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 simply 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 skill at being accountants has been verified by a third party certifying body. Prospective customers can verify this certification accordingly.
For experience features, the selling organization may invite a potential buyer into their “service factory” to meet their employees and service providers, 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.
For other features, the buyer must simply trust the seller will deliver.
If the telephone salesperson uncovers a need which is covered by an experience feature, the salesperson should add an experience step into the sales cycle. If they uncover a need covered by a verification feature, they should provide the support which verifies the feature, such as an independent party verification (badging of some sort). If they uncover a trust feature, they need to build the relationship sufficiently so trust is established, and provide documented support for the feature.
The sales manager must study the features of their service and determine which features are verifiable, which are experience, and which are trust. Once this exercise is completed, the sales manager must determine how the salespeople will support each. For example, consider a selling organization delivering a service of property management for owner-occupied commercial buildings.
If the telephone salesperson identifies the following feature as important for a prospective customer, “If a security alert occurs after business hours, we will respond with the police to secure your property”, it would be evaluated by trust. Until the customer signs a contract, and until the customer has an event like this, they will just have to trust the selling organization they will perform. How could the sales manager support this trust feature for the salesperson? Testimonials from current customers, perhaps copies of police reports showing they were quickly onsite for other customers, or case studies of how they responded and the result.
If the telephone salesperson identifies the following feature as important for a prospective customer, “we take care of all external grounds maintenance, including snow removal, mowing, tree trimming and ornamental flower and shrubbery maintenance.” How could the sales manager support this feature? Turn the feature into an experience! They could offer tours of various customer sites showing the maintenance of the grounds (or snow removal in winter), they could show videos of their crews in action and post them on-line, or if a prospective customer comes onsite to the “service factory”, they can have a crew foreman meet with the customer to discuss how they would service their property.
Finally, if the telephone salesperson identifies “all our employees undergo random drug tests, and we thoroughly screen all applicants before hiring” as a critical feature for a customer, this can be verified by a third party. For example, a drug testing company’s certification that they randomly test all employees and a screening bureau’s certification on the background check they perform could be made available by the sales manager for the salespeople to distribute. (After all privacy, anonymity and confidentiality requirements are met of course.)
Verify, experience and trust. Provide support for each type of service feature.