Selling services is different from selling products

Selling the invisible can be harder than selling a physical product.

If you are a service-based business then the ability to sell is vital to your long-term success.  Selling professional services is however different to selling products.  You are selling your experience and skills in the form of billable time.  It requires operating on a higher selling level.

The person responsible for selling that service must have a focused mindset, in-depth knowledge and the skill to clearly articulate the value of the service and transmute what is often a “reluctant-but-necessary” purchase into hard cash.

People often refer to selling services as “selling the invisible” – this is because what you are selling is intangible.  Unlike products, where you usually have something solid to touch and look at, with services you are selling skills, ideas, knowledge and experience – none of which have physical features or measurable characteristics.

You can’t flip on a switch, check the instructions, assemble or install your item to see if its specifications match your needs.  You are going in ‘blind’ and taking on faith what the end result or return of your investment will be.  The attributes connected to the sale are not readily apparant or visible to the prospect.  You cannot touch or feel or activate a consultancy project to learn whether a person’s skill set will make the required changes to your business.

This is why it is so important to have a strategy in place for when you speak with potential clients.  You must be able to complete the picture for them, you have to define and give dimension to your service.  You must help them to interpret the value of your skills and experience and give them a sense of working with you and what the experience will produce and what outcome will result from the sale.

Case studies By communicating your experiences with previous clients you can demonstrate your ability to deliver and describe to prospects the processes you utilise, your methods and what the outcomes were.  You may need to omit some details depending on your confidentiality agreements, but the more actual evidence you offer the more credible the experience will appear to be.  By presenting actual issues and concerns you may be able to cause your prospects to identify with the circumstances of your case study – they may be able to envision themselves achieving similar results.

Ideas If you are able to identify for your prospects several possible ways in which you could help, you can help them to more easily appreciate just how your experience, skills and services could apply to their needs.  Don’t rely on them to imagine how valuable or useful to them you might be – you need to articulate your value and help to make the intangible more real to them.

Focus on benefits When you are selling services, and perhaps even more than when selling products, you have to clearly communicate the benefits.  With products, most people generally have a clear expectation of what the outcome will or should be based on what they can clearly perceive about the product.  But with services, where so much is intangible, being clear about the benefits is critical because it is far more difficult for your prospects to fill in the blanks in their expectations, as it were.  There’s not much about the service they can perceive in advance of actually experiencing it.

Talk them through the process Take them on a journey of how the process will unfold and enable them to imagine how your involvement will improve the circumstances of their business.  Let them build a picture in their mind of how you will work with them and paint as much of picture as you can for them.  This will serve to lower their anxiety and build positive expectations of working with you and experiencing your services.

Remember, in essence, that your objective is to get the prospect to say ‘yes’, the same as if you were selling a product; you just need to be more deliberate in clearly communicating the features and benefits of your service – as you don’t have the benefit of an actual product to do any of the ‘talking’ for you.

If you would like to discuss this area further, please email me for more information.

About Marie

I started Elite Edge at the end of 1999 and I am still as passionate about marketing today as I was then - probably more so because I consider myself very lucky to do a job that I love every day! My area of specialism is strategic planning but like most people these days, I wear many other hats too!
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