Service sales managers must help their salespeople construct bulletproof sales cycles. Services by their nature, often have some features that can be independently verified, some features that must be experienced to be understood, and other features where the buying organization must trust the selling organization. For example, a selling organization of Certified Public Accountants can proudly display their CPA certificates on the wall, on their website and promotional materials. Their skills at being accountants has been “badged” by a certifying body. Prospective customers can verify this for themselves. For experience features, the selling organization may invite a potential buyer into their “service factory” to meet their people and experience some of what they would purchase. Or, the selling organization may give away some small element of the service so the buyer can participate in an experience before committing – like a free trial. In other cases, the buyer must simply trust the seller. If the telephone salesperson uncovers a need which is covered by an experience feature, they need to add an experience step into the sales cycle if possible. If they uncover a need covered by a verification feature, they need to provide the support which shows the feature is held, such as an independent party verification. If they uncover a trust feature, they need to build the relationship sufficiently so trust is established.
The sales manager must study the features of their service and determine which are verifiable, which are experience and which are trust. Once this exercise is complete, they must determine how their salespeople will support each of these. For example, we have a client who sells a personality assessment aimed at companies who organize multifunctional teams to pursue high-stakes work projects. They have validated, independent research (theory backgrounds) for features that are verifiable, they offer a free trial for those features which demand an experience, and extensive case studies and referrals for trust attributes. I call these feature support details the “evidence locker” – salespeople should open it, and support the words they say.
A service sale is a process, not an event. The sales manager should study how sales cycles progress from newly minted lead to close, and look for ways to support features customers find important, whether they are verifiable, experience or trust. Often surveys of new customers can reveal features which were important to their decision-making process, but which were not seen as prominent by the selling organization at the time. Lost sales surveys can also uncover features customers found more compelling at competitors. Careful analysis of the sales cycle, and a chockful evidence locker, can dramatically increase the chances of sales success.
Finally, the sales manager should audit their sales group to see just how their telephone salespeople are pursuing their sales cycles. Whenever possible, features should be clearly supported, regardless of whether they are verify, experience or trust, and concrete support should be offered. Customers may only glance at the certificate on your website, or barely participate in a “test drive” that is offered, or neglect to call every reference proffered, but the fact that the salesperson freely offered says volumes – and closes sales.