Then there are those who never thought they'd be involved in sales, who struggle with marketing their services and having conversations with prospects. Often they lack confidence, are wary of talking about how they help clients, and back down when buyers push back on price. If they had their druthers, they'd simply do their work and people would find them and hire them. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.
The good news is even the most timid service professionals can do things to improve their marketing and sales—and increase their confidence along the way.
I could have immediately hung up, but I decided to hear her out—to hear her pitch. It was more of a learning experience for me than anything. I wanted to hear if she used sleazy sales tactics or if she had an effective approach. I must say she was pretty good.
Right off the bat she knew how to develop rapport with me. She asked if I was Mrs. Kennedy (my boyfriend's last name is Kennedy.) I said no, I was his girlfriend. To which she said, "But you soon will be!"
Well played, Ms. Saleslady.
When selling professional services, the two biggest sales challenges you'll face are getting the client and keeping the client. Each has its own obstacles and issues, but those two are what determine your business's fate.
When it comes to getting the client, sometimes it's a buyer's perception of you that is the biggest hurdle to overcome. When potential buyers start their search for a provider, do they find information that sets you apart from other providers in your industry? Are your services unique or the same as the others but with a new look?
"Most of firms do a good job describing what they do and that they are 'for real.' That's not enough for buyers who are exploring multiple options," says Vickie K. Sullivan. "When these folks check you out, they compare you to what they already know and to the other options. To them, anyone who doesn't stand out becomes a commodity."
The key is for buyers to believe you have innovative and unique ideas specific to them, she says in her article The Commodity Zone: 3 Buyer Perceptions that Create Low-Fee Conversations.
Trust—it's the key ingredient that keeps clients returning to you and referring you. There's no exact formula for gaining it. Sometimes it happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a while to get through a buyer's protective shell.
When you've gained it, it's like a whole new world opens up:
* Buyers feel comfortable talking with you, sharing details about their challenges, and working with you on solutions
* You better understand buyers' needs and develop better solutions for them
* You become better attuned to the prospect's buying signals
* Buyers return to you even when offered less-expensive options
No matter if the buyer is fast or slow to trust you, you can increase your trustworthiness by doing certain things in your marketing, your sales conversations, and in delivering your service. It all starts with understanding your buyer, says Ivan Misner in his article Are You Correctly Reading Prospects' Buying Signals? The goal is to try and see things from the buyer's perspective and improve communication with them.
You start to shrink under the pressure of having to produce content on top of everything else you need to do. You think, "How am I supposed to write blog posts or publish a research report when I don't have time to even get through all of the email in my inbox?"
Here's some good news: You don't have to create content to convert prospects into buyers. Content curation is as effective as content creation when it comes to developing relationships with prospects, helping buyers through the sales process, and developing loyal clients, according to business development expert Matt Heinz.
"Quite honestly prospects will differentiate very narrowly between content you create and content you may curate from elsewhere," he says. "So, you get almost as much credit if you happen to find a link somewhere else and put that in front of your prospects."
Will they find useful content created or curated by you that helps them with the challenge they're facing? Will they find self-serving promotional pieces that cause them to instantly click away? Will they find blog posts and articles about you but written by someone else who misconstrued information about you? Or will they find nothing at all because your links are buried on the fifth page of search results, and no one goes past page 2 when doing searches?
Online information plays a key role in prospect's buying decisions. And you need to control the flow of it. For when you can control the flow, you can better control the sales process, writes Colleen Francis in her article How to Regain Control of the Sales Process.
"The whole point of regaining control of the information flow is to attract buyers," she says. "Follow your ideal clientele on social media, and join the same networking groups they're members of to make yourself known. Publish high-value content to these sites daily. In doing so, you cast a wide net and encourage the buyer to come to you. I call this approach indirect prospecting."
Exercise, get enough sleep, don't eat too many fatty foods, don't drink too much, take time off from work. Those are all components of a healthy lifestyle. Each is needed, but in a balanced way. Too much of one, and you move into the unhealthy end of the spectrum.
The same balanced approach applies to your sales process. You need to prospect, close deals, and service clients, but focus too much on one of those, and you create a boom/bust cycle, says Colleen Francis, author of Nonstop Sales Boom in her podcast interview 3 Reasons Why Firms Experience Boom/Bust Sales Cycles.
You have to understand "that your sales pipeline is a multi-dimensional thing—that you have to take leads from all different places, and you have to be nurturing your existing clients as well as your new clients," she says. "We have to be asking for referrals and leveraging our existing client base, as well as going out and meeting brand-new people in order to really create this healthy buoyant sales environment where you're consistently hitting your targets."
It's never a good thing to be considered that, especially when trying to bring in new clients. Buyers don't want Jacks; they want masters. For when you're a master, you offer the expertise, comfort, and trustworthiness that makes people want to work with you.
Although you might have many skills and the ability to offer many services to various types of businesses, you need to narrow your focus—in your marketing, in your presentations, and in your conversations with prospects.
Resist the urge to be all things to all of your buyers, says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. For your content marketing to succeed, you must focus on a smaller portion of your overall audience, he says in his podcast interview 3 Areas in Content Marketing Where Service Firms Go Wrong.
"I think that’s where service firms go wrong because [they] try to cover all of [their] customers and say, 'How can we get the most bang for our buck out of content marketing,'" Pulizzi says. "Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. So, we want to focus on the smallest niche audience that we feel we can make the most impact with."
When selling and marketing your services and your business, it might feel like you're walking a narrow line between being perceived as a trusted advisor and a pushy, even desperate, salesperson. One misstep—even if that misstep was an accident—can push you over the line. And before you know it, there goes the sale.
What can you do? You're excited about your services, and you want to help people. But if you push too hard, buyers will walk. That medium ground involves doing things that assure prospects you can be trusted and "that you have their best interests at heart," says Colleen Stanley in her article Are You a Trusted Advisor or a Typical Salesperson?
Two things on the top of her list are seeking the truth and telling the truth. Seeking the truth involves finding the root of the buyer's problem. You must ask questions and really listen to what the buyer says. Don't wait for cues to jump in and give your spiel. Uncover their true needs, then offer a solution.
If it turns out you don't have the expertise or resources to help solve their problem, tell them so.
I know many people who put down abstract artists—artists such as Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cézanne.
They say things such as: Anyone can do what they do. It's just paint splatter. It's just a bunch of squiggles. People are not made out of cubes. No woman ever looks like that with her eyes off level and her nose huge.
And they sound so annoyed and disgusted by the work from those artists.
The truth is before artists can create abstract art, they must master the fine skills of painting and drawing. (If you look at Picasso's earlier work, such as The Old Fisherman, you will clearly see his talent for depicting the human figure.) Once artists have those skills, then they can express themselves via abstract techniques—sometimes breaking the rules they were taught.
The same applies to all arts: writing, dance, photography, music, etc.
Not only that, but it also applies to sales and marketing. You need certain skills to succeed. But you also need to build on those skills, have the right mindset, and develop a nuanced approach.
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