Making people buy stuff is easy. Doing the same for services is a greater challenge. How do you convince your clients that a service – an intangible concept – is worth their money and attention? Many salespeople struggle to grasp the difference between a product and a service, failing to find buyers.
In this article, we’ll show you how selling services the right way can help your business – and yourself – grow and thrive. With these simple guidelines, your service will become a success very soon! 🎉
Service vs. Product
There’s no denying that services and products are two very different things. In fact, Kuba’s written an entire article on the difference between selling a service and a product, the pros and cons of both, and some profitable techniques/models to follow.
But while the mere concept of both is diverse, I believe that the marketing and sales process is not that different when you think about it. Sounds weird? Hear me out.
Look at this couch. It’s a really nice couch, isn’t it? Looks comfortable and cozy, the color is nice and the design is modern, yet timeless. Now let’s pretend we’re at a furniture store and you can actually sit in it and feel what it’s like. Stretch out your legs, adjust the pillows. Let me show you how it’s kids-proof, pet-proof, pulls out into a bed, and has storage for your junk. Even if I didn’t just convince you to buy it, I’ve done everything to show you its features and advantages. But I can’t do the same if the couch was non-substantial, can I?
It’s hard to show your prospects the value of something they can’t see or touch. But ‘hard’ doesn’t mean ‘impossible’. In fact, you should look at services the same way you look at products: via their assets. If you’d sell a couch by showing how it can fit into your buyers’ lives and make them better, why not do the same for a product?
Approach your service exactly as if it were a product. Paint a picture that will make your prospects see how your offerings can benefit them. Show your clients that you understand their problems and have a way of solving them. Create a promise and stick to it.
The trend of productization – packaging services as products – is a great start to building a marketing prospect. Highlight your service offerings’ benefits, show off their best features, demonstrate some great use cases and you’re already halfway there. See what Castos, a post-production podcast company, did: they’ve neatly wrapped their services into three separate packages (bonus points for clear pricing tiers!) and cleverly showcased their details for best results.
How to get to the other half? Let’s see what else you can do to turn prospects into customers and make your business bloom.
Planning To Sell a Service: Where To Start
Like I mentioned above, never underestimate the importance of your service’s value. Your client has to see the service profitability, and they most likely won’t catch it if you don’t provide enough information.
That’s why one of your first steps towards a successful business would be establishing a website (or a profile at one of the popular platforms for selling services – more on that later) with all the details on your offerings. Carefully plan out the content, making sure it’s clear, informative, and sets you apart from other companies offering a similar service.
Read on to learn how to find a niche for your business.
Learn What Your Ideal Customer Needs
According to Henry DeVries at Forbes, the secret to selling your services is being a problem solver. Determining how your service aids those who struggle with something (the more mundane, frustrating, and common, the better) is probably the biggest value you’ll have, and will most likely become your best marketing strategy.
If you’re new to the service industries, start simple: wear your ideal customer’s shoes and see the problem they’re facing. How can your service address it? Does it save time, improve the cash flow, give more resources in the long run? If you don’t see a burning problem or there’s no clear explanation as to how your service would solve it, that’s probably a bad sign.
Best Ways To Locate The Need For Services
The easiest and arguably the best way to answer the question of “how can I make my prospects’ lives better by solving their problems” would be examining a field you’re familiar with, possibly one where you see an important issue to fix yourself.
Offering services that are similar to your previous experience can give you a head start and make you appear more trustworthy. Finding a panacea to an itch you’ve been scratching yourself for years is a great sales pitch 😉
If there’s plenty of competition out there, look for gaps in the existing offerings. That’s where you’ll find the prospect to grow and win over buyers.
Researching your competitors can give you plenty of information to work with, including pricing tiers, marketing ideas, and other valuable resources. Even if you don’t find a single thing that’s missing from the field, don’t worry! Loads of entrepreneurs have succeeded by introducing services or products that simply enhance the existing solutions (some call it piggy-backing off the success of other businesses). Tawk.to did just that – analyzing the existing live chat solutions led them to an amazing discovery. Most of the live chat users struggled with staffing 24/7 consultants regardless of the chosen provider. Filling this void got Tawk.to an unbeatable advantage even though they’ve started in a highly saturated market.
Stand Out From Other Service Providers
Your business only has a 50% chance of surviving five years or longer, and your competitors are one of the key threats here. Analyzing their moves periodically should become a part of your business routine, and I don’t mean just poppin’ in at their website and see what they’re up to. You can learn equally, if not more, by attending industry events or checking out their social proof (more on that below). Understanding their strengths and weaknesses will give you a better idea of selling services of your own, especially if you know that your prospect has been considering your competitor as well.
Find your niche and build your brand from there, both in terms of specific services you offer and the customer service. Be ready to answer questions like ‘how’s your company better than the next competitor’. And once again: never forget to highlight the value of your services. If possible, provide a ‘before & after’ comparison to show precisely how your service translates to success via increased conversion rate, more revenue, or other measurable data.
How To Get People To Buy Your Services
Finding a great idea, a void to fill, a problem to solve is a first, huge step into a successful service company. Mentally packing it into a product that represents certain value and brings benefit to the client is another one. But do you know where it gets tricky?
All these great things won’t take you anywhere if there’s no client to make the sale to. Your prospects need to know that you’re out there – and that your services are trustworthy, valuable, and real. In this part, we’ll cover how to wisely use your resources to build your branding and attract more sales.
Put That Social Proof To Work
When looking for services (or a product), most people turn to others for advice, may it be personal, online review, a testimonial, a case study, or some ‘Top 10’ articles. No one likes to buy a pig in a poke. Instead, customers choose what others believe to be right. Robert Cialdini, a bestselling author of “Influence”, coined the term “social proof” to explain that behavior.
Make sure that each client leaves some sort of social proof for the others, like a testimonial, a review, a reference, or a case study they agree to be a part of. Look for portals like Clutch, Yelp, or GoodFirms that gather information about companies straight from their clients, but step outside this box as well: LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and even Google Maps are great tools to boost your online presence and show prospects how they can benefit from buying your services.
Ask whoever you can to provide valuable and thorough information about you and your services. Believe it or not, but positive reviews from your team members also influence your PR.
The sales process is a delicate construct. If we were to come back to that couch-selling scenario, it’s quite easy to showcase its advantages. It’s a tangible product that you can even test before you buy it.
Sadly, the only tangible thing in a service-based business is you. You’re basically the product you’re selling. That’s why you need to constantly show how working with you as a person (even if in the end it won’t be you who’ll deliver the services) will bring benefit to your customers.
Make yourself (or your company) a part of your service offering. Turn yourself into a strong brand: if you want prospects to turn into clients, they have to perceive you as a reliable person who’s worth their trust, time, and money. Demonstrate that you understand their problems and challenges and care about solving them.
Individual Identification & Communication
A personal approach may take time, but it’s well worth it. Start building your business relationship with customers by asking effective questions that’ll get you to identify their problems quickly and propose solutions. You can start with a list of general inquiries such as ‘who are the decision makers’, ‘what’s your budget’, and ‘what’s the deadline’, and work your way from there. Reserve some time to visit your customer’s website or take a look at what their competition is up to. A study by Gong.io proves that most successful salespeople uncover between three to four business problems in the sales process.
Be open and honest. Customers like to ask questions themselves, and boy, will they do it! Answer thoroughly and with patience, be one of these people who’re always happy to help and ready to clarify any confusion now or in the future.
Successful service providers use the knowledge mentioned above to their advantage and create powerful proposals. Aside from the obvious confident attitude and problem-solving approach, work on your language – one of the key marketing techniques. David Newman likes to use the “so-that” phrases to present the outcomes of your offering.
“So-that” phrases help service businesses to show their best features and translate them to the customer’s gains, like “so that you cut costs” or “so that you have a steady stream of content appearing on your social media channels”. The bottom line here is that the language of gain does wonders to selling services, so learn how to use it for your business.
Make It Easy To Purchase Your Service
Customers like convenience. Let it be service or product offerings, if it’s not available with minimum effort, finishing the sales process gets very tricky very fast.
According to Towards Data Science blog, as many as 30% of the customers abandon their online carts before proceeding to payment, even though they’ve entered all the personal information and other necessary details. A study by Visa shows that the simple act of getting a credit card out of the wallet could result in canceling the sale. And getting a company to pay you – with accountants perpetually on sick leave or buried under other paperwork – can be a tough task as well.
Introducing swift and painless ways of purchasing and paying for your service will reduce the abandonment rate and gain more customers for your business. When establishing your service company, immediately decide on the purchase process and delivery method that’ll be the most convenient for your customers. This will save you and your clients tons of time.
Consider Pricing Tiers
Using pricing tiers is a great way to provide services to a greater range of target customers. Companies like Netflix use this trick to draw people to premium packages that appear to offer the best value for the price.
Differentiating your prices gives you the prospect of attracting clients with various budgets, but also those with diverse needs. An entire company may look for a well-rounded package of services, while an individual customer with fewer resources might settle for a basic deal that still results in mutual success.
When developing a tiered pricing strategy, think of the factors like frequency of use, value, functional differences, and target customers. Also, look at how other companies in your field price their services.
Offer Great Customer Service & Follow Up
When selling services, you need to reach out to your customers quite often, and not just when there’s a problem to fix. A proactive attitude can work wonders for your sales, especially after you deliver the service. Following up and staying in touch with your customers is a great way to build strong relationships and get clients to come back again and again for the same – or more – services.
Great service-based companies leverage communication at each stage of the business process instead of keeping it strictly to the salespeople. They make it a part of their brand, giving the customers even more reasons to choose their services.
At Zendo, we offer simple tools for instant customer communication that makes the sales process a breeze. A single channel for one source of truth makes your team stay on the same page regardless of their previous engagement with the client, and notifications help you keep track of the customers that could use a follow-up.
What’s more, the integrated payment feature that makes it possible to transfer the money without even leaving the conversation reduces the abandonment problems we’ve discussed above. All that makes for space where both sides of the business can reach each other anytime and anywhere, no fuss.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Some sales will fail – that’s the part of the business. But a lost customer is still an asset, as long as you know how to make use of the information they’ve left you. These can be extremely valuable for future marketing efforts and pricing strategies.
Why do clients choose other companies over yours? The most obvious and the most common factor is money. The other is the conviction that another offer will give them more opportunities (for example, if the company has more resources, skills, tools, or experience). Some customers will turn away simply because they didn’t trust you or didn’t perceive you as confident enough.
Review the calls, email exchanges, and other points of contact you’ve made with the prospect that failed. Look for red flags and think how you could prevent them in the future.
What Is The Best Way To Sell Services
Hopefully you didn’t expect a single solid answer here, because there’s no universal recipe for selling services with absolutely no problems along the way.
Different types of services will sell best on different platforms, like Fiverr, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, or another website. You should carefully weigh out the pros and cons of each solution and decide on the one (or more!) that work best for you and your business needs. Still, I believe that no matter what’s your style, some skills and strategies always come in handy.
Best Game Plans For a Service-Based Business
Set out your company with confidence and expert knowledge (afraid of the imposter syndrome? Well… fake it till you make it 😅). The more you find out about your potential buyers and other companies in the ring, the better the head start.
Make use of anyone who can give you any kind of social proof to get started with and work on your personal brand before kick-starting the business. Highlight your skills as a professional, but don’t forget about the soft ones: presenting yourself as a trustworthy, solution-oriented person who knows what they’re doing.
What To Stay Away From
Just like some tricks will always check out, it’s better to avoid some acts altogether.
Can’t swim? Then don’t dive head-first into a shark-filled ocean. If you’re new to the world of services, start slow, especially if it’s a way to differentiate your current business spectrum and you already have some actual products available. It takes time to learn new tricks and find a new way of approaching your customers.
Speaking of customers – avoid treating all of them the same way. Using templates to communicate may save you time, but a personal approach shows that you care about solving their problems (in fact, some platforms will even ban you for copy-paste offerings!).
Forgetting about the service’s value and focusing on other deal-breakers, like a competitive price or a short deadline, usually results in a failed transaction. Surely, there’s a type of client who will get attracted by a cheap proposal, but it’s also precisely the type who’ll run to your competition when they see a ‘limited time sale’ or another crazy deal. Highlighting the value and quality of your offer can go a long way, so showcase that whenever possible.
Finally, the more successful sales and the more customers you have, the more communication is needed. Even if your team consists of one individual (you), it’s easy to bury yourself under a metaphorical pile of online correspondence coming from different platforms. Keep a single source of truth for all business transactions or you’ll find yourself saying ‘sorry’ a lot.
How To Sell Services: Key Takeaways
Feeling lost or overwhelmed? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a shortlist of top strategies towards a successful service-based business that’ve been tested by thousands of companies in this field.
- Fulfill your customers’ needs
- Work on your branding
- Get social proof
- Keep your services accessible
- Provide great customer service
- Build creative solutions to painful problems
- Ask questions
- Deliver powerful, client-focused proposals
- Stay connected
Summing Up: Nail That Service Sales Process!
Like I said at the beginning, selling services isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but let’s not make this task harder than it has to be. Once you get your mind around it and use some clever ways to advertise and nurture your business, like getting social proof, checking out other companies in the area, and spending some time on your branding, it’ll get much easier to get to the top.
Always think of your service as a product that was made to solve woes and make lives easier. Build a clever marketing plan around this concept and reach out to your customers with a professional, yet personal approach. And when in doubt, come back to that couch I’ve tried to sell you earlier. Hey, so comfy, isn’t it? 😁
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