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Where really is the value in ‘services’?

Services are the building blocks of getting things done. They're part of making products; making buildings, bridges and rockets to Mars; and of making lives better in the community.

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In developed nations, the services sector represents about two-thirds of GDP, compared with only one-third in low-income countries. In Australia, services employ more than 8.6 million people, representing 76 per cent of all employment nationally.

"Services are the building blocks of getting things done."
Robyn Haydon, Author & consultant

Although services are important, they are often difficult to value – and sell - for three main reasons.

SERVICES ARE DIFFERENT TO GOODS

When we buy goods or products, it’s easy to see what we are getting. Goods are tangible. You can touch them, feel them, and ‘try before you buy’.

Services don’t have these attributes. Often, the only proof a service is valuable comes on the other side of experiencing it. This makes the people who buy services very nervous.

PROBLEMS SOLVED BY A SERVICE CAN BE DIFFICULT TO DEFINE

A service exists to solve a problem but that problem is often hard to see and may be completely unknown to those experiencing it.

FIVE QUICK TIPS FOR A BETTER SERVICES SALES CULTURE

  • Business development isn’t sales or marketing: it is creating value customers can buy. 
  • Everyone in your business is responsible for business development.
  • Ready-aim-fire: know the commercial value of your offer before you target customers and fire off proposals.
  • Educate buyers to reduce their fears around cost and risk.
  • Avoid losses to “no decision” by providing proof of your results.

This means it takes a lot longer to identify the problem and, for a business, walk a potential buyer through the sales cycle.

BUYERS HAVE DIFFICULTY EVALUATING SERVICE ‘PRODUCTS’

The ‘product’ of a service is often the result of many years of specialised study and training. As a result, people who lack this knowledge often have difficulty evaluating the value of service products.

Although they may not say it to your face if you are a service provider, here’s what they are thinking:

  • What does this really mean, anyway?
  • How do I know you will do what you say you will?
  • Will I actually get the team you're proposing?
  • How do I know this will get results?
  • Is this going to be hard for me to manage, or justify to my boss?
  • Does it really cost that much?
  • That doesn't look too hard…tell me again why I really need you, anyway?

AS A RESULT, YOU MISS OUT ON BUSINESS – AND THE BUYER MISSES OUT ON VALUE

Opportunities often stall because doing nothing is easier for a buyer than doing something that seems difficult or risky.

Although the buyer might give you many reasons for why they did not proceed, these usually boil down to a single factor: they simply don’t believe the commercial value proposition.

If you often find yourself in this position, it might come as a relief to know the solution is not to get better at sales techniques or at negotiation.

It is to better understand the true value in what you are selling and to present this in a way which helps people to understand why they should buy it.

BEGIN BY AVOIDING A MISMATCH

A sales pitch often begins with aspirational attributes – how you can do things smarter and better – while the buyer’s thinking is stuck at the visceral level, worrying about cost and risk. This mismatch is can void a transaction.

What buyers are thinking is often more important than what they are saying. Understanding how buyers perceive value and adjusting a pitch to answer the buyer’s unasked questions will help them to say ‘yes’ to a service proposition more often.

Robyn Haydon is the author of ‘Value: How to talk about what you do so customers want to buy it’

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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