Episode 160: The MSP with bad techs

Episode 160: The MSP with bad techs

Paul Green

Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 160: The MSP with bad techs

Episode 160

Welcome to the MSP Marketing Podcast with me, Paul Green. This is THE show if you want to grow your MSP. This week’s show includes:
  • 00:00 Why it’s time for your MSP to fire a tech
  • 06:44 How to make tech news relevant to your clients and prospects
  • 13:54 A pricing expert on how to accelerate your growth
  • 27:02 A great book recommendation about transforming your leadership skills

Featured guest:

Per Sjöfors is a featured guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Per Sjöfors, the Price Whisperer, for joining me to talk about how to accelerate your MSP’s growth.

Per is a thought-leader in everything pricing and how companies can use pricing to drive higher growth, sales volume, and profits. He is a sought-after speaker for various conferences,
appears regularly on podcasts and business radio shows, and gets routinely quoted in the financial and business press. His new book, “The Price Whisperer – A Holistic Approach to Pricing Power” is available at booksellers nationwide and online.

Connect with Per on LinkedIn:

Extra show notes:

Episode transcription

Fresh every Tuesday for MSPs around the world. This is Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
All right, we are ready to rock and roll. This is what I’ve got lined up for you in this week’s show.

Per Sjöfors:
Hi there. My name is Per Sjöfors. Pricing is so important for your company, how you can use pricing as a profit lever and drive unsurpassed business results.

Paul Green:
We’ll also be talking about turning technology into readable, usable content. The average business owner or manager that you want to reach, they don’t really care about technology. So how do we take tech news and make it interesting to them? I’ll tell you later on in the show.

Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
There’s a possibility that someone’s going to get fired as a direct result of this podcast today. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? I’m talking about technicians. Now, I know, let me give you that caveat, I know that recruiting and retaining technicians is hard work right now. It’s going to be something that continues, I think, throughout 2023, but just because it’s hard to find, attract, and retain talent doesn’t mean that we should put up with bad talent.
What I mean is technicians who have coming with the wrong attitude, who just don’t bring their A game to work, essentially, they’re working against you. You know deep down who these people are. Don’t say their name out loud. But if you were to think about someone right now, who’s the weakest member of your team? Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? If you were to ask the other technicians on your team, just maybe they would have the same name on their lips as well, and, in fact, you could kind of test this with some senior members of your tech team, people that you trust not to go and tell anyone else that you’ve asked that question.
If two or three of you who’ve worked together for a while all agree that there is someone who is not pulling their weight and it’s because they haven’t got the right attitude rather than anything else, then really that person has to go. There are actually a ton of tools available to help you figure out who should stay and who should go. And I’ve got one here, which is from the excellent book Traction by Gino Wickman. Now, there’s a whole series of books in the Traction Series. I’ve talked about them before on the podcast because they are wonderful books for helping you get a grip on the chaos within your MSP and setting yourself on a growth track for the future. It’s a lot of work, but isn’t that the case for businesses anyway, that there’s always a lot of work to be done?
So one of the things in right about the middle of the book, Traction and Traction is the introductory book to the series, it’s the one you should start with that talks about something called the People Analyser. Now, the People Analyser allows you to score all of your people against the core values of the business. So what are core values? Well, something that they get you to do earlier in the book is to sit down and think what are the core values? When we’re recruiting people, what are the core values we want to recruit them to? So typically for MSPs, that would be a deep desire to get the job done. It would be huge levels of customer service. It would be to genuinely care about someone’s problem. It’s those kind of things.
In fact, the easy way to find your core values for the business is actually to think about your own personal core values. What I tend to find is that the owner or the operator of the business, if they’re owning and operating with passion, then they typically have a whole set of core values which become the business’s core values. This is what makes each of our businesses so wonderfully different because they are reflections of us. They are not just a series of things that we’ve got out of a book.
So if you could write down, and this is something you can reflect on during a long dog walk or over a coffee or a weekend away or something, what are the core values of the business? And you can check in with Traction if you want to do that exercise formally. Then you can kind of draw a grid and you can put your people down the left-hand side, literally list their names down the left-hand side and put the core values for your business across the top. And then you can go through and give them a score against each of these core values. Now, what they recommend in Traction, rather than a number score, they recommend like a plus or a minus score.
So, for example, let’s imagine one of your core values was take ownership of problems. You might have a member of your staff called Sally Jones and you might think, oh, Sally, she’s awesome. She always takes ownership of problems. So where the value and Sally intersect, you put in a plus. And then you’ve got another member of your team called John Smith. And John Smith does not take ownership of problems whatsoever. So for him, you’d put the minus because he doesn’t do that. But then you’ve got a third member of your team called George Wilson. And George kind of sometimes takes ownership of problems and sometimes doesn’t. So for George you would put a plus and a minus.
And as I say, this is how they score it in the book Traction. You could probably think of an easier way to do it, but you get the principle of what we’re trying to do here. Because what you want to be able to do is look at the grid when you finish scoring each of your staff according to each of your core values and ask yourself, why am I hanging on to John Smith? Because look, he’s scored a negative. It’s no in all of these core values, there is no place for someone in your business like that. And this kind of allows you to identify the extreme outliers, because you can see who your very best people are, but you probably know that anyway. You can see who your kind of B team players are, the people that are of average performance and maybe they can be improved or maybe you just look at them and think, right, we’ve got to do some work on them.
But it’s the C team players, it’s the worst ones, the bottom 20% of 20%, those people have got to go. And this formally helps you to identify who those people are. It’s worth doing that for all of your team and don’t forget to do yourself in that as well. Because I think what happens, especially if you’ve been an owner for a long time, is we do go through dips, peaks and troughs as business owners. We have times where we’re utterly in love with our business and it doesn’t matter what the issues and problems are, we can cope with them. And then we have other times where everything is just too much. It’s kind of like our own personal attitude just dips down. Maybe it’s just worth scoring yourself to see how well you do against the core values of the business. I guess another way of asking that is, would you fire yourself?

Here’s this week’s clever idea.

Paul Green:
Now talking about teams, I have a wonderful team. I’ve built them up slowly over a number of years. There’s about nine, I think maybe 10 of us now within the business. The vast majority full time, we’ve got a couple of part-timers as well, although everyone puts everything into the business. And I did do the exercise I was just telling you about. I did that in secret on my team, sorry team, but I did it and everyone scored really, really high marks on that and I wasn’t surprised. I love my team. They are absolutely spot on.
Of course, in our business we have difficult jobs to do just as you do within your MSP. And one of our most difficult jobs is taking things, technology things and making them as relevant as they can be to ordinary people. You see, the main thing that we do, our main service is called the MSP Marketing Edge and we write, well, we create a ton of marketing content for MSPs, but it’s for them to use to target ordinary people, those ordinary business owners and managers that you want to reach. So we’re kind of sitting in the middle between MSPs and ordinary people and we have to write marketing content that’s kind of about technology that MSPs like that they tick and say, “Yep, that’s good,” but it has to resonate with ordinary people. If it doesn’t, then we’ve kind of missed the… Got it wrong, essentially we’ve got it wrong.
So we constantly are asking ourselves and challenging each other and saying, “Is this relevant to our target audience?” Because our target audience is not MSPs. Things I do, like this podcast and our YouTube channel, that’s targeted at MSPs, but our actual content output is targeted at the people that you want to reach, your prospects. And so this is actually quite a good mindset for us. We do this all the time. So it becomes not a difficult thing, but I know a lot of MSPs really struggle with that. And I think the secret to turning technology into something that’s of interest to ordinary people is, instead of looking at the features of something, to look at the benefits of it. In fact, that’s actually the secret of much marketing content with whoever you’re targeting is not to talk about the features of something, but to talk about the benefits.
So let me give you a couple of examples. Let’s talk about Teams. Now I don’t like Teams at all. Microsoft Teams. Really, it’s a distress call for me if I have to have a call with someone and it’s on Teams, it’s just not my thing. But I know many people do. You probably love it and certainly many ordinary people love it as well. But Teams is packed with features and things and bits and bobs. None of that is really of interest to ordinary people. What are the benefits of Teams?
Well, the benefits are they can collaborate, they can communicate, they can work flexibly, they can work remotely, they can send messages to each other. They can do a lot of these things… Did I just say they can send messages to each other? That’s a feature. That’s not a benefit. You see how difficult it is to get this right. All of these things that they have within Teams, the big benefit is all of that is together in one software package. You can communicate and collaborate and work together on things without having to switch between 12 different applications. That’s the big benefit of Teams.
What about something like, let’s take the cloud. The cloud, which ordinary people, they hear the word, they say the word, but they don’t really know what it means. So we can’t just tell them what the features of the cloud are because it’s boring. I don’t even know what the features of the cloud are, but I can tell you what the benefits are. It’s you can work anywhere, anytime, on anything, on any device. That’s pretty much the benefit of the cloud. Someone, write that down and trademark that. That’s a great line, that one. But that’s the benefit of the cloud. It opens up your business in a completely wow way. We know that there are businesses out there that haven’t embraced the cloud or they do a little bit of cloud or they think they’re doing cloud, because they can access their email via the browser if they want to. You and I know that’s not really the cloud. So truly genuinely empowering a business for the cloud changes everything for that business. You know that. I know that. So let’s sell them on the benefits of that.
Let’s take one more, passkeys. Passkeys, which is now starting to come in, maybe they’ll replace the password, maybe they won’t. What’s the benefit of that? You never need to remember a password again. In fact, it’s the same benefit for a password manager as it is for passkeys. I’m assuming you know how passkeys work. Essentially you have to be close to your computer with your phone and it sends like a thing to your phone and you use your face ID or your fingerprint. So essentially it’s using your phone to log you into whatever it is you’re trying to get into. You don’t have to remember a password. If you haven’t read up on those, please do go and have a look at passkeys, because I think they’re going to be a very big part of our world in the years ahead.
But as I say, you never need to remember a password again, that’s how you sell them on the benefits and the concept of passkeys, it’s exactly the same with a password manager. Mr. or Mrs. Client, let me put a password manager in for you and all of your team. You never need to remember a password again, apart from the master password, but we won’t mention that. And the other benefit is anytime any of your team leave you, you can instantly lock them out of all of their accounts at the push of a button.
Can you see how talking about benefits is so huge? So when you’re looking at content, processing content, creating it or indeed doing any marketing, the trick is always to look at it as your prospect looks at it. Don’t think like a tech, think like an ordinary person and ask, what’s the benefit of this?

Paul’s blatant plug.

Paul Green:
A few minutes ago I mentioned the MSP Marketing Edge. It is the marketing service if you are genuine and ambitious and ready to grow your MSP. We give you all the marketing strategy you need. We give you all of the marketing content you need, and me and my team are there literally day in, day out, holding your hands supporting our members. We don’t just do this group wise either, we do one-to-one support. And all of this for the throwaway price of just £99 a month in the UK or $129 a month in the US. How can we do it at that price? Because we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of members. So all of those members adds up to volume and allows me to pay for all of my wonderful team to provide this great service to you.
But here’s the rub, we only provide this to one MSP per area. So if you go to mspmarketingedge.com, pop in your postcode or zip code or whatever code you’ve got wherever you live. We have various different sites for different countries and it will tell you if your area is available. If it is, you can start a 30-day free trial. And if it’s not, please do join the waiting list, because now and again we do get people ending their service and we just talk to the people on the waiting list. There’s no obligation to buy ever. But go and have a look and see if your area is available or whether or not a competitor has beaten you to it. Mspmarketingedge.com.

The big interview.

Per Sjöfors:
Hi there, my name is Per Sjöfors and weird name, I know. It makes perfect sense in my native Scandinavia. And because of that and among other reasons, I also go by the name The Price Whisperer and pricing is what I do. I help companies of all sizes globally to price right and stop leaving money on the table.

Paul Green:
And thank you very much Mr. Whisperer for joining me on the show. Pricing is such an emotional and evocative thing I know not just for MSPs but for all business owners. Now you obviously are one of the big experts on pricing. What is it that makes getting the pricing right such an evocative thing?

Per Sjöfors:
Oh, people are scared s***less for raising prices. I talk to CEOs of smallish and mid-market companies day in and day out. And what I hear all the time is that, “If I just raise my price a tiny, tiny bit, I’m going to lose all my business.” But, of course, that’s not the case. In fact, pricing is so important for several reasons. A, pricing is actually the strongest message of benefits and quality. So if you’re too low priced, people won’t buy because they simply think that whatever product or service that you’re selling is not going to be any good. They don’t believe you’re going to live up to your promises.
Pricing is also so important, because it has the highest leverage of profitability because it works on the top line. Because it works on the top line, it affects profits the most. And that means that if you can increase your prices, your profitability increases. If you can decrease your discount, your profitability increases with much more than if you can reduce cost the same amount or increase your sales volume the same amount. And profits are good. Profits is something that you use to become more a competitor, to develop new services, to market better, to market more, to even hire better people.

Paul Green:
Yeah. You don’t have to sell the concept of increasing profits to anyone listening to this podcast. That’s very much a top of mind thing for us. Now we’re going to come onto the process of getting your price right, but you said two very interesting things there. You said that people are scared to put their prices up and you also said that we link price or value perception with the price. And the second you said that I thought of Apple.
Now, many MSPs think I’m crazy for being an Apple fanboy, but am. I’m recording this on a Mac, I’ve got my iPhone here, my iPods… My iPod, it’s not 2005, Paul. My iPad is back down there. I’ve got my Apple Watch, we’ve got two Apple TVs in the house. There is virtually no mainstream Apple product that I haven’t bought. And each time I think, whoa, that’s expensive. But I know it’s going to last, I equate it with quality. In fact, my child does her schoolwork on a 10-year-old MacBook Air, which still works perfectly well. It’s a bit slow, but it works perfectly well. And that was, I don’t know, $1,000 10 years ago. And how many other laptops can still be relied upon for day-to-day work after 10 years?
So I think we see that and MSPs will see their own equivalent of that with the technology that they prefer buying. And yet we’re still scared to put the prices up. So what’s going on? Talk us through the emotions that happen to us as business owners when we fail to make the right decision.

Per Sjöfors:
Well, obviously it’s fear and the fear is very strong anywhere you go, but much of it has to do with that pricing is largely ignored in business education. You spend nine months to learn about strategy, nine months to learn about costs and accounting and stuff like that. And then there is an afternoon about pricing. And so that’s one point. And the little that are being taught about pricing in business school and most books about pricing are so theoretical and so academic that it’s absolutely useless.
A few years back I was asked to review and comment on a article from the Harvard Business Review, some professor in marketing that had written it and he talked about these traditional demand curves. You have price on the Y axis and sales volume on the X axis and it’s a straight line. The higher the price, the lower the sales. And I said, “You can’t use that. I mean these are just falls, because that’s not reality.” And in the end he sort of completely ignored what I said, because that is what academia does. “These curves have been used for the last 50 years and we’re not going to change it only because you tell me something.”
Yet I’m sure many of us have had the same experience that you go to market with whatever price you go to market with and then you increase your price for reasons. And lo and behold, you see a increase in sales volume too. Those traditional demand curves doesn’t tell you that. They also doesn’t tell you that there’s something called price rules, psychological price points where small price changes can make huge changes in sales volume and revenue, either positive or negative.

Paul Green:
Yeah. So one of the things that I’ve done a few times on this podcast in the last three years, and something I do with all the MSPs I work closely with is say, “Hey, put your prices up.” So do it carefully for existing clients because that needs to be done with thought and consideration. But for new clients, every time you make a sale, in my mind the price should go up, because obviously the new client who’s coming to talk to you or the new prospect who’s coming to talk to you today doesn’t know that the price went up yesterday. We have listeners all over the world in multiple different countries. And the thing is that the price in the city I live in in the UK is not the right price for the city that you live in. So you have to push the price up until you discover the ceiling. Is that a good strategy or have I been getting that wrong?

Per Sjöfors:
It’s a strategy. First of all, you can increase prices to existing customers as well. And, in fact, if you go to my company’s website, you can download the guide called the 7 Easy Steps To Increase Prices and keep your customers happier. And there’s a method that is basically, it’s about how we communicate both internally and externally and obviously preferably you should use your pricing based on willingness to pay research, so to avoid these price walls, et cetera, et cetera.
The problem with what you just said is that pricing power is something that comes from differentiation. And with pricing power, I mean that is the ability to increase prices, not lose sales volume or even gain sales volume. Now that pricing power you get from differentiation and unless you know what specific features, functions and benefits and so forth that leads to higher willingness to pay, you don’t know. And therefore, as you just go to market with the same sort of benefit statements that you’ve had for some time, your strategy of just increasing prices until you get pushback works. But it may be that using other benefit statements will lead to a higher price before you get the pushback. Or you may find that there’s another market vertical among your clients that will accept higher prices than another market vertical and so forth.

Paul Green:
So can you give us a practical example of how that would work? And maybe, as you said, looking for the niche within your audience of someone that’s likely to pay more. So, for example, would looking at a regulated audience such as lawyers be a great place to look for someone that’s willing to pay more money? Because obviously if they’re regulated, the consequences of them having a cybersecurity attack is so much higher than it would be for an unregulated industry.

Per Sjöfors:
Yeah. Or it could be obviously regulated lawyers or if you serve the medical industry in some way, there are lots and lots of rules and regulations and security is really, really tight and those are most likely to be willing to pay higher prices if you as a vendor can provide that security that they require. Or another, let me give you an example. We worked with an MSP a few years back and they were going to market as a commodity and they said, “We can’t hold prices. We have to discount to get any business.” And what we actually found was that they were at the time unique because they had developed a certain intellectual property on how you integrate a data center with AWS and their customers were willing to pay substantially higher fees for that integration and it made them differentiated. They were no longer a commodity and they could reap much higher sales, much higher profits, and grow tremendously over the next couple of years.

Paul Green:
Yeah, that sounds amazing. Per, tell us a little bit more about your business, what you do. And also, I know you have a book, so tell us about your book. Earlier on in the interview you mentioned a free guide, so tell us how we can get ahold of that.

Per Sjöfors:
My moniker, The Price Whisperer, the best way of finding me. Finding my new book, finding my company, finding my YouTube channel is all to do a Google Search for The Price Whisper. The book is all about everything you need to know about pricing really. Although I just started on a second edition, so there’s going to be a little bit more eventually. The website has six or seven guides that you can download for free. There’s also on the website a masterclass in pricing. These are 19 video episodes with, again, just about everything there is to know about pricing. And we do sell that and it’s $950, but if you use, we have a coupon that you can use which is Fall 2022, and you’ll get a 20% discount on the masterclass.
It’s not theory, this is not anything that comes out of academia. In fact, I think I should give the audience a little bit of the backstory here in that I ran companies, a couple of them in Europe and several of them here in the US and we did experiments with pricing and some of those experiments worked really well. Like next quarter revenues are up 25%. Some were complete duds. And what I had learned in business school about pricing was so theoretical and so academic that it was useless information. And it’s that process that I eventually developed and started the company around that makes every pricing experiment a success. And that is to do willingness to pay research, which is done online from where we can accurately measure what a market to our clients are willing to pay. And then from that predict sales volume and revenue at different prices and identify price walls.

Paul Green:
I love it. Thank you so much. And I know you said to Google it, but just give us your website address.

Per Sjöfors:
Oh, you can do pricewhisperer.me.

Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast. This week’s recommended book.

George Smith:
Hi, everyone. My name’s George Smith from Augment. The book I would recommend is It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff. As a quick note, it is a military book about a US admiral back in the ’90s who takes over the worst ship in the Navy and within two years turns it around to be the best performing ship in the Navy. So some great examples of leadership, how to build a team, create culture, and some great insights from something a little bit earlier in history.

Coming up next week.

Zach Kitchen:
My name is Zach Kitchen and I’m an MSP owner, just like you. Can’t wait to meet with you next week to talk to you about how I turned an 84 cent potato into over a $30,000 deal.

Paul Green:
Wherever you’re listening to or watching this right now, please do subscribe so you never miss an episode. Get on top of next week’s guest interview. We’ll be talking about the three types of salesperson that you need within your business. And answering the question, can one human do all three sales jobs? We’ll also be looking at your website and asking whether or not your navigation is in the right order. Now, if you want to dive into even more content about improving your MSP’s marketing, go and have a look at our YouTube channel. We upload three new videos a week, all proper studio-based videos, very high quality. Just go to youtube.com/mspmarketing. Join me next Tuesday and have a very profitable week in your MSP.

Made in the UK for MSPs around the world. Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

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