Selling a Service to Farmers & Ag Retailers

5 ways to standout

            I hear the comment all the time “Sales is Sales.  Doesn’t matter what you’re selling.” It’s true to a point.  The process is the same.  However, that’s kind of like saying surgery is surgery.  Doesn’t matter if you are removing a skin tag or doing brain surgery.  There’s a bit of a difference and skill level required – hopefully!  Selling a service versus a product also has its differences.  Maybe not as dramatic as this example, but still different.

Here’s how to differentiate yourself from the competition when selling a service.   

  1.  Make it Tangible:  This is a big one.  Why?  It’s hard for a customer to see the value when there is nothing to actually see.  I know that with technology, we can download programs and do everything digital.  We may see no need for adding the complications of printing CDs or an actual paper version of a book.  Billy Crystal’s character in City Slickers realizes this the hard way.  As a radio ad sales man, he feels he has nothing to show for his life’s work.  He sells air.  His wife tries to explain all the good that has come from his career, but unfortunately, Billy doesn’t feel that way and so he sets off to a dude ranch to find the worth in his life.
    • CD’s
    • A book
    • A brochure
    • Collateral

2. Offer a Test Drive. Put the “Whatever you do” in their hands to get a feel for what it’s like.  Ever have your kids ask you to watch them play a video game?  You sit there and watch them advance through level after level of complicated tasks to reach the “commander” level or they capture the flag.  Not real exciting stuff but hey, at least you’re doing something with them.  Then comes that golden moment when they offer you an opportunity to play the game.  Ten seconds later, your character in the game is dead or crushed or zapped and it’s back to watching your kid play for the next 45 minutes.  That’s how your customer feels when you don’t let them run the test drive.

3.  Clarify the Complex:  Another important aspect when dealing with services.  We often mix & match or we add a lot of extra components to a service.  We understand it completely but it gets confusing for a prospect or customer at first.  Make your process and your service easy to understand.

4.  Set Expectations:  The sale of services can lead to some dramatic misunderstandings due to the fact that there isn’t a physical product.  When I buy a bag of salt, it’s a pretty simple process.  I get a 40-pound bag at the end of the transaction.  If I hire someone to salt a parking lot, there is much more to the sale.  When will they be there?  How much salt will they spread?  Is it salt or some mixture that sticks better and has a lower freezing point? Set the expectations up front.  Give them a preview of what’s to come.  Use a one page format to explain what they will get from your service.  You can also use a before and after format if that fits your business.

5.  Unbundle:  Another form of simplifying the process is to unbundle.  I know that our cable companies use bundling as a sales tactic.  However, the bigger, more complicated and bundled your service is, the longer the sales cycle will be.  Look for natural ways to unbundle your services into several smaller components.  It gives your prospect a chance to try it out a little before hiring you for the entire process.  This shortens the sales cycle.  Think of it as a gateway service to the full program you offer.

6.  Unbundle their locations.  If you are calling on a large customer that has dozens, hundreds or maybe even thousands of locations, the sales process is most likely going to be a long process.  Now you are dealing with a buyer or product line manager.  There may be a current program in place for the service you are selling.  Making a change involves risk.  Think of it from their shoes and offer a less risky alternative.  Ask to try it out in a few of their locations or with a few of their people.

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