During my 25-years in corporate sales life I sold both products and services. Salespeople who inform me that they sell a service and that it is more difficult than selling a product and is a different sale, constantly approach me. I ask them how their business is going and they usually say – not very well.
What is the difference?
Service sales reps will usually say it is difficult to explain their service. Ask many product salespeople what their products do and you would think it must be a service. Service salespeople say they must sell differently. They must get in front of a prospect. They then want to find out the needs and what is most important to the prospect. They then position their service in a way that is of value and what is most important to the prospect. How is that different to a product?
There has been this myth in sales that services are different than products in a selling scenario. When I do certificate testing for salespeople, the sales rep must do a role-play in which they sell to me. Many times if the rep sells a service, then I give them a product scenario and if they sell a product I give them a service scenario. Guess what happens? The reps get into the role-play and apply their sales skills and run a successful role-play.
The only difference I have seen is in the way reps view their business. If you know what your business does well and what the value is to your customer, then the rest lies in your ability to sell. It doesn’t matter what you sell – a product or service. If you are unable to explain your business and know the value of what you sell then it doesn’t matter what you sell. The reason you feel a service is more difficult is that you can’t explain what you do. Yet if that rep sold pencils he would still have poor sales because even though he knows he sells pencils, he doesn’t know the value of and how to position that pencil with his clients and prospects.
Successful service sales
My observation of service sales reps is that they do not know what their “product” does for clients. If you are one of these service reps (or a product rep for that matter), take time with your manager or your most successful rep and ask them to help you understand the value and uniqueness of your service. Visit your top customer and ask them why they use your service and what the value is to them.
If you take responsibility for your business, then you will get yourself educated and know what makes your service something clients and prospects need in their business. You get comfortable with your service and, after carefully listening to your customers’ and prospects’ needs, can position your service in a way that provides value, a peace of mind or whatever it is that is most important to that person.