“Oh, they’ll never pay for that.”

It’s a phrase Leigh Wood, the Director of Node IT Solutions and long-time Auvik partner, hears a lot from his fellow MSPs. It’s easy to understand why. When you’re used to hearing price push-back on every contract, selling something beyond your basic managed services agreement seems impossible.

But Leigh doesn’t buy it:

“Quite often, as an MSP, we argue with ourselves about the objection the customer’s going to have. But the customer actually isn’t going to object to most things if it makes good business sense, if it’s going to protect them, and if they’ll be in the right place.”

And he should know. Under his watch, Node went from reselling Fortinet firewalls in 2014 to having every client signed up for Node’s firewall-as-a-service offering today (just one on a growing list of as a service models).

Here’s how he did it.

First, he identified an opportunity

Leigh Wood Node IT Solutions
Leigh Wood, Node IT Solutions

In the beginning, Node began selling Fortinet hardware because they liked their firewall features and capabilities. But they quickly found their job wasn’t done when the deal was closed. Clients expected they would support the firewalls after they were installed, and upgrade them too. “That was never part of the initial sale, and Node wasn’t making any extra money from monitoring and managing the firewalls. So Leigh thought, “Everything else seems to be monthly. I’ll make this a monthly service too.”

It didn’t go so well. “At first, nobody wanted to do it. It was such a hard sell. There were always people saying, ‘Why do we need to do this? A firewall is a firewall, it’s just where we connect to the internet. It’s not important.’ Cybersecurity wasn’t on people’s radar.”

Then a slew of businesses experienced cyberattacks. Prospects and clients noticed—and they started to listen.

Then, he learned how to sell it to his clients

With cybersecurity now top of mind for many small and mid-sized business owners, it’s getting easier for MSPs to start a conversation around security. The challenge is when prospects and clients aren’t aware of the state of their network security. And what they don’t know can hurt them.

Leigh has success by showing clients what can happen when a service provider isn’t monitoring and managing their firewalls:

“I went to one client where the previous IT provider had said, ‘Oh, everything is wonderful, you’re absolutely secure.’ … When we switched our firewall on, it started receiving and stopping keylogging traffic. That keylogging traffic was going to a well-known bank fraud site, and it was coming from the server, the CEO’s computer, his personal assistant’s computer, and the head of finance’s computer.”

With Node’s firewall-as-a-service package installed, this wouldn’t have happened. Instead, the traffic would have been stopped before it could start, and the Node team could have taken further action to protect the network.

Sharing this horror story—and others like it—does two critical things to help Leigh’s sales process: it establishes Leigh as a trusted advisor and it proves the value of Node’s firewall-as-a-service package. Leigh says, “Our clients are looking to us to advise them and to give them the right service. … You need to be strong enough to say to your client, ‘You need to have these firewalls in place, you need to have them managed, and you need us to manage them for you. It’s part of your network’s first line of defense.’”

And finally, he packaged it just right

If you’re adding an extra service to your MSP’s offering, you need to make sure it does more than benefit the client—it needs to make you money.

Node has success with offering firewall as a service on a three-year contract. “We use a three-year support contract, so it makes the customer sticky. In year 1 of the contract, we make enough to cover the cost of the hardware and installation. In years 2 and 3, the profit margins are much higher, because it’s all about maintenance and management. Then, when we get to year 4, the client has a choice: They can either extend the same bit of hardware, or they can cover the cost of an upgrade.”

And there’s another small thing: They’ve made it non-negotiable. “We’ve made the firewall-as-a-service package a mandatory part of our service offering. … For us it’s, ‘If you come to Node IT, you have to have a Fortinet firewall. You have that in place, and you now have a three-year service agreement. It cuts out all of the issues.’”

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