Donald Rumsfield (former US Secretary of Defense) was roundly criticised for an abuse of the English language for his press briefing statement in 2002: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
I actually take a lot from this statement. My favourite component is the “unknown unknowns” line. This is particularly relevant to a client in our modern IT world. Clients don’t know what they don’t know. If you have an excellent relationship with your clients, you can solve problems they don’t even know they have. Steve Jobs used to say that “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
With reference to Grant Alleyn, who was the first I heard coin the term, I believe that a true Managed Services Provider can add incredible value by ensuring they provide ‘Thought Leadership’ to their clients.
I have seen this concept arise recently specifically in relation to Internet filtering. Should clients block sites? Should they monitor and block after reviewing reports? Should they leave all sites open and monitor reports until they can sack an offender for stepping over the line of what is ‘reasonable’? Should they use centralised monitoring software and run reports from it or just completely block all inappropriate Internet traffic entering the business? Can staff use their smartphone to connect to a PC and bypass the filtering? What should apply to e-mail? There are a myriad of questions that need to be answered but the problem is that most clients aren’t even aware of what their staff can do – they don’t know the questions to ask. How do they know the options available to them? One client born in the early sixties told me he wouldn’t have any idea what his Gen Y staff were doing in relation to accessing the Internet because Gen Y understood computers so much better than he did. How does a client like this even begin to understand what his staff are capable of?
Enter the MSP who provides ‘Thought Leadership’. By presenting a series of scenarios and possibilities – and offering solutions to those situations – clients are able to address problems they don’t even understand. Your clients should be relying on your advice to make sure they are staying ahead of their staff and ahead of their competition. You will be amazed at what will happen to your sales when you make suggestions to your clients. Don’t get me wrong. This is not about a sales strategy. This is about providing excellent service to your clients. Filling in the gaps for the unknown unknowns. They don’t know to ask for specific Internet Filtering because they don’t know what options exist for Internet Filtering.
The industry continually talks about the status of Trusted Adviser. I believe not only should it be a goal to become the Trusted Adviser for all of your SLA clients, it should be a compulsory target for your firm to aim towards TA status. The next step after TA status is to be known as the company that provides Thought Leadership in relation to all matters IT related. If you can educate and instruct your clients and provide them with the knowledge that will help them make informed decisions, not only will you have clients for life but I guarantee they will make additional sales.
Tell me if you think that Donald Rumsfield abused the English language with his famous quote at [email protected].