the person who connects others. Who are your clients? They're small businesses. They are attorneys, doctors, accountants, marketing professionals, realtors, store owners, plumbing contractors, and more. And every once in awhile they can use a referral.

They need referrals to plumbing contractors, store owners, realtors, marketing professionals, accountants, doctors, attorneys, and more. Get it? they need each other. And YOU can make that introduction.

ULink provides the tool get your clients on the ULink App. And when they say, "Do you know anyone who __________?" you can say YES. Then you can make the referral using the ULink app and instantly connect them.

Your clients will know the referral is good because they trust you. Unlike old-school networking groups, you're not making referrals because you are required to show up with a referral to every meeting. You are making a referral because there's a real need and a real fit.

As Adam Frick likes to say, "A piece of your credibility goes with every referral you send." So take it seriously.

The webinar has instructions on how to contact Jim and Adam. It's less than half an hour. Please give it a look and email Jim if you're interested in finding out more.

Note: I'm not being paid for the webinars or writing this blog post. But I will be helping Jim and Adam with the ULink pilot program they're putting together.


Next Webinar: More Details

The next ULink video will be . . .

Tuesday, Sept. 16th
9:00 AM Pacific

Go Here: https://global.gotomeeting.com/meeting/join/592905405

Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP). Or, call in using your telephone. United States: (571) 317-3131

Access Code: 592-905-405

See you then!

:-)





Saturday, August 30, 2014

Extra Bonus Amazing Labor Day Sale - SMB Books

Use the code EXTRA10 right now to save an extra 10% over at www.SMBBooks.com.

For our friends down under, we're going to let that go through August 2nd in the U.S.

There are lots of sales going on right now at SMB Books, so this is an additional 10% off the prices you see there. This sales is for everything and anything on that site.

Here are the hottest items we have right now:

Item
Description

MSRP
Current
Price

Save 10%
Managed Services Operations Manual$280$199Save an Extra 10%
Project Management in Small Business$50$39.95Save an Extra 10%
Karl's 10th Annual SMB Preday Show$199$149Save an Extra 10%
Karl's Brisbane Roadshow$199$149Save an Extra 10%
Karl's Sydney Roadshow$199$149Save an Extra 10%
Karl's Melbourne Roadshow$199$149Save an Extra 10%
Karl's Auckland Roadshow$199$149Save an Extra 10%
5-Week Class - Managing the Service Board - Daily Procedures$199$199Save an Extra 10%
Relax Focus Succeed - 2nd Ed.$25$19.95Save an Extra 10%
Managed Services in a Month - 2nd Ed.$30$24.95Save an Extra 10%
Service Agreements for SMB Consultants$50$39.95Save an Extra 10%
. . . AND MORE . . .----------Save an Extra 10%

If you've been waiting for a sale, this is it. Lots of prices are going UP in September, including (especially) the big 4-book set. You know you are going to buy it eventually. You might as well do it now and SAVE!

Thank you for your support!

-karlp

:-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

SOP: Investing in a CRM Beyond Your PSA

When we think about CRM - Customer Relationship Management - the classic tools have been ACT! and, more recently Salesforce.com (see www.act.com and www.salesforce.com, respectively).

A CRM system tracks all aspects of client information, prospective sales, actual sales, marketing campaigns, the "sales funnel" for all sales representatives, and much more. Just as a technician lives inside the service board, your sales rep lives inside the CRM.

With modern APIs and the trend toward massive integration, CRM options have exploded. First, every good PSA has a CRM module built in. Second, there's been an explosion of low-end CRM tools such as SugarCRM and high-end tools such as Infusionsoft (see www.sugarcrm.com and www.infusionsoft.com, respectively).

My favorite tools for integrating with everything in sight is Results Software (www.results-software.com). Results actually performs a two-way integration with each of your other tools. So if you change an address in Outlook, it will change that address in QuickBooks.

As with the quoting software, you need to have enough volume to make a CRM purchase worthwhile. And like a quoting tool, once you start looking, you want to find one that integrates as fully as possible with all the other tools you've invested in.

Here are some of the features you will find in a decent CRM:
- Contacts, clients, prospects
- Sales tracking
- Automated marketing
- Integration with Office, Outlook, social media
- Dashboards and reports

CRM used to mean primarily a system for keeping track of how you contacted people in your "prospect" database. ACT! made its name keeping track of this information. But modern CRMs are much more than that.

Today your CRM can be used to keep track of marketing campaigns. You can see how many pieces of mail, and which pieces, were sent to a prospect. You can send your newsletters through the CRM system.

In some systems, you can manage you social media presence, and actually schedule your postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media from inside your CRM.

Choosing a CRM
Assuming you have a PSA, using the CRM module inside your PSA is probably the best place to start. Get used to tracking your activity. See what it means to track a prospect and an opportunity. Determine some best practices within your company regarding the CRM.

As a built-in tool, the CRM module inside your PSA will be good. But it might not be great for your company and your sales force. You need to look your entire sales process and find a tool that works with the process you have - or the process you want to build.

In one sense, a CRM will be a lot like a PSA: You will probably not use many of the features. So the best place to start is a thorough examination of how you want to market your business and make sales. Will you be using social media? Google ads? Email? Postal mail? Telephone calls? And so forth.

If you are very happy with your PSA, your financial package, and your quoting tool, then first verify that any CRM you consider will integrate fully with those tools. Then consider how you have been marketing and how you plan to be marketing. Your CRM should excel at all of those activities.

The biggest danger with a dedicated CRM (as opposed to using the one built into your PSA) is that both you and your sales people need to open it! Here's what I mean.

Obviously, the marketing people need to use the CRM to get your message out and get the opportunities knocking on your door. Then the sales people need to use the CRM to track their calls, contacts, and proposals.

But you - the owner or sales manager - also need to log into the CRM. If you are not tracking your marketing people and your sales people, then they will figure it out right away. I personally hate managing sales people. I don't want to talk to them about their targets or their progress. I feel like a parent telling the kids to clean up their room.

But it's the nature of sales people that they need to be managed. Very few sales people are awesomely successful without management. That means someone has to log into the CRM dashboard and talk to them about the number of calls made, the number of appointments set, the number of proposals presented, the number of signed sales, etc.

If you (or your sales manager) won't log into the CRM and track activity, then don't waste your money on a stand-alone CRM.

When you truly outgrow the CRM that ships with your PSA, then you need to make the commitment to log into a separate tool and run reports on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there are some activities you cannot delegate. Tracking sales and marketing activity can only assigned to the owner or the sales manager, if there is one.

So the bottom line is: Use your built-in CRM until you know it and use it thoroughly. If you need something "more" than that, choose a CRM that fully integrates with your other tools. And then commit yourself to logging in and making those sales happen!

:-)