Attention MSPs: they are also “business advisors”, not just tech advisors


Jay Fitzgerald

“The people you do business with are also about people and process,” says Chris Keith, director of sales at Zorus.

Chris Keith, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Zorus

MSPs and other channel players need to think of themselves as general “business advisors” rather than just technical advisors as customers adapt to ever-changing technology, workplace and security challenges, said Zorus’ top sales director.

Chris Keith, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Zorus, the Norwalk, Connecticut-based cybersecurity company, said Monday at The Channel Company’s XChange NexGen conference in Orlando, Fla. that partners still see themselves primarily as technical must present know-how and competence for customers in an adept manner.

But he said the business landscape has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the rise of remote work and the corresponding rise in workloads, safety and other challenges for customers, he said.

Thus, channel actors need to listen to and investigate customer concerns on a variety of business issues, not just technology issues, in order to provide customers with the best solutions. In particular, they need to pay more attention to the “people and process side” of organizations, Keith said.

“You’re absolutely a business consultant — and definitely a next-gen MSP,” Keith told a roomful of gamers who were mostly on channels. “That’s how you’re going to want to position yourself.”

He likened the dual role strategy to how the National Football League and its commissioner Roger Goodell view their business. The NFL is a sports business. But it’s also big entertainment business, Keith said.

“All of these (technology) things certainly make sense,” he said of channel partner priorities. “But if you’re talking to business owners or people who aren’t that tech-savvy, there’s only so much to fit here.”

Keith added, “The people you do business with are about people and process to.”

And he added that CIOs are also increasingly concerned with people and process issues.

“(Technology) will always be a core competency of your go-to-market strategy and certainly your business model,” he said. “But where we see the greatest opportunities, both from a business scale-up and pure profit center perspective, we will focus on technology or software implementations for business processes and initiatives.”

He pointed to Zorus’ web filtering and employee engagement products as possible solutions to customer concerns about people and processes.

For example, employee retention software can help companies track how much and when remote workers are working, Keith said.

“We’re not going to be looking over someone’s shoulder 24/7, but we can see if they’re coming into work, what time they’re coming into work, how long they’ve been working on other items and making sure they’re absolutely doing what they’re doing.” say what they do,” he said.

Following his XChange presentation, Keith told CRN that Zorus will soon announce its intention to bring its web filtering and employee engagement offerings together on one platform.

Leonard Ozoemena, owner of Compass Solutions LLP, a Washington, DC-based MSP, said he agrees with Keith that the changing market landscape increasingly requires channel partners to think of themselves as “business advisors” rather than just technology advisors.

“Too often we push our views and our solutions onto clients,” Ozoemena said. “But to solve a problem you have to listen to them and try to understand them. Let them talk before you say, “Here’s a solution.”

He added: “It can be any type of problem they face. Just listen to them.”

    Find out more about Jay Fitzgerald

Jay Fitzgerald

Jay Fitzgerald is Senior Cybersecurity Editor at CRN. Jay has previously freelanced for the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, Boston Magazine, Banker & Tradesman,, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and others. He can be reached at [email protected]


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