How quickly should you quote an SLA?

I don’t want to destroy the income for thousands of Web sites that promise to reveal the psychology of purchasing decisions if you just buy their ‘program’ but in my experience, consumers tend to buy for one of two reasons. Pain or gain. If everything is traveling along nicely and people are feeling OK about things in general, they don’t tend to make purchases. If a consumer can see potential growth or gain from a purchase, their gain antennae may kick in. The reality in the IT world though is that pain is more often than not the trigger for a purchasing decision. Once a consumer passes their point of pain threshold, they decide that it is time to make a purchase.

The problem with pain is that it subsides over time. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, the pain is excruciating the moment after I drop the hammer and scream. The pain reduces over time until a week later it is hard for me to remember exactly how bad that pain was.

When a client makes decisions in relation to their computer network, in particular an SLA, pain is usually the trigger. They are finally too frustrated with that slow network or they had to reboot their PC again. Sometimes it is not just the actual pain of a sub-standard network but the pain of embarrassment. Your client may be outlining a proposal to one of their clients and their IT system is slow or unreliable. While they are profusely apologising for the delay they are thinking to themselves that they must finally have that SLA that their IT provider has been talking to them about.

As soon as that meeting finishes, they are on the phone to their IT provider. Their point of pain is at a maximum. They have just finished their embarrassing meeting and it was a frustrating and clumsy meeting because of their equipment.

This is when you make a crucial decision. Do you address their pain when their pain is at a maximum or do you leave it a few days until their pain diminishes and their memory has dulled slightly? The obvious answer is that you want to solve their pain immediately BUT I have consulted with many IT businesses that have such an incredibly complicated method of quoting their SLA that only one person in the organisation is capable of doing it and he is so busy that he will take a few days to calculate the price. Those few days can be critical. By the time the price is provided to the client, the client may not be able to remember just how bad their IT problem was or they may have gone elsewhere because their pain was so great they couldn’t wait a few days. Either way it is not a great outcome.

My solution is simple.

Everyone in your organisation needs to be capable of quoting an SLA – at the very least an indicative price. More importantly, everyone can quote an SLA in under ten minutes. Create a formulaic approach to your SLA with a menu system. Set yourself a maximum number of variables. For example, you might create a spreadsheet with no more than 15 variables. Number of PCs, number of notebooks, number of servers, number of printers, etc. Then you may have three separate levels – Gold, Silver, Bronze for example. Once you create your spreadsheet, ANY person in your organisation can ask the client a maximum of 15 questions and by entering the data in on the spot, the SLA quote is generated. Again this may be an indicative price and the final price will be confirmed once a technician inspects the network but it is amazing how many people you will have agree to the SLA immediately.

Remember that their pain is at its greatest when they ring you and say they are tired of their old unreliable network and they want to do something about it. That is the time to address their pain.

The creation of the quoting tool is the difficult component from your perspective but it is worth putting significant time and energy into this part – or buying a ready-made calculation tool – as this is crucial to your ongoing success in selling SLAs.

Tell me if your purchasing decisions are made mostly based on pain or gain at md@smallbusinessrules.com.

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