Competition exists in every industry. As a business leader in professional services, you’ve no doubt run across tons of advice about how to gain a competitive advantage. And while improving your services or providing something unique can be helpful, closing deals is really about digging deeper into what your ideal client wants.
One of the best ways to do that is to think of your own desires as a consumer. Other than the goods and services you’re looking for, what do you hope to get from the companies you engage with?
For most of us, there’s a strong desire to feel valued. We want to know that we’re not just another number — especially with those businesses with whom we’ll have personal contact.
From the other side of the relationship, it’s paramount to communicate early in the sales cycle how much you will care about a potential client's needs when they sign on.
We’ll discuss how you can send the message that they’ll be important to you by:
It won’t matter what you’re offering if you don’t first engage in good old-fashioned listening.
Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” teaches that many sales objections are emotional, not rational. Applying the interpersonal magic of listening can disarm a prospect and prime them for a conversation about your services.
Many sales professionals and business owners forget that someone who could become your client is still just a person at the end of the day. Instead of trying to impress them, your aim should be to connect with them. That may consist of playing witness as they vent, answering seemingly irrelevant questions or letting them ask about details you’d rather avoid.
When the conversation unfolds naturally, the prospect will often forget you’re trying to sell them something and reveal big pain points. Listening well can give you unmatched insights into their fears, obstacles and goals.
It’s also a means of building rapport for the long term. You’re investing time and attention and, in turn, they’ll be more willing to invest money.
Any time we invest in something, we want to know it’s worth it. Even if an exact ROI is difficult to pinpoint, it’s common to need to be convinced of the value of any new relationship with a service provider.
Because you’re not selling a tangible product that arrives on someone’s doorstep, you’ll probably need to reassure potential clients of what happens behind the scenes. Particularly if you serve business owners, they’ll want to know exactly where their money would be going if they were to move forward with you. That means they’ll want to hear from your team often.
Here’s how to indicate to a prospect that you’ll be committed to keeping them informed:
Attention to detail in these early interactions can give your business a leg up on competitors that leave prospects guessing or don’t provide as many specifics.
Effective sales conversations also cover pricing directly and honestly. These can feel like risky conversations, but if your prospects are vetting multiple service businesses that are giving them the runaround about true costs, they’ll appreciate radical transparency.
Explain your pricing model and give examples of quotes or work orders and invoices to help conceptualize the value of your services.
It’s important not to wait until you invoice a new client to explain payment options, due dates and late fees, either. Some professional services businesses simply communicate these important details using fine print on the first invoice, which could result in confusion and give clients the impression that the information was purposely withheld. Instead, be direct about payment methods and terms before you close a deal.
Even if you know how much your business values clients compared to your competitors, sometimes you need concrete evidence to prove it to prospects you’ve just met.
Tools like a client portal go a long way in demonstrating your willingness to openly share how client work is progressing. Providing this access to important project updates, invoice history and documents, plus access to support tickets or request forms, gives clients a sense of control and makes them trust you more and more over time.
Since client portals represent a commitment to digital transformation, having one could also send a powerful message to sales prospects about your priorities.
Differentiation starts from the first touchpoint. Develop a marketing and sales strategy that feels human and speaks directly to what you're learning as you listen closely to your clients.