CXO

Three common mistakes in selling services

Consultants must wear many hats during their dealings with clients, one of which is salesperson. The CEO of deuxo, a 20-year sales veteran, offers three mistakes commonly made by consultants selling services and some tips on how to avoid them.


Before consultants can prove their worth by performing a service or providing a product, the client has to sign on the dotted line. Randy Kenworthy, CEO of deuxo and a veteran sales executive with more than 20 years of experience, shared his company's Intelligent Optimization sales process with the TechRepublic audience in "Successful sales depend on defined process."

When describing the process, Kenworthy also cited three errors often made by consultants who sell services. Here are those three common mistakes and some of Kenworthy's tips on how to avoid them.

Mistake one: Failure to "product-ize"
Often, consultants don't "product-ize" their services by making seemingly intangible services more concrete for the customer.

For example, if you're selling data-level integration services, you could walk into a client's office and describe the process by saying, "We're going to take these four files, merge them together, hygiene them with these different processes, and provide national change-of-address capabilities for X amount of dollars." However, that explanation won't have the impact on the client that a data sheet would, Kenworthy said.

"You could create a presentation or data sheet that talks about the individual components of the service, how much time each of those components takes, and what resources are required," he said. “You can really make these things become very tangible."

In this case, a data sheet would provide the potential client with a reminder of each step and the benefit of each. This approach also makes the services seem more "real" and helps validate the costs involved.

Mistake two: Failure to "qualify out"
“Qualifying out” means that at the beginning of the sales process, the consultant is asking questions, determining needs, and uncovering potential roadblocks to the sale.

"They get involved in the early stages of the sales cycle, and based on small glimmers of hope, they proceed," Kenworthy said. "They spend all their time, energy, and money, and they get to the end and things don't close."

Consultants should define their "ideal customer profile" based on previously successful sales and watch for the same factors in future leads, Kenworthy said. He suggested that consultants look for the following four qualifiers in the potential client:
  1. High "pain" and consequence of doing nothing to solve the problem
  2. An approved budget
  3. Incentive for the account to move forward in a reasonable time frame
  4. A clear path to decision making inside the account.

Kenworthy said a consultant also has to know when to "cut bait" and move on to another potential client. If you're on a 30-day sales cycle, the maximum time you should spend looking for those four qualifiers is two to three hours.

"If you can't, in two or three hours, understand [those qualifiers]… you've got a big problem," he said.

Longer sales cycles require more time. If you're on a two-year sales cycle, for example, the maximum time you should spend qualifying out is two days, or an aggregate time of nine or ten hours maximum, Kenworthy said.

"You've got to very quickly ascertain if this is a legitimate live prospect. You have to then match your service up against the client's need and determine in a very quick time frame if you have a legitimate opportunity to close a sale," he said.

Mistake three: Failure to sell to the "economic buyer"
In any sales cycle, there’s only one “economic buyer,” who Kenworthy identifies as the one who can say "yes or no" to the consultant's proposition, “regardless of what anyone else says, thinks, feels, or does.” Often, however, consultants fail to identify and sell to that person.

"If you're not selling to that person, then you better have a very good reason why you're engaging the person you're engaging," Kenworthy said.

There are some cases when it's necessary to sell to individuals other than the economic buyer. For example, Kenworthy said that if there's a "technical configuration" step in the sales cycle and the economic buyer has asked another person to run through that configuration exercise, then you've got to talk to that person to ascertain pain position and need before you talk to the economic buyer. However, most of the time you want to make sure you're talking to someone who has the authority to buy, he said.

Consultants on sales
What problems have you encountered when selling your products or services? How did you solve them? Send us your best sales advice or post your comments below.

 

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