Building a selling strategy for professional services means focusing on small business sales leads and referrals. The strategic marketing process includes building an understanding of 'what is strategy' for services.
Selling strategy for services involves selling your knowledge and your time to deliver a solution to your client's problem.
It is similar to selling a product in that your client must buy your solution as being the best (whether service or product); but dissimilar in other ways.
For example, when selling managed services (often relevant to IT services) your focus must be on connecting your solution to the customer's problem; and having the customer believe that your solution is the best.
You still need to follow some of the key principles of product selling: sell the unique differences between your services and your competitors (or between your services and doing the work in-house); also sell the benefits that your services provide.
However to be successful at selling service (professional service in this context), you need to recognize that one of most important elements of selling and marketing professional services is related to the value that your clients, or potential clients, will place on your knowledge.
Is it less costly to hire you to do the job? Can you supply the service faster, quicker and better? You need to sell the advantages of outsourcing.
Services selling is typically a low overhead type of sale; you do not have a high cost of goods manufactured or inventoried, you do have a high investment in education or training and in sales staff and effort.
However your sales costs come from finding solid small business sales leads and obtaining referrals.
When you sell a service you must be seen as being an effective leader in your field; your clients, and prospective clients, must trust that you can deliver the service and the solution.
Therefore, if you use a sales representative or a sales team to sell your service, the individuals must be credible and knowledgeable.
Make sure that your organization is capable of excellent customer service management.
Build your selling strategy to strengthen your marketing of professional services.
Understand 'what is strategy' and the relationship it has to services: develop a strategic marketing process that will focus on closing the sale (which is always a challenge with services sales)!
Your potential client owns a small engineering business (a service business in its own right). Let's call the potential client, Joe, for this example. Joe needs to expand his staff from eight to about 12 or 13 for the next two years to support a big contract project he has just won. He has spent about three weeks looking for the right people but has been unable to find good candidates. Joe does not have a human resources specialist in his company and he does not have strong interest in (or talent for) recruiting employees.
You own a human resources consulting business. It's your business to help other companies define their human resources needs and help them understand, and accept, how your service can provide them with human resources support, by finding and hiring the right people, and developing programs to retain those people for as long as required.
In this example, you would charge for the solution, not the time to achieve the solution. One of the common issues from a service buyer's perspective is that they believe that hourly rates (or services sold on the basis of time spent) tend to extend a project and cost them more money. Budget for your time carefully in the proposal but provide your service buyer with a fixed rate price (when possible).
You are selling a service. Your selling strategy must focus on what you can provide - your specialty is the service. Can your client do this service himself for his own business? Yes. Can he do it as well and in a timely manner? Likely not. If you are good at what you do, you will have the skills and experience and the infrastructure to specialize in fulfilling their needs. You become the solutions provider to your client's problem.
Outsourcing services to you will allow Joe to concentrate on his core business - engineering - rather than dilute his focus on human resources issues.
By hiring you to do the job, it will cost Joe less in terms of time, money and his resources than if Joe tried to hire the staff himself.
Focus your selling strategy for services on business ideas for clients that are small to medium in size and not capable of, or are not interested in, in expanding their internal functions to include functions, such as human resources specialists, or payroll or bookkeeping functions. Ensure that your small business plan and strategic marketing process addresses marketing mix issues specific to services and that your pricing strategies are specifically designed for your service.
Your potential clients can be 'sold' on the advantages of outsourcing. Some of the most common services-for-sale: payroll outsourcing services, HR outsourcing services, bookkeeping outsourcing services; IT services; legal services; safety consulting; marketing services.
Return to Small Business Sales.
Or find more business strategies and techniques; use this site as your Small Business Advisor.
Successful selling experiences require using more than one technique.
Yes, face-to-face selling (particularly through relationship building) is often one of the more successful tactics.
But other techniques and strategies include building touch points and sharing information.
In other words, educating your customer or prospect on your products and services and also providing information that will help your customer in their business; making sure that your products or services are highly differentiated from competitors' offerings and communicating that differentiation effectively; and clearly understanding what your customers need in terms of value and delivering it.
Communicate with your customers and prospects in person; over the phone; through the mail (yes, letters, cards, coupons and order forms have high response rates if well designed and well executed); over the Internet through blogs, emails, social media, webinars, and your website; through print materials such as catalogues, coupon books, brochures, business cards, flyers and more.
Build your sales approach as a campaign:
Plan to make contact on a regular and frequent basis (not too frequently to the point of irritating customers or too infrequently to the point of being forgotten) and align your campaign with a strong identity program that is consistent with your brand.
Customer loyalty is built by giving value first in all aspects of your business. As a small business owner or manager, you need to commit to offering the best products and/or services.
Ensure that you regularly ask your customers for input and feedback (and both listen to it and act on it) to continuously improve your processes.
Your customers will respond to the value that you add, not only to the solution you propose but also to the relationship you build together.
What do customers want? Market research says that customers have an expectation of good quality, good price and good service; that is the minimum requirement for doing business today.
What more do you need to provide?
Knowledge. Reliability. Consistency. Communication. Discover what your customers value, and provide it.
Note: customers have unique and individual needs; they do not all value the same things. Make sure you clearly understand what each individual customer or market segment wants or needs.
In a business to business selling environment, it used to be that it would take between seven or eight touches to make a sale (or not, since not all contact means that a prospect will buy).
In this Internet age, it takes more touches.
Why? Because we have become both 'ad blind' and somewhat 'insensitive' to touches.
What this means to the small business owner is that your communication (and touches) need to be different from others (not imitations or copies of what everyone else is doing), it needs to be believable and sincere, and it needs to be memorable.
In a business to business sales environment, the selling cycle takes longer to close (and is often more complex) than ever before.
To effectively grow your sales, you need build a plan that will help you to optimize your efforts.
Focus your planning efforts on a lean sales process that: will solve your customer's problem or challenge; has value (i.e. reduces time and/or cost); provides not only what the customer wants but more than has been identified (over-delivering); and that provides a solution that offers convenience, high quality, a price that is acceptable, competitive and covers the business' costs, and exceptional service.