Selling Your Service

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I don’t sell a product. I sell coaching and training, or in other words, a service. And while you as a restoration company may provide products such as drywall, paint, or a clean and dry room … what you really provide is also a service; a service that allows your customers to regain normalcy after a disaster.

Several years ago, I was selling at an industry tradeshow we had never attended before. I watched potential prospects do their best to avoid making eye contact with me as they scurried by my booth. But the booth next to me was packed! The salesman was doing an excellent job writing orders while keeping the line moving. Was he selling the next great innovation in software or some New Age contraption guaranteed to make you millions? Nope. He was selling bags of rags—everyday, common rags.

The booth across from me was packed too! He sold one type of ladder. The same ladder he had been selling for 30 years. I know this because it was printed in bold letters across his booth! It was the same with every other booth around me where companies had products for sale—there were lines for days. I had never wanted to be a carpet wand salesperson so much in my life!

You and I sell the same service—peace of mind. You help customers get their property back, while I help them achieve professional goals. In both cases, selling a service will always be more challenging than selling a product for several reasons:

  1. Services are INTANGIBLE. We can see and touch goods. We choose physical products that light up or make noises because they evoke an emotion. Some people save for years to buy the car of their dreams, but it’s a car they can test drive. In our case, customers must trust that we can do what we say we can and provide them the best possible experience along the way.
  2. Services are PERISHABLE and NOT URGENT. That’s a tough combination. You know you will need air movers and cleaning chemicals, so you can purchase them in advance and let them sit on shelves until they are needed for a job. But you can’t buy 10 units of restoration ahead of time. Also, unless you are chasing fires, your marketing team is knocking on doors in the hope that they will call you the next time a pipe breaks. Who knows when that will be!
  3. Services in restoration are NOT WANTED. You may be amazing at drying structures, but no one wants their basement to flood so they can see that firsthand. Selling things people are excited about is simpler and more fun. The tradeoff here is that the importance of providing real help to your community is unmatched by anything else, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Selling a service is a different animal and requires additional advanced skills, yet we often hire people who are newer to marketing because they are cheaper. We focus on their energy and likeability. We give them a week of our time and introduce them to a few ‘key’ accounts. We provide them a stack of pamphlets and some gasoline and after four months of limited success, we part with them because they obviously can’t sell. Sell what exactly? How do you sell piece of mind in four months with a stack of pamphlets and a go get ‘em, peppy attitude?

Instead, let’s admit restoration sales is extremely difficult and provide our salespeople with a better understanding of how to sell services. There are key strategies both a company and a sales professional must perfect. Here are several to spend time on with your marketing team:

Target Branding to Reduce Worry

Customers do not buy from you because you have pictures of burning houses on your website. They buy because, in their mind, you provide them with the least amount of additional risk. Every piece of content your team produces that is directed to the public must be centered on building trust. Customer service is intangible and not easily defined, but you know it when you see it. So show, don’t tell. Your best marketing tool will always be customer success stories. Provide them (with permission) as often as possible. Building a brand doesn’t happen by overspending. It happens by being creative. Separate yourself in the minds of your customers by being unique in how you will serve them.

Understand Customers’ Needs and Expectations

While flooded houses all begin to look the same, customers never will. Provide constant training to your marketing team on the importance of asking questions to find out what each customer is really looking for and what matters most to them. Give the customer ample time and opportunities to explain their desires, even if they sound like a broken record. As Harry Beckwith says in his book Selling the Invisible, “Every prospect hopes you will heed the old New England proverb: Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” Question everything, then shut up and let them talk!

Identify Solutions to Common Problems

Once you have uncovered what matters most to a specific prospect, be able to provide immediate examples of how you have helped others who have gone through similar challenges. Remember that when someone is trying to choose a provider for restoration services, emotion carries a lot of weight. If you can demonstrate that your company understands and appreciates what they are saying, and you are confident you can solve their pain points, that’s when they will begin to lower their ‘buyer wall’ and envision you in that role. Spend time getting prepared. And when you don’t have an answer, admit it. Then do your research and follow up ASAP with a solution. Just be sure not to throw up regurgitated sales pitches. Customize your solutions and demonstrate how they will meet that prospect’s specific needs.

Selling services is a numbers game. The more calls or stops you make, the better your chances. But if those stops are not quality engagements, you are actually doing more harm than good. You don’t have a product that can sell itself. Instead, you have something they most likely don’t want or need … and they can’t even test it out first. Ensure the tracking metrics and training you are using center around specialized strategies specific to selling services. Understand each customer’s backstory and what matters most to them. Remember that you aren’t selling restoration; you’re selling how your service will make them feel during and afterward.

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Jeff Jones

Jeff JonesJeff Jones is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Jeff has a wide range of experience in professional sales and marketing involving all levels of decision makers. Through VMA, Jeff works with companies to find the right mix of programs and services to help them develop their people and their profits. Jeff is a regular contributor to C&R, and winner of the 2022 Patricia L. Harman Golden Quill Award! To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800) 360-3513.

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