My second commandment of selling services is to Communicate the Invisible, in which I point out the many--and major--differences between tangible products and intangible services, and what an effective seller must do differently to sell services.
A really big selling sin involves expecting customers to connect the dots--to understand issues, concepts, ideas, and services that they have little or no experience with. It is up to the services sales expert to help the customer make those connections. The best services sellers are masters at turning feelings into facts and concepts into cash through the use of stories and analogies.
Here are a few behaviors that I’ve observed the very best services sellers deploy:
1. Convey the importance of immediate action.
Confirm that the issue being discussed is a business priority and also a personal objective
of the customer, thus requiring immediate action.2. Provide both positive and negative case examples that the customer can relate to
in order to bolster your cause, spotlighting what businesses and individuals gained by taking action or what they lost by not taking action. Actively involve the customer in:
3. Use a financial calculator to quantify the impact of taking or not taking action.
- Exploring the potential positive impact on both the business and the individual of addressing the issue.
- Exploring the potential negative impact on both the business and the individual of not addressing the issue.
Let the customer provide the inputs to the financial calculations using figures and terms relevant to his or her personally. Whether ROIs or TCOs or Net Present Value, it is good to make some suggestions, but let the customer come up with the numbers.
Explain your methodology in detail using already-developed figures and diagrams, or manually put them on the whiteboard with the customer, describing each action and the rationale for each step.
Break things down into stages to make it easier for the customer to understand, and then ask him to think through how it would work in his organization. This lowers anxiety as he applies the concept to his own reality.
Share examples of similar customers facing similar issues and how you tailored your approach to meet their unique needs and made them successful.
Predict where potential problems may occur, and then explain your remedy to pre-empt each issue and explain the actions you will take to minimize both time and hassle for the customer.4. Share best practices.
Customers find it reassuring that you have enough experience to know what the best practices are and that they are incorporated into your approach. By asking the customer how these best practices can apply to him, it helps him both relate cognitively and connect at an emotional level. This is a real confidence builder and something that can be made quite visible in the mind of your prospect.5. Communicate stories and analogies that your prospect can understand and relate to.
For example, the prospect may never have purchased a service contract for his equipment, but he may have purchased a service contract on his company’s copier. By asking him the reasons for his decision, he can better relate to the benefits of uptime, convenience, no hassles, etc., of your offering. If he has no business experience with service contracts, he probably has some personal experience, such as purchasing an extended warranty on a high-definition TV or other large purchase. Explore his thinking and relate it back to your offering.
In addition, a customer may never have purchased a business assessment before, but he can probably relate to the need for a physical checkup before taking on a new sport or strenuous activity.
Furthermore, if you find yourself in a competitive position, you might make the medical analogy that your organization is not a general practitioner but a heart specialist, and thus the most appropriate choice for an important decision such as the one the customer is facing.
Other non-business analogies can help bridge the familiarity gap as well. For example, if you know your customer is a big football fan, you can use the concept of “the huddle,” “going deep,” “game plan,” and many others as a way to relate the importance of ideas in terms the customer can understand.6. Provide write-ups of high-recognition reference accounts that tout the value of you and your offerings.
This acts as a shortcut to decision making. The more complex and unfamiliar the situation to the customer, the more he will look to references to help him decide. If two or three well respected people in well respected companies with similar issues are happy with your offerings, your customer will likely be willing to accept the premise that he will be happy as well.
Apply these concepts and you will become a master of selling the invisible.