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Your potential customers are just like you. Look in a mirror if you want to understand them. This is why you have to talk to live human beings. They need to check you out.

To sell a service, you have to make sales contacts. It could be at a trade show, a networking event, in someone’s office, or on the phone, but you have to tell people what you do and start the conversation. You knew this. Don’t roll your eyes. Keep reading.

When your goal is to sell a service, you cannot only use blast emails, banner graphics, sponsorships, trade show booths, magazine ads, or a website. To sell a service, you must also talk to live human beings. Why? Because of how people make decisions. Marketing efforts are absolutely necessary to make your business known and start the conversation, but you need more to close the deal. You need relationships.

Very simply, your prospects are just like you, and we all live in fear of bad decisions. A bad decision could mean a small loss of money or a minor inconvenience, or it could be devastating. Careers end over bad decisions. That’s why any potential customers for your service want to speak with you. They could get all of the same information from your website, but some unspoken force inside them is driving them to read the room. They want to know if they can trust you.

You are not selling your capabilities as much as you are selling a promise that you will deliver for your customer.

You are not selling the capabilities of your machinery. Selling a service means selling promises that you will come through for them. That’s it. When you realize this, it will give you a perspective on why people are cautious in signing with a new service provider.


The Gut Check

Think back to when you had to decide on a service provider, whether a real estate agent, an outside IT service, a chiropractor, or an office cleaning crew. You narrow your choices to two or three, and one seems to be a leading candidate. But then, you get the gut check. You can’t even describe it, but something was not right. Something subtle in that person’s speech or actions created a disconnect between who they claimed to be and who they are. And since you are buying their service, not a product, you have no recourse if they fail you.

You understand this gut check idea perfectly, yet no one can truly describe it. Some vague sense you cannot define has told you that you cannot place your confidence in this person as a service provider, and that going with this candidate could have serious consequences.

To sell a service, you must also talk to live human beings and listen because that is how people make decisions.

This is what you are up against when you are selling a service. Your potential customer—just like you—lives in fear of making a bad decision. It is not a conscious thought process (i.e., “Gosh, I hope I don’t make any bad decisions today, so I’ll scan people for hidden clues about their character”). We just do it. Always picking up clues is a survival tool for our species. And we make significant life and business decisions based on the gut check.

The reason this matters so much is this: Imagine you go into a sales call about your service, focused on the technique and the PowerPoint, the slick handouts, the flow of the presentation and the key talking points, all leading to a crescendo of brilliance where the potential customer will break his or her pen trying to sign with you, and he or she does not even ask about the price.

You are not selling the capabilities of your machinery. Selling a service means selling promises that you will come through for them.

Yet the reality is this: While your potential customer is absorbing the barrage of data, he or she—without thinking about it—is also looking for signs. The discussions may fade away over time without you picking up a customer or the potential customer finding a suitable supplier, yet neither side knows why.

It is essential to understand and address any disconnects in the overall message you are sending your potential customer.

It is possible that the potential customer sensed some disconnect in the overall message you presented. Consider this from his or her perspective:

  • You tell me that your company delivers on time, but your rep is always late for meetings and conference calls.
  • You tell me that your company operates with professional integrity, but your sales guy makes racist and lewd jokes and calls the ladies in the office “honey.”
  • You tell me that you will take care of every detail, but there were mistakes in your proposal.
  • You tell me that you listen to your clients to understand their needs, but I keep asking for Solution A, and you keep trying to sell me Solution B.
  • You tell me that quality is the number one priority at your company, but there are grammatical errors in your email.
  • You tell me that your company gives full attention to each customer, but you keep looking at your phone during our meetings.
  • You tell me that you will handle everything, start to finish, to keep the project on track, but I pull up to your building, and your property looks junky, your office is sloppy and your company looks like it stopped caring a long time ago.

All of these things are unspoken gut checks. They are intuitive, not logical, but they may make the final call in the decision process.

To sell a service and land that business, get your message out there, stick to your metrics, follow through and examine how you might be inadvertently alienating potential customers—eliminate the gut checks.

The Human Touch

If you came to this article hoping for a killer closing line or fool-proof sales technique, well, sorry. There is no such thing. If you doubt this, answer this question: When was the last time you made a significant buying decision based on the salesperson’s closing line? That’s not how it works. We don’t make decisions based on some technique promoted by an overpriced sales guru, yet somehow we think others do.

Your potential customers are just like you. Look in a mirror if you want to understand them. This is why you have to talk to live human beings. They need to check you out. After all, they are buying a service. They can’t return it or exchange it for another one if you mess it up. There might be make-goods, credits, do-overs and even court fights if you don’t deliver as promised. Still, even if they ultimately get what they wanted—after a lot of trouble—such remediation carries a cost in missed deliveries, wasted resources, lost work hours and damaged reputations. A mistake by a service provider means the buyer made a bad decision, and bad decisions have consequences.

The issue is professional consistency in what you say and what you do. Your prospect’s invisible antennae are up to whether these are in alignment and whether you can be trusted. To sell a service, keep doing what you are doing to get your message out there, stick to your metrics for contacts, follow through with proposals and take a hard look at what you are doing that could be silently alienating your prospects. Eliminate the gut checks.

About the Author

Matt Judge is the VP, Sales for VizSeek shape search software by Imaginestics, as well as an experienced and passionate public speaker on a variety of business development topics, such as understanding the dollar value of your time, and how to land the business.


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