MSPmentor Blog

Positioning Your MSP as an Outsourced CIO

Many MSPs position themselves as trusted advisors, but have they already earned their customers' trust? A better positioning statement is being a virtual or outsourced CIO. As a virtual CIO you are placing yourself within the customer's team, rather than as an external advisor.

I’ve been on something of a crusade of late against the phrase “Trusted Advisor." It flared up again recently at Autotask Community Live, where I had the opportunity to be on a panel with several other channel executives.   I’m certainly not the first to discuss this idea, and am certain I won’t be the last.

The idea of the Trusted Advisor is a positioning statement. The intention is for the MSP or Solution Provider to build trust and provide advice to the organization in an ongoing capacity.  

Be a Virtual CIO instead

The statement of being an organization's Chief Information Officer (or virtual CIO, or outsourced CIO, or any varied number of derivatives) is, in my mind, a stronger statement. The CIO is a much clearer role, with well-defined responsibilities, but a broader reach than a simple advisor.

Spanning technology, policy, and business, this type of role is a deeper engagement. Additionally, it has the advantage of placing the Solution Provider within the customer’s team, rather than as an external advisor. It’s a positioning statement that clearly defines the engagement.

However, when engaging with a new prospect, all the prospect has is an organization’s marketing. It is during this initial engagement that trust is earned by making promises – in marketing, for instance – and then proving those promises are true through actions. This is often the power of the network assessment – the promise of information and insight which is then executed on, the act of which builds trust and proves expertise. 

Trust -- earned not bought

In the course of the discussion, an important point was raised. Trust is not something that can be sold. Instead, it must be earned. This is a bold and powerful statement and something that must be examined in the context of positioning. It is not enough to state one’s position if the reality behind that statement is not true.   

Marketing and positioning should not be dismissed as irrelevant in favor of execution alone. Customers start by being educated; through marketing and positioning, on an organization. Then move into the process of building trust through a series of engagements together. The more authentic and genuine this process is, the stronger the long term relationship will be, and the more the Solution Provider will be able to deepen and expand the relationship. This process of moving from being strangers, to acquaintances, to colleagues, to “trusted advisor” and then beyond to teammate (such as CIO) is best achieved by a genuine alignment between positioning, marketing, sales, and execution.  

Executing the details

To dismiss the power of this as irrelevant is dangerous. While it is tempting to offer advice to focus on raw execution, this alone will not drive business growth. If you have a fantastic business with flawless execution, and no one knows about it, the business will not grow. Instead, some practical guidance is powerful and necessary.

  • Create a simple, genuine position statement.  Define who it is you are, and why you do what you do as an organization. This does not (and should not) have to be flowy, superfluous wording.  Instead, it should be a simple, easy to communicate --- and easy to execute on – statement of who, what and why.
  • Ensure your communications, from marketing to sales to technical; reflect this genuine version of your organization. If your communications are not genuine, they lose power and are quickly identified as false, particularly in a world of powerful social media.
  • Execute. While often implied, the act of doing, by making good on your promises and keeping your position in alignment with your business causes the rest to happen.  

By being this genuine in your style, communication and engagement, you will naturally build trust. I believe that the statement around CIO is stronger, bolder, and clearer than Trusted Advisor, and thus I have been recommending it.  Because trust is earned and not sold, a promise to be the CIO – focusing on business outcomes, engaging at a C-level, and delivering higher value – is a genuine, simple position statement, and leads to greater success. 

Dave Sobel, Director of Partner Community at GFI MAX, is responsible for fostering the growth and success of GFI MAX Partners. As Director of Partner Community, he helps promote collaboration, education and innovation among GFI MAX Partners and among the industry as a whole, ensures they have access to business, technology and market resources, and are utilizing the MAX Platform to achieve positive growth, enhance their offerings and become best-in-class solution providers.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Jul 3, 2014

Very well stated Dave! We are on a path of defining what our vCIO looks like and how we communicate. You added to our conversation.

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