5 Tips for Selling Professional Services

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on April 3, 2014


How to sell professional servicesI get asked all the time, “How do you sell professional services?”


Someone outside the industry is typically curious about how services marketing is different from product marketing (a.k.a., “business to consumer,” or B-to-C marketing). So I might respond, for example, that services marketing might bypass the daily paper and focus advertising and PR on industry and trade publications. The smaller circulation of specialized media outlets belies the much higher percentage of legitimate potential clients, assuming you target them properly. Or I might explain how the messaging captures concerns and uses language pertinent to businesses: ROI, value-add, meeting schedule, etc.


But when a professional services provider asks me that question, they want to know how to double their sales. Delighted when I say, “Easy; it’s two simple words,” they look crestfallen when I continue, with: “Professional” and “Service.” I may have fun with my answer, but it’s serious advice. Every business, no matter how specialized or qualified or customer-centric – has plenty of competition in the eyes of a potential customer. And that customer will select a vendor based on relationships, perceived or real.


Here are four tips to boost your client relationships and maximize your selling potential. (We’re going to assume that you’re providing top quality, creativity, expertise, etc.)


  1. “Professional” Tip 1:  Be organized. — Perform all  work under a legal contract. Follow processes, set and meet milestones and deadlines, and define deliverables.
  2. “Professional” Tip 2:  Look the part. — From your wardrobe to your website to where you meet clients, visual assets instantly shape a potential client’s opinion of your company. Make it a good one.
  3. “Service” Tip 1:  Forget the “sure thing.” — Even if it involves a glowing referral or a longtime customer, no sale – ever – is a “sure thing.” Give every facet of client interaction your absolute best, thank people for their business  more often than you think you need to, and use gestures as well as words. What loyal client wouldn’t appreciate getting the “new client discount” once in a while?
  4. “Service” Tip 2:  Keep the Golden Rule. – You do not in fact “know” who is going to be a great client.  Many years ago during my freelance career, one of the roughest looking characters who’d walked into my office became one of my biggest accounts.  Much later, I learned that he had confused me with another provider – but chose me even after learning of his mistake (and talking to the “right” group) because I was so genuinely welcoming.  Guess when he drifted off? As soon as I started thinking he was a “sure thing.”
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