This post is about the foundation for your sales efforts. If you don’t lock this down you will spend a lot of time flailing around chasing down clients that simply aren’t a good fit.

Today we’re talking about your Target Client Profile. This is the basis for all other sales, marketing, and prospecting efforts so it’s important to get it right. Sales is one of the critical pillars to drive your Managed Service Provider (MSP) forward.

Your Target Client Profile or TCP is vital for your sales efforts. When you don’t have a defined TCP you may find yourself working with prospects that are NOT a good fit for your business. Your role as an MSP is to be as efficient as possible. When you sign clients outside of your TCP you make your service team less efficient. Each client that is an exception can eat away at the efficiency and profitability of your service team.

When I was a Service Manager in an MSP I worked closely with the sales team. Unfortunately, they had a habit of bringing forward prospects that didn’t fit our model on a regular basis. It seemed like we were always having conversations around why we should sign a prospect that didn’t fit our target. During those conversations I won some and I lost some. What happened was that the clients that fit our TCP well had a much smoother entry and support experience and the ones that didn’t . . . well, didn’t.

So, how do you determine your TCP?

Often MSPs think about their TCP as just a number of workstations and a geographic region. Sure, those are important, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Here is some criteria that will help you define your Target Client Profile

  • Criteria #1: Company size – this one is pretty valuable and easy to determine. You should have a targeted company size that you know you can support. You should only have a 5-10 endpoint swing. I often see MSPs say that their TCP is 10-50 machines or 25-100 or something like that. That is not a target. That’s the whole dartboard! Narrow this down to 5-10 at the most and then you’re talking about a real target.
  • Criteria #2: Company Budget – What is the prospect’s IT budget? Do they even have a budget? Thinking about this ahead of time and knowing what type of company you will work best with is important.
  • Criteria #3: Location – Where are their offices located? Do you have a geographic area that you service better than others? Even if you can support clients all over the globe you likely do a better job when they’re in a specific geographic area.
  • Criteria #4: Vertical – Is their business in a vertical you support? Do you even have a vertical? Are they in a vertical that you do NOT want to support?  I’ll talk a little more about verticals in a couple minutes.
  • Criteria #5: Attitude around technology – Does the client value technology or do they just see it as a means to an end? Often their attitude also impacts how they view you as their IT company as well.
  • Criteria #6: Willingness to be stack compliant – Will they be willing to conform to your stack? Your stack goes a long way to make your support team efficient. If they’re not willing to become stack compliant or it’ll be a fight is that a client you want?

There are other criteria that you may want to consider. Have they had an MSP before or would you be their first or what’s their leadership structure like? Many MSPs also have a no a-holes policy as well. Think about how the client will treat you and your team. I’m a firm believer that abusive clients should be ejected as quickly as possible.

How do I figure out the criteria I should use?

The easiest way is to take your existing clients and look at the clients YOU would clone if you could. List the clients you like doing business with and determine the criteria that makes them who they are. Then use that criteria when evaluating prospects in your pipeline. 

What do I do when a prospect isn’t in my TCP?

When a prospect doesn’t fit inside your TCP you don’t have to reject them right away. You are allowed to pick up a client that isn’t a perfect fit. You don’t want to go crazy and sign anything that comes along. Think of your Target Client Profile as the bullseye on a dartboard that they then have a slightly larger ring that becomes their Acceptable Client Profile (ACP). This is where you might consider taking a client a little larger or smaller than your TCP. The key is to know where your limits are.

When you routinely sign clients that are outside of your TCP it will erode away at your efficiency over time. This happens MUCH faster if you’re signing clients that are outside of your Acceptable Client Profile. I’ve seen this a couple of times where the sales team was really pushing to close any deal that came across so the MSP continued to close deals where the new clients were all over the place and within the first 3-4 months of service with the new clients both the service team AND the clients were frustrated with each other.

I’ve also seen this become an issue with referrals. The referral is far outside the TCP and the sales team feels pressure to close the deal because it was a referral. The problem is that if this is truly a bad fit, not only will this new client be frustrated but also the referring person because word is surely to get back to them. The best thing you can do is to have other MSPs that you can hand these non-fit prospects off to. If they handle the relationship well and do a good job you are in a much better spot.

Risks of Maturity Mis-Match

When you pick up a client that is dramatically outside your TCP or ACP you might have a business maturity mis-match. This can be frustrating to both parties.

If the company you sign is MUCH more mature than your business they will constantly be pulling on you and expecting more than you can deliver. Often this comes up when talking about budget, change control, and other areas where they will expect more from you than what you are ready to deliver.

The reverse is true when you are much more mature than a client you end up getting frustrated with them because they probably will fight with you on your stack, won’t properly budget, or won’t communicate with you when they are making changes like changing ISPs or even moving their company.

Being aligned within reason on maturity is a smart thing to suss out.


Picking a vertical or two is a smart way to grow. Leaning into a vertical that you can support well allows you to speak their language, know how the client ticks better than average, and you can focus your marketing and prospecting on a smaller subset. It can also be one of your differentiators.

When you understand that vertical you know what their needs are. You can ask smarter questions when you are trying to get their attention. You build instant credibility when you clearly know their business, so why wouldn’t you lean into that?

I think one of the best ways to grow your MSP is to focus on one or two verticals heavily, knowing that you will have plenty of clients outside of that vertical. One word of caution though is that some verticals are more prone to economic downturns so be mindful with things like hospitality, oil and gas, and construction. There are others that are more volatile as well, but I’ve seen these three directly be impacted in my own travels which is why they come to mind.

Go out there, define your TCP and get moving on sales. Thanks for coming on this ramble with me, and I hope to see you on the next one.

By Adam

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