Q: How do you sell a service vs. a product?

A: This question keeps coming up with our readers. It's a challenge that takes a strong belief in the invisible and a specific four-point strategy for creating perceived value:

1. Show exciting visuals. Say you produce fashion shows for nonprofit fundraising events. Your brochure, Web site and presentation portfolio should include photographs from past events that display the models, the room set-up, and the sponsor banners and booths. Always carry a camera so you can include the most up-to-the-minute documentation of your work. As your budget builds, include video clips. Be sure to download the footage to your Web site. Your job is to constantly think of ways to show your future customers how your service is being experienced in the real world right now.

2. Seduce customers with free trial offers and money-back guarantees. New business owners have to practice acts of generosity. Use the word "free" in your advertising. Whether you own a car wash or a massage-therapy business, each week give away your services to a certain percentage of customers. It's good public relations, and it helps develop your good name. Money-back guarantees should be company policy, too. When I began my career as a motivational speaker, my booking agent advertised: "If Danielle doesn't deliver, you'll receive a full refund." It's smart to include a deadline date in the guarantee. Otherwise, some folks could abuse your offer by trying to insist on a refund months after the service was rendered.

3. Ease your way in with endorsements. I keep harping away about getting endorsements, but you can never be reminded enough of their value. It's especially important that a satisfied customer-or two-talk to a prospect investing in a service yet to be experienced. For example, if you have a catering business, your prospect has no proof you can supply him or her with first class, crowd-pleasing menus, a unique presentation of food or a high-caliber team of servers. At this point, it's all talk and no action. But when you add past customer endorsements into the equation, your believability improves dramatically because your past customers are the proof. They witnessed and paid for a successful event. Here are people who have experienced your ultimate service and are willing to stick their neck out for you. The endorsements themselves give your company tangible credibility.

4. Ask for input. The great thing about selling the invisible? It has the ability to change and grow on the spot. Today's car-detailing job can be better executed than yesterday's work was. But these lessons can only be learned if business owners are willing to ask, "What are we doing right?" and "What needs to be improved?" Then you must put those changes into effect immediately. If you make a habit of thinking and acting like a perpetual student, your service will constantly improve. Then what used to be considered invisible will truly come to life and stand out in any crowd.

Learn More
Not all pitches to retail buyers are created equal. Read "The Buying Game" to find what you need to do to ensure your product is the one that generates attention and sales.

Danielle Kennedy is an authority on selling, developing a peak performance attitude and winning customers for life.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.