You're Not Selling a Service — Help Prospects Envision a Better Future

By Mike Liller
Director of Sales Development
Jul 26 2023 read

Knowledge Exchange is a weekly series of educational articles that we encourage you to share and discuss with your colleagues and network. This month, we’re offering advice for successfully selling your services.

Selling professional services is a delicate art. And as they say, art isn’t about the subject; it’s about how you interpret it. 

To effectively sell, it’s crucial to correctly identify your prospect’s emotions and needs — even the ones they haven’t yet reflected on. Rather than talking solely about your services, be willing to go on a journey with them into their future.

Why the Future State Is Powerful

Dreamers might get a bad rap for living in the clouds, but dreaming big is a skill when you’re in sales. Your prospect needs to step outside of the everyday and understand what’s possible. Otherwise, they’ll engage in the ever-so-human behavior of resisting change.

Get into the necessary frame of mind by thinking about yourself as a mentor — a genie in a bottle, if you will — who encourages the other person to use their imagination.

You’re not selling a service. You’re selling a destiny. 

If that sounds a bit melodramatic, try putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes. The last time you purchased something that required speaking to a salesperson, such as a car or office equipment, when was the moment you knew for sure you’d buy? There’s a good chance it was after you envisioned yourself using the product and experiencing a strong, positive emotional state because of it.

READ NEXT: 5 Time Management Hacks for Busy Sales Reps

How To Sell an Outcome

The feelings of excitement, satisfaction or happiness are what we seek as buyers. You need to associate your service with one of these powerful emotions in the prospect’s mind to close the deal. Here are three techniques to make that happen.

Sit on the same side of the table

Invest time in understanding your prospect’s goals, wishes and pain points. Ask insightful questions that make them feel less like they’re being interviewed and more like they’re chatting with a friend.

Get inspired by thinking about what you need to uncover:

  • What does this person want for themselves or their business? Have they thought about two, five or ten years from now?
  • Are there any problems your service could solve in the short term? What kind of proof might the prospect need to believe this is possible?
  • What fears might be hiding behind this person’s objections? How would you want someone to alleviate those fears for you?

➡️ It’s easier to focus on digging deep and building up the future state when you simplify the first stage of sales and learn as much as you can about the prospect early on. Make sure you’re entering the right information in your CRM during discovery. 

Paint a vision of value

Sales is, ultimately, the negotiation of value. But convincing someone else of the value of your services can be like trying to teach them how to do something that feels innate to you. Have you ever had to teach a teenager to drive? When you’ve been driving for 20 or 30 years, the process becomes automatic and it can be hard to know where to start.

You’ll feel better about jumping in when you keep one cardinal rule in mind: Providing a laundry list of services doesn’t work. Instead, you want to captivate the prospect with a clear depiction of the benefits of trying something new. They need to look ahead to where they’re going instead of getting distracted by the steering wheel or the gear shift.

Let’s say you work for an MSP and you’re trying to sell your top-tier service bundle. The prospect is trying to understand why they should hire your team versus a few in-house IT professionals. You want to emphasize the key differentiator between a powerful outsourced team and two or three individuals: the ability to be proactive in identifying security issues before they become serious and costly. 

Frame what they’ll get as essential and tangible outcomes:

  • Short-term and long-term cost savings on hiring and training
  • Access to more advanced software without the additional expense
  • Improved productivity without bothersome IT-related interruptions
  • Data protection that’s up to par with industry standards and legal regulations

Follow up with stats, testimonials or case studies to support your claims. 

Provide a roadmap

Once your prospect is bought into the vision you’ve painted, it’s time to help them see how easy it will be to get to that ideal future state. Bring the dream closer by laying out the basic path you’ll take together. Share how much of that movement your team will handle, which further emphasizes the value of leaning on your expertise. By pointing out a well-defined — and well-traveled — road to success, you’ll prove that there isn’t a reason to postpone the decision to buy. 

➡️ Take care not to overwhelm the prospect with unimportant details about the work required or what you’ll need from them. Use these proven sales scripts to gently navigate the conversation to closing.

Remember: The future-building approach to sales only works when you’re fully on board. You can’t be a wish-granting genie if you don’t believe in your own powers.

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About the Author


Mike Liller is Director of Sales Development at Accelo, leading the strategic direction and day-to-day of our Business Development team. He has over 15 years’ experience in technology, sales leadership and coaching and previously ran the Global BDR organization at Zoom Video Communications. Mike is a sales coach and has a passion for finding the right person, at the right time, with the right message.

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