- But what is agnostic really, and where did it begin?
- Why customers walk away from agnostic.
- And then there is the power issue
- Because when you are agnostic, you don’t stand out.
- What is the alternative to agnostic?
- Wait a minute, I thought agnostic was a religious term
- So, avoid agnostic, where MSPs go to die
What is agnostic? What does it mean? This term gets bandied about quite a bit, and more than once, I have been accused of using $5 words when I employ it. Interestingly, there is also a lack of clarity around the term agnostic and its true meaning. So, let’s get at it.
Agnostic has two definitions; the more important and relevant, its true meaning is “the place MSPs go to die.” They die in agnostic because they couldn’t decide what they were; they couldn’t narrow their focus on a specific market and set of problems. This is so pervasive that it gave rise to the other definition, “claiming neither faith nor disbelief in god(s).”
This compares to the truly devoted, infatuated with their beliefs, their clients, and the problems they solve on one side, and the atheists on the other who completely deny the existence of deities and customers.
In this post, I’ll clarify why Agnostic is where MSPs go to die and help you escape from the tragic world of agnosticism.
But what is agnostic really, and where did it begin?
Is agnosticism bad? Well, it begins in a good place. The idea behind it is I am technical and good at what I do, so I will sell what I do. They start what is called an MSP, or managed service provider.
These MSPs then reach out to people and say, “Hey, I am a technical expert; would you like my help?”
The response to that question, agnostic in a sentence, is something like “whom do you work with,” as in what industry or focus? Who is your avatar?
The MSP owner cleverly pulls out the $5 word they’ve been honing as an answer to this question, an answer that feels sophisticated and important and has the gravitas of religion. They answer, “We are industry agnostic.”
Here is a classic example of the agnostic MSP: an entire brochure from 20 years ago of all the things an MSP offered that no customer ever cared about. It was Joe’s MSP, the first one, that caused him not to be able to pay his bills.
Once you claim agnosticism, one of two things happens to the person who asked the question. They either walk away or realize they’ve gained power in the discussion.
Why customers walk away from agnostic.
This is the first and most important reason that agnostic is where MSPs go to die: people, managers, and owners want to buy services, products, and offerings tailored to themselves.
Most self-proclaimed agnostic MSPs will tout their ability to work with anybody anytime.
But nobody wants somebody who works with anybody; they want someone who can solve their problem. Nobody asks what is agnostic and why do I care?
Think of it in terms of Doctors: imagine you have a heart problem, your tricuspid valve is inverted.
You have two doctor options:
- The gal you just met who’s a generalist doctor. When you ask her what medicine she practices, she says all medicine. She does it all, from brain tumors to foot fungus and everything in between. When it comes to illness, she is agnostic.
- Or the other doctor you met. She’s a little harder to reach, but when you ask her what she does, she says she’s a cardiologist who only works with hearts; in fact, she says she has a specific interest in inverted tricuspid valves.
(For the record, I made up the inverted valve thing; no matter how bad your heart condition is, never come to me for help).
Which doctor are you going to choose? The agnostic generalist or the devoted cardiologist.
The same thing happens in business: you want someone who does the kind of work you need, not someone who does any type of work. If you really think about “what is agnostic,” it is someone who isn’t confident enough in their work to make any promises.
But do you do chopped frozen spinach?
There’s an adage in the advertising industry about an executive looking for an advertising agency for its new product: chopped, frozen spinach.
He sits down with the advertising company and asks about their experience. He in no way is interested in agnosticism; he only wants to deal with the devout.
“Oh,” his counterpart explains, “we have extensive food marketing experience.”
“What about frozen food.”
“Yes, lots of frozen food experience. We are masters at peddling anything held in super cool suspended animation.”
“Any experience with frozen spinach?”
“Yes, indeed, we are Spinach experts. Remember Poppey, that was us back in the canned days – we’ve since developed deep expertise around frozen spinach.”
“But,” the executive lifts his left brow inquisitively as he leans toward the advertising guru, “what about chopped frozen spinach?”
Look at your buying patterns: do you want agnostic advisors who serve anybody or devoted advisors who serve you?
The answer is the reason agnostic is where MSPs go to die.
And then there is the power issue
There are bargain-hunting consumers who will work with anybody, whether devout or agnostic.
All they care about is price.
And squeezing every last bit of life out of their vendors.
So when they hear agnostic, they hear a bargain. So they’ll look at your proposal with its ten bullet points and six services and whittle you down to 6.5 bullet points and 4 services while asking for a fifty percent decrease in price.
You, the agnostic MSP, know that those bullet points all kind of matter, and you need all six services for your offer to work well, but you can’t explain it in any language other than technobabble. Your prospect doesn’t understand technobabble, he isn’t interested in learning it, and since you don’t speak his language (because you never bothered to learn it), you accept the offer.
This is the beginning of agnostic death because what happens next is a tale as old as business: you take the contract, and the customer demands ever faster response and more tailored products. They want everything, not just the 10 bullets and 6 services, but 15 bullets and 10 services and they fight over every penny.
You get so locked up in solving problems with this customer, who isn’t even paying enough for a Happy Meal, let alone pay your mortgage, that you have no time to help anybody else or develop any other business.
You end up tired, overworked, and stuck.
Your business is in its last throes because you went to agnostic, the place MSPs go to die.
Because when you are agnostic, you don’t stand out.
What is agnostic? It is another nameless technical face that looks like everyone else.
You don’t stand out if you are agnostic, and your prospects have no way to choose between you and somebody else. Everyone is just a faceless purveyor of technobabble that I’m not 100% convinced I need anyway.
And that is a terrible place to be. Dare I say it? It’s even where MSPs go to die.
What is the alternative to agnostic?
The alternative is to create your unassailable competitive advantage. You embrace devotion, devotion to your customer and their industry.
If you stop to consider the MSP business model, you’ll see that the very definition of MSP extends well beyond agnosticism: it is about delivering high-quality business-building services to your clients.
How did Joe break out of agnosticism? He focused on Personal Injury attorneys. He learned their critical software over a weekend and started promoting his ability to figure that software out. He didn’t even need a brochure anymore; lawyers began calling him.
You learn everything you can about them: their software, how they use it, what’s holding them back, and what they need to run their meeting.
- If you work with Personal Injury attorneys, learn Saga.
- If you work with dentists, figure out how to keep cables from breaking.
- If you work with accountants, learn how to ensure Thompson Reuters never fails them.
- If you work with architects, ensure they can transfer massive files and always have access to their large format printer.
Your tools as an MSP are always technical; these are what you’re good at. But the problems you solve are business problems specific to your target market.
Most MSPs balk at this because they are concerned that they don’t know enough about their client’s business. It is pretty easy; so few MSPs specialize that once you know ANYTHING about your market, you stand out like a shining bright star on a night.
Learn their lie of business software. Do it over a weekend. You can do this because you get tech; your customers can’t because they don’t get tech.
Stop being agnostic, stop chasing death, instead see the light, join the devout, and succeed as a business. Because what is agnostic? It is where MSPs go to die.
Wait a minute, I thought agnostic was a religious term
Yes, religious people, or better not-so-religious people, talk about being agnostic all the time. And agnostic does have a second meaning related to belief in the existence of gods.
Often, when people ask, “What is agnostic,” they are considering the religious connotation; many consider religion to be the origin of agnostic and related to a person who holds certain religious beliefs.
There is a very valid definition within the context of religion that goes something like:
“a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” (Definition from Oxford Languages, a decent if sometimes mistaken tome).
And certainly, there are many forms of agnosticism. This article deals with the primary, more critical, societal driving force of the word: “where MSPs go to die.” I, the author, am positive that the MSP definition came well before the religious definition. (And believe the world is flat), and would challenge anyone to dispute my assertion.
Look, if you want the dictionary definition of agnostic, it is here, but they’ve got it wrong. Dictionaries are often behind the times.
So, avoid agnostic, where MSPs go to die
If you are serious about making money and having a life as an MSP, you must escape the deathly trap of agnosticism.
It sounds scary to talk about getting specific, but that fear is a sign that you are going in the right direction. The fear means that you have to deliver something relevant to your buyer, and you are concerned you can’t do it.
If you don’t feel the fear, you are not delivering anything relevant. You aren’t risking much; you can stay happily in your comfort zone. But why would anybody pay for it if it isn’t relevant enough to make you nervous or require extra skill?
On the other hand, if you define your abilities, get good at something, and take a stand for it, you’ll be flooded with customers and setting your price in no time. And you can stop printing brochures that nobody reads.
And yeah, this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I know agnostic is a religious term, and I know the world isn’t flat.
But I also know for a fact that Agnostic is where MSPs go to die.
Does an agnostic believe in God?
Well, who knows? Honestly, what is agnostic? It’s where MSPs go to die. Whether they believe in god or not seems secondary. I mean, there are those who have clear and decisive opinions on this sort of thing, Standford talks about this, Wikipedia has an article, so maybe they can help you figure that out.
What is agnostic in simple terms
Put simply it is being so generic as an IT company that it is where IT companies, MSPs, go to die. Why do they die there? Because nobody buys their services for a price that allows them to keep living.
What do agnostic Christians believe in?
The end of technology? Other than that, we aren’t sure. Wikipedia has a different take; you might want to check it out if you are seriously asking this question here.
Are agnostics considered religious?
Well, no. They are considered dead IT companies.