I’d like to distinguish here between professional services and consultancy services. You will be selling professional services if you offer a service that businesses or people have to use at some point. You might feel that your prospects are extremely reluctant to spend money on your services, but at some time or other, they are forced to, either by law, or by the fact that they just don’t have the skills to do what you do.
Consultancy services are services that clients need but can (and very often do) get by without. As such, consultancy services are much harder to sell. The tips here will be of use to you if you sell consultancy services, but you should also look for our tips for selling consultancy.
Examples of businesses that sell professional services are
I know this seems obvious but most of us don’t pay anywhere near enough attention to it. While just about anyone could be a client for us at some time, not everyone will be a good client. It costs money and time to win a client (and it is getting harder), so we need to make sure that we are pleased we won them when we do. A good starting point is to model your existing clients. Which of them are good ones, and what do they have in common. Now, can you find more like them?
Have you noticed there seems to be a lot more competition around these days? It is particularly difficult in times of economic hardship. All of a sudden lots of one person businesses spring up offering incredibly low prices. Some of them offer pretty low service too, but the client isn’t to know. That is, unless you demonstrate to your prospects the knowledge that a truly professional firm (ie yours) can do. In a market where there is a lot of price competition, and the clients are not very educated (in your specialism) you need to go to great lengths to demonstrate the value that you bring.
You also need to do that before the prospect brings you an enquiry. If you wait till the enquiry stage before demonstrating your skill you will a) have a lot less enquiries and b) have a much harder job winning the ones you do get.
This is why it is so important to be really clear about who you want as clients. If you are to educate them properly so that, when they have a need for your services, they come straight to you, you need to invest a lot of time in them now. That means writing lots of useful articles that prospects will find interesting and that will help them to see the need to use a true professional.
Ideally, you will get their e-mail details and permission to send useful information to them. Then you need to make sure you are sending information at least once a month. Avoid the temptation to try to sell to them in these e-mails. Special offers are likely to put them off, but invitations to events where they can learn more about your subject will strengthen their feelings towards you.
There’s nothing like speaking at events to demonstrate your expertise. If you want to build your prospect list within a particular industry sector, community or geography, look for opportunities to speak at events in those areas. Make sure you have an interesting “gift” to offer at the end of the speech so that you can capture people’s details and add them to your marketing activity.
Once you generate an enquiry, turning the prospect into a client can still be a very difficult and drawn out process. You can short cut this significantly if you come recommended to the prospect. Many professional service businesses build referral relationships with people in their field that offer services that complement each other. Building these relationships takes time, but can be very lucrative in the long term. Building referral relationships is a vitally important skill. For more information, look out for our guide to referral marketing.
Once you have identified a prospect you need to be as aware as you can about their interest in you. For example, if you send them an e-mail every month, and you do nothing to follow it up, you will never know whether that e-mail is getting their interest. If, on the other hand, you use an e-mail delivery tool that tracks the behaviour of your recipients, and then include links back to your website where people can read more about the subject, then you can see which of your prospects are interested in each of your e-mails. That helps you to decide what to write about in the future, what to speak about at future events, and who to invite to those events.
There are more things you can do to create a closed loop system, but there isn’t space here to cover it.
There are now so many networking opportunities it can be really difficult to decide which to attend. This takes us back to understanding who we want as clients. When we are really sure about this we can be more specific about which events are likely to suit us best. When we have a closed loop marketing system we can also be more clear about the messages we should be giving out when we network.
People will buy when they are ready. If you sell professional services you have to be patient. At the same time, you need to be sure you are in the prospect’s mind when he is ready. So you have to make sure you are in regular contact with your prospects. The more you can combine different ways of communicating with them, the more effective you will be at being front of mind. Look at the different media you can use and decide which are right for you.
Hopefully these tips have given you a few ideas to strengthen your sales process. If you would like to know more look out for our Guide to selling professional services. It will be out soon and will give you more detail and more ideas than you find here.
If you would like us to send you a copy when it is available please e-mail Ginny@precept.uk.com