Product management · Product Development

How-To: Sell Your Service?

Lindsay Hirsch Founder at Wish Upon A Product

September 5th, 2015

I've seen a lot of posts on FounderDating about independent consulting and other service-based startups. I also have a service-based, product sourcing/development startup with a fully-functioning website, Facebook page, and LinkedIn page. Initially, I relied on social media and word of mouth to gain customers. Does anyone have any tips on how to gain even more customers and essentially sell a service? Thanks!

Sam McAfee Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs

September 6th, 2015

Make sure you're targeting the right customer segment for your service by validating that they have the problem you solve, are aware they have the problem, and are even spending dollars to try and solve it now. Then, make sure you differentiate between your user, buyer, and decider, who are not always the same person. Totally agree on the crystal clear value proposition, but you may have to customize your pitch for each of these roles. You'll have to prove it's better to hire your firm than assemble internal resources to solve the problem. How can you make that case? That's how I'd think about it, to start.

Glenn Donovan Vice President of Sales (fractional)

September 7th, 2015

Hi. I have lots of ideas how to do so, but I do get paid for such advice. That said here are a few insights:

- Services vendors are important relationships for companies, with high "intangibles" versus product businesses. Products are finite, they do what they do and that's it. But even in product businesses, particularly in B2B, one finds that the human connection and framing of a narrative is more important to the buying experience than features. So, first things first, your "Point of View" is everything in a services business. "Power positioning" it so that once clients self-select for your narrative/framing of the need/issue/problem/opportunity means you win is the way to differentiation.

- Standing out means that you are connecting with influencers/thought leaders/prospects in your industry. If social media is effective in your business - meaning the people you need to reach are active on social media - then amplifying on those platforms is called for. If not, other methods are called for. But what is true in any scenario is that you want to create "pull" rather than the more conventional "push" model so demand comes at you versus having to "generate" demand.

- Your website messaging is weak. I went to your site, and what relevant messaging is there is all about what you do. I had to dig into a sub-section and scroll down to find out that you actually do things like optimize where a seam should be on a reclining chair to reduce materials costs. Messaging should be all about the customer and their issues. My guess is that if you are doing promotion that includes a visit to your website as part of "conversion", your website is a falloff in the conversion chain.

The real truth is you can't just "wing it" when it comes to sales and marketing.   "Growth hacking" and "hustling" are just click bait for people looking for short cuts. Growing your business will entail doing two things well. 1. Engaging the right people 2. Delivering value that is relevant and differentiating to them in each interaction. If you start there, I'm sure you will get better results than you are currently getting. 

Mark Wing Client Engagement Director at Small Back Room

September 5th, 2015

Best way to sell a service is to position the business as the relevant thought leader. Speak at appropriate events, capture leads and set up a value filled automated email campaign to help nurture and deepen the relationships.

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 8th, 2015

Correct me if I'm wrong, Illoh, but isn't that a B2C product technique for keeping in touch with potential single item buyers, which you can't afford the resource to talk to individually (or the resource is higher value than the item sold)?

Service leads are more complex so any decision trees need to match this complexity. Often there are multiple decision makers, there is an intention of a long term relationship and there is a considered and ongoing purchase cycle, not a single event. At the other end of the scale there is the person who has been let down by a current supplier and needs a fix in a hurry - what they are doing is saying can they get me out of this fix without charging me an arm and a leg because I need it tomorrow.

The problem with nurturing in this instance is that you miss the instant ones. And for many service businesses, that is the major way clients switch - the instant "get me out of a hole" turns into "I can trust these guys" and a permanent "these are the people I use to do X". Until you let them down or charge too much, of course.


Joseph Foster Fostercode Senior Software Engineer

September 8th, 2015

Hi Lindsay,

It hurts the pocketbook, but hire a {good} marketing company.  I initially did all my own marketing (which I am horrible at)...but as I tend to lead those tasks to others who specialize in that, I see better results and am more able to focus on increasing my business.

Thanks,
Joseph E. Foster
www.fostercode.com

William Sarine VP, Business Development

September 5th, 2015

Consulting is a service that requires a clear value message. I consulted on many topical areas mostly on issues in sales and market strategy. Now retired I am often called on to teach my 10/40 program of time management focus. I suggest you first define what you do in as few words as possible. Then tell me about your business. 

Durojaiye Dolapo Chief Executive Officer at EATSVILLE

September 6th, 2015

I agree Mark's thought process, however that approach would work best for an established brand trying to gain authority..For a new brand I would suggest you host your own event where you invite other notable leaders in your industry, naturally industry leaders are news worthy. Be sure to impress in all aspects. This will generate awareness and equity for your brand. 

Ross Meador Business Attorney Specializing in Corporate Law, Contracts, Securities, IP Protection and Licensing

September 6th, 2015

Who is your target market?  Do they know you exist?  If not, make sure they do. If so, remind them frequently of the ways you can make their life better.

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 7th, 2015

If you are doing something and not getting the results, is the answer to do something else as well, or to find out why you are not getting the results?

One of the basic parameters of a service business is that it doesn't scale - there are only so many hours of your time you can sell - and word of mouth is more than capable of getting you to this level.

So perhaps your promotion and network methods are poor, maybe the sector is oversubscribed (meaning you haven't moved on and differentiated), maybe your clients aren't seeing the value and therefore not telling others.

It is about product/market fit. Get the message right before you simply try to shout louder.

illoh ifeoma I Help Businesses with Social Selling, Digital Marketing, Content Marketing. Podcast host at www.MarketingKissPR.com

September 8th, 2015

Every suggestion is well said, those are really important, but the way I understand your question, you're asking for other ways to reach customers other than social media and word of mouth. If that's the case, you should definitely give active lead gen a trial using email outreach funnel to contact your target customers. (You didn't mention using this :)