Monday, November 17, 2008

Untangle-ing Managed Service In A Month

I was quite surprised and impressed with a webinar I did last week for Untangle. The topic was, quite simply, "Managed Service In A Month."

We were in direct competition with the SBS 2008 launch (exact day and time). Still, we had 748 people sign up and almost 400 attend.

The recording is archived here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/151102262.

I also received a large number of questions. I'm surprised how much attention there still is for this topic.

Here are a few of the questions I received by email after the webinar, paraphrased, with answers:

- - - - -

Q:
Do you cover systems that are out of manufacturer's warranty?

A:
Our "written" agreement is that all machines must be under manufacturer's warranty. We don't let servers slide on this. We make them buy an extended warranty.

On desktops, we don't care as long as they're trouble free. But we don't cover hardware troubleshooting or replacing parts. So once they start to go, it become expensive fast.

The longer clients are with us, the more kool-aid they drink. That means they buy new equipment every three years. As a result, everything is always under warranty.

--

Q:
I've used the technique of offering an audit report to clients, but with no success so far. Any tips?

A:
The key is: the report is an excuse. You need to work on getting them to trust that you can take care of their systems. You can never present this report by any other means except in person. Don't mail it. Don't email it. Don't do it over the phone. The "price of admission" is to sit down and have a talk with you.

Remember, the client has been open enough to invite you in. They're not doing this for every other consultant in town. Eventually, this technique will work.

--

Q:
You mentioned that you have 7 employees. May I ask what roles they fill? I also have 7 employees- 2 Sales (me included), 3 technicians, 1 part time office assistant, 1 Office Manager/Service manager.

A:
Our employees are:

Karl - CEO, owner, sales, marketing, chief architect
Manuel - President, service coordinator,
Josh - Technician (2 years on the job)
Dan - Technician (1 year on the job)
Jennifer - Office manager, finances
Lana - administrative assistant
Erin - administrative assistant

I'm often asked why we have such a high ratio of admins to techs. Recall that we have two simple rules when work comes in the door: 1) If it can be done by Zenith, assign it to Zenith. 2) If it can be done by an Admin, assign it to an Admin.

--

Q:
Pricing. We had several questions about setting pricing. There seems to be a large group who know they need to raise prices, but are afraid to do it in this economy.

A:
Here are three books with great discussions of pricing:

- Managed Services In A Month

- Service Agreements for SMB Consultants

- The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice

In General, most people could and should raise their prices. Very shortly we are going to announce our price increases for 2009.

The rent goes up. Electricity goes up. Medical insurance goes up. Even the price of cars from failing car companies goes up.

Your rates need to go up.

For most people who ask about rate increase, I find that they are WAY below market. Like $60/hr or $75/hr.

I am not kidding you: No one in this profession who knows what you're doing should be less than $100/hr. -- anywhere in the U.S.

This may sound absurd, but The fastest way to make more money is to raise your rates. No kidding, Sherlock.

I've harped on this issue so many times in this blog, I should have a tag for "Raise Your Rates Already!"

This is a scary time for many consultants. But clients aren't buying (or not buying) your services based on the rate. They are buying you. With very few exceptions, your rates probably don't come up in the conversation until the end -- when they've already decided to hire you.

On more than one occasion I've had someone agree to sign a deal and then I felt obligated to say. "Just for the record, our rate is . . .."

Remember, there are consultants at $25/hr. And $60/hr. And $100/hr. And $200/hr.

You became a consultant when you printed up business cards and said "I'm a consultant."

You become a $150/hr consultant when you start saying "We charge $150/hr."

Do Not Fear This Economy

First, you need to charge what you need to charge to stay in business and make a little money.

Second, If you're good at what you do, charge for it.

Third, you might lose a client or two. But probably not.

Fourth, you are now eligible to get some of the "better" clients who would never consider a cheap consultant because they don't want second-rate work.

Fifth, if you don't make enough money to last the next twelve months, you're likely to be doing something else for a living at this time next year.

Raise your rates.

- - - - -

Anyway, we had a good webinar with a huge response.

Greg from Untangle did something that all good hosts should do with a webinar: He prepared some starter questions in case there were no questions from the audience.

The thing about Managed Services webinars (seminars, conference calls, etc.) is that there in never a shortage of questions. I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy doing this.

I don't have all the answers, and my experiences are just my own, but I really feel like there's a need out there in the community. I'm happy to help where I can.

:-)

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