Telephone salespeople must realize that when selling a service, different members of the “buying committee” (those who participate in making the decision) may request unique customizations and may have specialized viewpoints of the service the selling organization is proposing. Customer needs and risks must be carefully captured and defined from the entire buying committee, and the differences must be managed. Salespeople may recognize incompatibilities among the buying committee needs, and may need to reconcile these differences before advancing the sales process. The sales cycle itself is often more complex, because a significant amount of trust must be established. Because services may involve extensive interactions between the staffs of the selling and buying organizations, cultural differences and ways of doing business may be need to be recognized, understood and communicated, and appropriate adjustments put into place.
The salesperson must also determine who may be a bad customer – a customer who asks the organization to do something they don’t do well. In the product world where items are manufactured in controlled conditions away from the customer, the organization is indifferent in many ways to variability among customers. When a product organization calls someone a “bad customer”, they are typically a bad credit-risk or someone who will use the product in ways for which it is not intended, possibly causing harm to themselves or others. In the service world where customers are participants in the service process, the organization is extremely sensitive to variability among customers. In the service world, a “bad customer” is not limited to one who is a bad credit risk. A “bad customer” is also one who demands service aspects outside of what is normally delivered.
The salesperson must also document carefully. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, this is already a staple fixture in the life of the telephone salesperson, who usually juggles between 600 to 800 accounts and possibly more. If the salesperson is selling services however, they usually have documentation requirements beyond simple order entry or maintaining a customer narrative and demographic information. They may need to document specific interaction instructions, and document what level of training has been conducted during the sales process to assure the handoff to the selling organization is conducted seamlessly.
Finally, with many services, price comparisons may be difficult. Because of the variability of services, it is hard not for the selling organization’s service to be an apple to a competitor’s orange. The benefit to the telephone salesperson is services tend to be less price competitive, because direct comparisons are difficult to make. It also places a premium on negotiation skills, because when the telephone salesperson’s organization is the preferred supplier, and the buyer can’t base their price discovery on direct comparisons to competitor’s quotations, they may feel obligated to negotiate due to the lack of price discovery alternatives.
Closing the business-to-business service sale requires skill and dexterity, careful documentation, the ability to scrutinize and select good customers diligently, and the patience to negotiate prudently.