Selling services is far different than selling products, and for reps who want to be successful at "service selling", it's imperative to understand where the differences exist.
Many consumers today are accustomed to purchasing services such as warranties attached to a new product, or subscription services such as cable television or Internet. Another kind of service is professional services. These business services may provide technical, strategic or consultative help as needed. While consumers may be accustomed to companies selling a service attached to a product, they may not be as familiar or comfortable buying professional services for their company.
The biggest distinction between products and services is that while products are tangible, services are intangible. With products, such as a computer or flatscreen TV, a person receives instant gratification following their purchase. For a customer who makes a decision to purchase services, the resulting gratification won't be as immediate and will require more commitment on their part. It's because of this distinction that trust, credibility and solid client relationships are critical success keys to selling both product and professional services.
Four Key Questions
Companies in the market for professional services typical ask four questions.
Will these services save us time?
Will these services save us money?
Will these services increase our productivity?
Do we need to outsource the service, or can we do it ourselves?
In conversations with your customers, uncover which of these questions is the highest priority to them, and focus on the matching business benefits your services can provide. For example, if your customer has identified increasing productivity as a key business initiative, you might highlight how your service offerings will allow them to increase productivity without requiring additional time away from their already hectic schedules. By presenting the case that using a third party service provider is the most efficient way to fill the need while increasing productivity, you demonstrate your ability to help them save money and time.
Three Success Keys
Services selling is based on three success keys:
Both the sales cycle and service contract may take more time to close and execute than selling a product. You must be able to instill and maintain trust over the duration of that time. This can be done by delivering compelling value propositions that generate interest and bring immediate value to the customer. Credibility grows through sharing success stories, providing testimonials and referrals, and presenting the compelling business benefits and value of potential services. Customers will come back for services over and over when you establish a solid relationship and put yourself in the position of "trusted advisor".
Client Satisfaction = Referrals
For successful companies that sell desirable products, demand for their products will continue based on effective marketing and customer desires. It may not be this predictable for companies selling services. Service businesses depend on satisfied clients more than other businesses, both to maintain their credibility and continue to drive new business referrals. Services are more complex to price, to deliver and to evaluate than single products. In addition, measuring the quality of service varies from customer to customer.
Conduct regular "how are we doing?" conversations with customers. Use the information you gather to generate new opportunities and new leads. Customers who realize value in services provided are often eager to share their success with you through referrals and case study examples. All you need to do is ask.
By understanding the differences between service and product selling and executing a sales strategy incorporating these critical success factors, you'll instill trust, enhance credibility and form solid relationships while demonstrating value for your services to many potential customers. This value will translate into increased sales and new referrals for you.