Selling professional services is a complex task, and you can easily put a prospect off. Just by not knowing what stage of the sale they are in, you can shoot yourself in the foot. Do you when pitching your solution is the wrong thing to do? Learn what the hell we’re talking about, why you should know this, and how you can use this strategy to close more prospective clients
There are 3 sales that make up every professional services sale...
Selling financial advice or any other professional service is a complex process. Successful execution overcomes three challenges. A hurried execution that skips over crucial steps is more likely to put a prospect off rather than sign a new client up.
A temptation when offering a complex sale, especially when selling an excellent product you really believe in, is to take the client straight to all the good points of the service. This often turns the client off, even if the service is the best value for money deal on the market, that you wholeheartedly support.
Selling a service is often new territory for your client, so you need to manage the sales lifecycle. One of the first things you need to do is to understand the sale from the client’s perspective, the client needs to lead you to where the problems are. Your job is to see where and how your services might fit the client’s problem and that can only be discovered if the client first tells you what his or her problem is.
You need a process that focuses on the client, and is not focused on the service you want to sell, but more the service the client needs to buy. And if that service is something that you don’t offer, you should recommend the alternative solution, and some direction on the best place they might find it. Turning away business may sound bad for business, but solving your client’s problem is your obligation, and you’ll be sure to earn your prospects trust by being honest.
Complex professional service sales can be broken down into 3 separate sales and these sales require different interactions with a prospect. Now you don’t need to make all of these sales in the one meeting, in fact they should be broken up over a few meetings during the sales cycle. This is often for the best, as otherwise the client can become overwhelmed in one big meeting
Let’s walk through the 3 sale sale and how to use 3 steps to close more business.
Sale 1 – Selling the need for change
Every prospect operates in a status quo. Business might be fine, terrible or great, but the prospect has a way of doing things that have worked in the past or that the client feels comfortable with. They understand it, and it may even be working to a point, it may also be working great
Prospects also have goals. This is often the reason they are talking to you in the first place. They want to move from where they are now, to another place in the future. Even if the prospect has the same goals as last year, their operating environment is going to change. Often, not always, to get from point A to point B things have to change. This applies to all businesses and people. Those people whose only goal is to still be able to afford their same lifestyle this time next year, or those looking to buy a house in the near future. If they keep going the same as they are now, they may never reach their goal.
A client must believe they need to do something different to what they are doing currently. They need to want to change in order to buy your services, otherwise, they’d do what they were doing before they met you.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – Albert Einstein.
So does this client need to change?
To sell the need for change you must -
- Dig deep. What are the client’s goals? What’s really getting in the way? What are the problems that are causing the client pain and grief? We’ll talk about the 5 whys and getting to level 3 in a future blog which you can use to get to source of a goal.
- Let the client feel in control of the process. It’s hard for clients to tell you what the problem is if they don’t feel comfortable in the process, or if they don’t understand the process.. Let them do the talking, while you are actively listening and learning about their situation and true need for change
- Avoid the temptation to pitch your solution too early. OK, so it might be fantastic and the right solution for them, but if you start pitching your solutions up front, when the client is not really sure if they even need to change, that can be very confronting for the client. You’ve just added another problem to the client’s list of woes – managing your sales pitch - nobody likes to be sold to. The safest thing for the client to do is to shut your sales pitch down. At least that’s one problem out of the way and they can go back to their other problems.
Sometimes clients will be forthcoming in the conversation, other times this can be challenging.
Common challenges when selling the need for change:
- Not Digging deep enough and getting to the pain
- Clients need to Feel in control of the process, if they don't, it's hard for them
- Selling the solution before you've sold the need for change - if you pitch solutions when people are unsure if they need a solution, they'll feel they're being sold to and be turned off
3 tips to get help overcome these challenges
- The 5 whys [link], this engineering hack is a sure way to the route cause of any challenge, as well as the true drivers behind a goal
- Be curious. Ask questions. This leaves the client in control. There’s a reason why you have two ears but only one mouth… don’t go into the meeting with an prepared script and a predetermined solution before knowing the clients problems
- Stay on the overall business level. Don’t get stuck in the details of your solution unless, and this really matters, you are asked a question about the solution. If you are asked direct questions deferring on those at this point is bound to break down trust. Prospects may think you’re avoiding the question. This is the perfect chance to use the Give and Get tactic to learn more while addressing the prospects concerns - briefly answer your clients question, and follow up with a business level question you need the answer to
Remember, you want to understand the client’s current state, their goals, and their challenges.. To help the client reach their goals there often has to be movement. Something has to give. Something has to change. If not, and they’re well on their way to achieving their goals, inform them that they are on track and maybe don’t need your services, or maybe their goals just aren’t big enough,
Sale 2- Selling the what
OK, so you think the client believes that change is needed. Make sure you and the prospect agree that their current way of doing things is either not going to meet the prospect’s goals at all or at least not within the required timeline. Without a belief in the need for change you’re unlikely to convert a new client, so don’t rush through this sale, and make sure you’ve got their buy in before proceeding with selling the what, aka your solution
It may be that the process stops here. If the prospect has a comfortable strategy to meet all of his or her goals within the required time frame there is no need for change. Unless they need to reconsider their goals. Your service is just a different way of doing things, or you may have come across an exceptional business or individual
On the other hand if the current strategy isn’t working both you and the prospect are now in the same dark room together. It’s time for you to flick on the light switch. Now it’s time to ask what should the client change to?
Remember, just like show biz when the lights go up, it has to be exciting.
This is not the time to rush your pitch at the client, this is an opportunity to get on their side of the table, working as a team. You can excite the prospect with stories of similar clients, with similar goals and challenges. You should work together, and collaboratively propose a solution, and the reasons it can
- overcome the challenges you’ve learnt about in the first sale
- assist with reaching your prospect goals
- and take your client from point A - their current state - to point B - their target
This will help to anchor your costs to the value that you will bring your client. It may be hard to justify the price of your services at a high hourly rate, but when you can communicate the business value received from engaging those services, it can make it easier for a client to make an educated business decision.
A great soundbite to use is to ask if the client thinks that your solution will help them reach their goal. This could be as simple as asking if your client:
“Does that sound like something that would help you reach your goal of x?”
This will naturally lead the prospect to relate the cost to the potential financial return
You’re selling against other solutions. So don’t be afraid to bring up other alternatives. You need to understand what alternatives the client is also considering, and you should be familiar with the alternatives in the market, as well as their benefits, and their drawbacks. You can ask them straight out, “What other options are you considering?”
There are 3 main challenges to selling your solution
- The prospect doesn’t see the value in the solution. You have to connect your solution to the client’s goals. Draw a roadmap that highlights how your solution can deliver on the prospects goals. You and the client really have to understand their goals and be able to match your solution up. Be serious about this. And know the other solutions out there, and that one of these might be a better fit for the prospect. In that case, recommend the other solution and refer the prospect on to someone if possible. You’d be surprised how turning away business, can bring you more. In business, people value integrity more than anything
- The client’s not excited about what you have on offer. You need to fix this. Why not?
- The client does not understand the impact your solution will have on them and/or their business. You need to monetize the value of your solution. Money talks.
Ask these questions to overcome these challenges
- Do you think this solution will get you to the $$$ goal you have set?
- On a scale of 1 – 10, how excited are you about this solution? This is a great question. This helps you evaluate what stage the client is at in the sales process and whether you have more work to do such as asking the following:
- What would it mean if you hit the numbers set in the goal?
- What would it mean if we blow past them?
- What would it mean if you did nothing?
Sale 3 - How your company delivers the solution
The client understands their goals, and they need to change to achieve those goals. They understand that the solution you offer is the way to reach their goals. Now, tell the client exactly how your company will deliver the solution that the client is now excited about
Here you’re selling directly against other competitors who can provide the same solution to anyone looking for change. However, does the prospect know exactly how the other competitors will deliver the solution? This is where your solution is superior. You know exactly what the client wants and now your client will learn exactly how it will be delivered.
Now’s the time to:
- Offer the client a demo - creating an in depth proposal before this stage is a waste of time
- Be explicit about your value
- Above all, be able to answer any question about exactly what your company does.
- Show case studies and testimonials
To summarize –
Complex sales are a sequential process with three distinct challenges -
- Evaluating whether the prospect needs to change.
- Evaluating whether your solution provides the right strategy for the prospects needs.
- Positioning your solution ahead of competitors.
Once you understand the theory, you will be well on your way to increasing your sales, whatever market you're working in.
To learn how to use a CRM tool to effectively manage the 3 sale sale, get in touch with us today. We’ll hold a workshop with you to define the process, and analyze the 3 sales for your customer