How to Sell Microsoft 365 as a Managed Service
For MSPs, there is a lot of value in selling Microsoft 365 (formerly called Office 365) as a managed service. It can be a way to get your foot in the door in order to offer managed cloud services, leading customers to consume other solutions from you, such as VoIP, cloud backup, and cloud CRM. And even if they don’t, Microsoft 365 can be a very profitable managed service on its own.
However, convincing clients to purchase Microsoft 365 from you as a managed service can also be challenging. Most customers know that they can obtain the platform directly from Microsoft if they wish. You must, therefore, overcome this sales objection by making clear to clients the extra value they will get by purchasing Microsoft 365 from you as a managed service.
Keep reading for tips on how MSPs can optimize their sales strategy around Microsoft 365.
How to Add Microsoft 365 to Your MSP Services
In order to sell Microsoft 365, MSPs must first make sure that their managed service offering represents demonstrable value beyond what customers could obtain by purchasing it directly from Microsoft.
Join a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program
Toward this end, participating in a Cloud Solution Provider, or CSP, program is a good first step in constructing a viable Microsoft 365 managed-service offering. A CSP allows you to sell cloud-based software owned by other vendors while retaining full control over customer relationships, billing and profit margins. In this way, it streamlines your offering, making it easier to protect your margins in order to sell the service at a competitive price, while still turning a profit.
Microsoft offers its own CSP program. Other options include Pax8, AppRiver, Sherweb. Using Microsoft’s CSP makes most sense if you only plan to offer Microsoft products; however, a third-party solution gives you more flexibility and breadth of coverage if you are considering building managed services around non-Microsoft products as well.
Add Value to Your Product
A successful Microsoft 365 managed-service offering must also provide value that goes above and beyond what customers can obtain by purchasing from Microsoft directly -- or, for that matter, from other MSPs who offer Microsoft 365.
For that reason, be sure that your Microsoft 365 managed service adds value from the customer’s perspective in all of the following ways:
- Implementation: The solution should be very easy to set up from the user’s standpoint.
Migration: Include support for migrating customer data from other productivity suites into Microsoft 365.
- Training and mentoring: Offer training and support services to help clients get the most out of Microsoft 365. Microsoft provides some basic training programs that you can use as a basis for a more sophisticated offering.
Further reading End-User Training Guide for MSPs
- Providing insightful analytics: Offer analytics services by providing reports that will help customers understand how their employees are using Microsoft 365 and find opportunities to maximize productivity on the platform.
- Development services: If you have the resources, offer development services to allow clients to customize their Microsoft 365 experience and integrations.
- Offering technical support: Technical support is a basic component of almost any managed-service offering, and you should provide it as part of your package. Occasionally, price-sensitive customers may wish to opt-out of technical support in order to save money; if you run into this situation, consider selling the customer support time in the form of a “bank” of hours. Many customers will upgrade to a built-in support plan after experimenting with this option.
- Change management: Change management involves helping people adjust to new tools and processes. Build this type of support into your managed service, so that clients know they won’t be left on their own as they adjust to a new platform.
Choose a Microsoft 365 Subscription Plan to Offer
You’ll also need to decide which tier of Microsoft 365 to use as the basis of your managed-service offering. Microsoft offers four business-level plans, which make the most sense for the types of clients that the typical MSP would target (there are also enterprise-level plans, but unless you are a very large MSP, you would probably not sell Microsoft 365 to an enterprise):
- Apps for business
The table below compares each of these plans.
Apps for business
|Price (user/month, annual commitment)|| |
|Office desktop apps||☑||☑|| |
|Web and mobile versions of Office apps|| |
Email and calendaring (Exchange)
|Teamwork and communication (Teams, SharePoint)|| |
|1TB cloud storage (OneDrive for Business)|| |
|Advanced cyber threat protection|| |
|Advanced PC and mobile device management|| |
Note that Microsoft 365 plans and prices are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information on plan pricing and features, check the Microsoft portal.
How to Sell Microsoft 365 Effectively
Once you’ve planned a Microsoft 365 managed-service offering that you can operate profitably while delivering value-adds for your customers, you’re ready to start selling. When you approach customers to pitch your offering, keep the following tips in mind.
Make the Core Value of Microsoft 365 Clear
Not every prospective client understands fully what Microsoft 365 is. Some may think it is basically just a word processor, because they equate it with a cloud-based version of Microsoft Word.
In reality, of course, Microsoft 365 offers much more. It’s a broad suite of productivity apps, as well as services that provide data syncing, remote work capabilities, support for work from mobile devices, and more.
You can summarize what Microsoft 365 is by telling prospects that it provides:
- Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) with multi-device syncing.
- Business-class email (Exchange Online), accessed as if Microsoft hosted your email server.
- Online document storage and file sharing via SharePoint (can be compared to My Documents folder in the cloud) and OneDrive (which becomes the company’s joint file server).
- Email and calendaring software through Exchange.
- Videoconferencing, calling, instant messaging, and real-time collaboration via Teams.
More broadly, make sure customers are aware of everything they can do with Microsoft 365:
- Collaboration capabilities to help employees work together more efficiently.
- Offloaded responsibility for managing data.
- Reduced infrastructure for clients, because they no longer need to host productivity software in their own offices.
- Flexible and predictable costs, with no large upfront acquisition fees.
- Reduced complexity in deploying and managing productivity software.
- Access to documents and other files from anywhere, including from mobile.
- Built-in security features to help keep data and applications safe.
To maximize the effectiveness of your Microsoft 365 sales strategy, research prospects ahead of time to determine which productivity suite they are currently using.
You can do this by checking the client’s website domain on who.is. Click the DNS Records button on the site and find the MX code of the domain in the Type column. The MX code indicates where the company hosts its email.
If the MX code is an IP address, the company is most likely using an on-premises solution for email and the rest of its productivity needs. This makes it a prime candidate for pitching Microsoft 365.
MX records that say “Google” indicate that the company is probably using G Suite, a Microsoft 365 competitor. You may still be able to pitch to these clients successfully, but make sure you are prepared to explain why it’s worth it to them to migrate to Microsoft 365.
MX records that mention Outlook correspond to companies that are already using Microsoft 365. You can avoid wasting your time pitching to them unless you believe you can offer them Microsoft 365 in a way that will deliver more value than their current solution.
You can also consider researching the following characteristics about prospects and tailor your sales strategy accordingly:
- Company size: SMBs are more likely to be interested in Microsoft 365 as a managed service than are enterprises. The latter typically have the in-house IT staff to consume Microsoft 365 directly.
- Industry: The productivity and collaboration features of Microsoft 365 matter more in some industries than others.
- The number of branches or departments: Check prospects’ websites to determine how many individual units or departments exist within their companies. More units mean a greater need for the collaboration features that Microsoft 365 enables.
Highlight the Pain Points that Microsoft 365 Solves
IWhen you approach prospects, ask questions that draw out the ways in which consuming Microsoft 365 as a managed service can solve pain points they may be facing.
Questions to ask include:
- Which productivity tools are your employees using today?
- Do you currently use Microsoft Office as your office productivity software? If so, is it up to date, and do you have sufficient licenses for all of your employees?
- How many mailboxes are you managing today?
- What’s your current mailbox size?
- How do you support employees with remote or mobile access needs?
- What are the current collaboration and communications challenges within your organization?
Answers to these questions should help you identify what the prospect is currently lacking that Microsoft 365 can provide. For example, common pain points among clients who are receptive to this type of solution include:
- Downtime of on-premises productivity suites.
- Reliability issues and user frustration.
- Heavy IT maintenance burden of the existing solution (for clients who have in-house IT).
- High capital expenses for a server upgrade or replacement.
- Security concerns with the existing IT infrastructure or provider.
- Using older versions of Microsoft Office or a mixed environment, which leads to compatibility issues and productivity challenges.
- Lack of communication/collaboration capabilities hindering productivity.
- User dissatisfaction with the limited capabilities of the existing productivity suite.
- Lack of support for employees working remotely.
- Email mailbox size or attachment size limitations.
Talk to the Right People
When selling Microsoft 365, it is not always a good idea to talk to the IT department or IT manager, if the prospect has one. They might be afraid of working with an MSP, or worried that they lack the budget to outsource services like productivity suites.
Instead, consider pitching to business types: CEOs, CFOs, VPs, sales directors, and so on. These roles tend to be more concerned with business productivity, continuity, communication, and the like. They are likely to be receptive to a pitch that focuses on how Microsoft 365 as a managed service helps the company to be more agile and efficient.
Once you generate interest, show your prospect how apps within Microsoft 365 can help different business units. For instance, demonstrate the following:
- How Teams can be used for the sales department and marketing department.
- How Bookings can be used by the sales team to schedule calls with customers.
- How OneDrive can be used by the finance department.
Handling Microsoft 365 Sales Objections
You may encounter sales objections along the lines of the following when pitching Microsoft 365:
- I’m worried about security. In response, emphasize that Microsoft is independently verified to adhere to the latest industry standards and regulations and is certified for ISO 27001, the best global security benchmark. Microsoft provides a fully managed and monitored infrastructure with security measures, automatic data backups and encryption.
- Who owns my data? With Microsoft 365, business owners retain all rights to their data. Also, business owners can share their information with their team but manage their own internal permissions and security.
- The cloud is not my comfort zone. Microsoft 365 is a familiar stepping stone into the cloud for most businesses. It includes all the programs they’re accustomed to using, like Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, so there is little to no training or relearning required.
- It’s just Word online, isn’t it? Microsoft 365 is much more than just a cloud-based version of Word. It provides business-class email, calendars, and online conferencing for improved collaboration. It also allows files to be accessed anywhere for better productivity. And it is automatically updated, so it is never out of date.
- What if the office Internet goes down? In that case, having Microsoft 365 is a benefit. Employees are no longer tied to their desks. They can simply pick up their laptops and head to another location to continue working.
- The pricing is too high. It’s incredibly important to remind your customers that they are not just buying Office apps when they subscribe to a Microsoft 365 plan. You have to move the conversation beyond the price and reveal the business values and opportunities that Microsoft 365 brings to the table.
Offering Microsoft 365 as a managed service is a great way to introduce cloud-based managed-services offerings to clients who are still stuck on-premises. To overcome common sales objections to this type of solution, be sure to design your offering in a way that provides value beyond that which is built into Microsoft’s direct offering by delivering features such as technical support and ease of implementation. At the same time, research prospects carefully to identify those most in need of a solution like Office 365.