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03/14/2010

Entrepreneurial Tip Corner: Selling Your Service


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Rocket scientists and brain surgeons have it easy. They seldom hear their customers or patients tell them, “I can do this job myself. Why should I pay you?” But for those of us who sell services that could be deemed easy enough to do by yourself or within your company, it’s a constant struggle to find customers and clients who understand the value of hiring an outside professional. Regardless of your service—accounting, design, money management, personal financial planning or even house painting—the challenge is still the same: to sell your service to the prospective customer.

Perhaps your prospective customer hears mom’s voice in his/her head, “Don't waste your money. Do it yourself.” Maybe you’re dealing with a perfectionist who believes that no one can do the job as well as he/she can. It’s also possible he/she doesn’t want to be dependent on an outsider and wants to develop the expertise in-house. Whatever the source of the objection, sales pros should know how to locate the sales hurdle and tackle it head on and you should too.

  1. Anticipate the objection. Ask, “How have you solved similar challenges in the past?” This question guarantees that you don’t spend a lot of time in the sales process only to hear at the end (surprise!) that the potential client will now be handling the service on their own.
  2. Qualify buying style. If the customer's answer to the above question is that he had his nephew read a book and do the computer-programming work, or the president of the company went to a class and learned how to do office design in her spare time, you know this customer doesn’t fit the profile of someone who buys professional services easily. If you’ve got a customer like this on your hands, sell them on the value of saving two important resources: time and energy.
  3. Look for the match. On the other end of the spectrum, if the customer is the type who outsources practically everything, they are a prime candidate for utilizing your services.
  4. Be bold. Offer two or three ways they could fulfill their need on their own. In most cases, the customer will respond with reasons why they don’t want to try those alternative solutions. This exercise strengthens prospective customers’ resolve to buy from you. This reverse psychology is a great example of chutzpah, or boldness, in selling.
  5. Let them go. Believe it or not, this approach will increase your sales. Too many sales reps spend their limited selling hours with unqualified clients. Respect everyone’s buying motives, even if you don’t agree with them. Rather than waste your time, move on and look for new customers—or new business from current customers.
  6. Be encouraged. There are job prospects out there. In the home improvement industry, big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have contributed to the success of contractors by making homeowners eager to renovate. Many are inspired to tackle a renovation project on their own only to discover that getting a professional-quality result is a lot harder than it seemed. The next step for these reformed do-it-yourselfers is to hire outside contractors like you.

--Michael Herz, CPA, MBA 

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