How important is it that your services be easy to sell? Wouldn't it be even better if they were easy to buy? Imagine the possibilities if each time you spoke with a prospect, they said, "I get it! How do we get started?" Remember, the easier you make it for customers to buy your services, the faster you'll close deals--and the more money you'll see hit your bottom line.
Regardless of the type of service you sell, your prospect carries a high degree of risk and worry when buying. They really don't know what they'll get from you until after they spend their money and actually experience the service. During the sales process, all their buying is a promise that you'll do something for them.
But your prospects need something more tangible to help them justify their purchase decision because they need to make sure they're not going to feel buyer's remorse. And what is it they focus on? Price. It's the one tangible factor they can point to that helps them differentiate one service from another. The problem is that when you compete on price, no one really wins. So how do you win their confidence--and the sale?
Make the Intangible
Services are intangible--you can't see them, touch them, take them out of the box or demonstrate them. Yet this is exactly what you need to do to make them easier for your customers to buy them. So how do you accomplish this?
The answer is to "productize" your service. Make it tangible. Think like a product manager. Here are four different techniques you can use to package your service to act more like a product:
- Turn your service into a product.
- Package your different service levels.
- Combine your services and create a new offering.
- Package your process.
Each of these techniques will help you create a distinct (tangible) advantage over other service providers and make your services easier to buy. And whether you sell only services or you sell services as part of a product sale, one of the following techniques is sure to help you increase your service profitability.
1. Turn your service into a product. This is one of the easiest places to start--it allows you to create a passive revenue stream, reach a larger audience than you could delivering your services directly, and "prove" your expertise.
Frequently called "Your Service Name" in a Box or "Your Service Name" Toolkit, for this method, you'll create tip sheets, templates, worksheets and supporting educational pieces that share your expertise at a fraction of the cost of having you consult directly. You would package these in a binder, on CD or in a box, and sell them on your website, at tradeshows and at speaking engagements.
Examples might include "Writing a Business Plan," "Creating a PR Program" and "Developing a Marketing Plan."
2. Package your different service levels. If you present all your services a la carte at varying price points, you run the risk of confusing your customers. And if you expect your customers to proactively buy your services, you run the risk of leaving money on the table.
By creating packages that are easy to buy and that cater to your customers' varying needs and budgets, you can sell more services and keep your customers engaged in the process of doing business with you.
For instance, let's say you sell cars and offer pre-paid maintenance plans. Then you might create a high-end package that includes:
- Picking up the car for service
- Providing a loaner car for the day
- Changing the oil
- Changing the wipers
- Washing the car and cleaning the interior
- Checking hoses, pumps and other moving parts
And then a lower-end, prepaid package that includes:
- A reminder phone call for service
- An oil change
- Wiper blade adjustment
Each of these packages caters to a different segment of your market but gives your clients a choice. When you package service levels, you typically would want to create three product offerings. Often, you'll see these presented as gold, silver and bronze levels (but please, be more creative!).
Begin the process by:
- Looking at what your competition is offering,
- Documenting the value you deliver to a client,
- Talking to customers to assess their needs, expectations and priorities, and
- Creating logical groups of offerings.
Two important points to consider when it comes to creating service packages: These are not options in the quality of service you offer nor are they just price adjustments to the same service. These levels are differences in the actual deliverables and the total value.
Additional examples of service packages include customer support services for software or hardware products and consulting services for a large business vs. a small one.
3. Combine services to create a new offering. When buyers begin to see little difference between you and your competitors and start to focus on price, reposition your service by creating a new, more valuable service offering. This approach means you'll take several services that you and your alliance partners offer and combine them into one offering that's more robust. For instance, as a marketing consultant, you could join forces with a copywriter, a graphic designer and a website developer to create a "Business Startup Success" package that provides marketing, branding and website assistance.
Before you create a new offering, start by listening to what your customers are asking for and paying closer attention to their buying patterns. Make note of the times you're selling them two services or when you're having to bring in partners to help serve your customer needs. These instances offer you the opportunity to combine individual services into more profitable, valuable offerings.
A business consultant, for example, could create a complete "Business Assessment" package that includes expert offerings from HR, sales, accounting and technology consultants.
Other examples include offering a complete turnkey newsletter package if you're a freelance writer or editor, providing an upgrade service for your software company clients that helps them take advantage of new releases, and selling project management services as part of your architectural firm's offerings.
4. Package a process. When it seems impossible to package what you deliver, differentiate your company and increase your perceived value by packaging how you deliver. Start by naming the process, then document each of the steps, create a detailed project plan, identify decision points, formalize your deliverables from each step, and put it all together in a binder or on a CD.
For instance, if you run a web design firm, you'll want to document your end-to-end design capabilities and your development process. And if you run a networking or software company, you'll want to package the implementation and rollout process.
This approach shows prospective customers you know what you're doing and you follow a logical approach, and it shows where they're involved. It also increases the perception that you're established, professional and capable.
What all these techniques have in common is the opportunity for you to present all the value you deliver. Often, we make assumptions that our customers understand everything we do for them. But this just isn't the case: You need to pull out every piece of value you provide over the course of a project and present that to the client in order for them to completely understand what a terrific job you're doing for them.
Then, not only will you have clearly differentiated your company from your competition, you'll have provided all the information the prospect needs to make it easy for them to buy from you. So start thinking like a product manager and watch your sales efforts decrease as your profits soar.
Susan LaPlante-Dube and Maureen O'Grady Condon are principals of Precision Marketing Group in Framingham, Massachusetts, where they focus on creating customized marketing solutions that deliver solid business results for organizations ranging from solo practitioners to Fortune 500 companies. To sign up for their "Matters of Marketing" newsletter, or to learn more, visit www.precisionmarketinggroup.com.