If you were to take a snapshot of the professional services sales landscape, it would look drastically different than it did a decade ago. While technology has undoubtedly streamlined the sales process it has simultaneously created one layer of complexity after another for sales professionals. The result? A more competitive industry with ever-growing customer demands.
So how can firms compete when smaller, more agile competitors are knocking on your customer’s doors?
From a sales leadership perspective, flexibility and an Other-Centered® mindset are becoming increasingly important. Clients have a wealth of information at their disposal and a global marketplace to choose from. Organizations that fail to adapt will continue to struggle with both capturing new market share as well as retaining current customers.
Challenges to Selling Professional Services
Within the professional services industry, sales has seen a dramatic shift from a transactional environment to one that is increasingly relationship based. Traditional work, such as bookkeeping, can now easily be managed in-house through the use of emerging technologies. As technology continues to improve, transactional work will slowly become less of a demand.
While transactional work is declining, the growing demand for complex business solutions is on the rise. As a sales leader, complexity can be seen in one of two ways – as a hurdle that puts time constraints on their sales team, or as an opportunity to become more entrenched with their customer base.
The challenge is that the latter requires salespeople to shift from a close at all costs mindset, to one that places the customer at the center of the conversation. Think of it as a shift from checking a box to helping the customer write the checklist. When sales executives are at the table helping customers make decisions, it is less likely that competition will stand in the way.
Best Way to Sell Professional Services
In theory, making the internal shift from transactional to personalized service is easy. In practice, it requires every member of the sales team to buy in to be successful. Here are a few ways you can stack the deck in your team’s favor.
Tailor Your Pitch
Years ago, understanding your customer’s needs and challenges was fairly straightforward. Most had common challenges they were looking to overcome and a transactional approach was all that was needed to close business. Imagine you customer sitting at their desk and behind them is a whiteboard with all of their challenges, problems, and goals. Each whiteboard is different, and it is up to the sales rep to uncover what is on each prospect’s priority list. Without a clear understanding of what is on the whiteboard, the pitch becomes like throwing darts blindfolded.
You may have the best service in the world, but if the client is focused on a different challenge, the deal has no legs. Taking an Other-Centered approach removes pieces of the puzzle so that salespeople can get a better understanding of the big picture and can pivot as needed.
For sales leaders, this requires giving your team the tools to be agile throughout the entire sales process. Rigidity only creates tension, and tension is detrimental to any sales conversation.
Expertise Is Required
The move away from transactional sales has forced salespeople to become experts in both the solutions that they are selling as well as the complex projects that their customers are likely to build. This isn’t to say that they need to understand the nuts and bolts of every moving part, but they do need to have a solid understanding of how systems work together, and how to navigate conversations that likely include multiple parties.
Additionally, a lack of expertise can hinder a rep’s ability to build trust. People buy from people that they trust, plain and simple. If critical questions cannot be answered, the customer is likely to explore other products or services that can better meet their needs.
Start by showing your team the roadmap of both the industry and your services. The more informed they become, the better they will be able to relay information to customers and adapt throughout each sales conversation.
Use Disruptive Truths
Very few sales conversations start with the decision-maker. Most sales reps will need to go through gatekeepers that do the grunt work of ensuring a product or service meets the company’s needs. The challenge for sales reps is that gatekeepers have heard just about every sales pitch in the book.
Disruptive truths are a great way to change the complexion of the conversation, especially if the rep is working through a gatekeeper. By choosing a statement that forces the person on the other end to look at the problem differently it can make them stand out and help get them to the decision-maker more consistently.
Take A Consultative Approach
The end goal might remain the same – to close business – but the approach needs to be different. Hyper-aggressive sales tactics had their day in the sun, but organizations that want to survive in a technology-driven sales environment need to adopt a consultative approach.
For organizations that have been accustomed to a transactional approach, making the move to a more consultative sales strategy is not done with the flip of a switch. It takes time and effort to align your sales team with an Other-Centered mindset.
Those that are able to transform from sales executives to consultants will find it easier to get prospects deeper into the sales process, while also reducing churn within the existing client base through the creation of upsell opportunities.
Training Professional Service Sales Reps
As the professional services sales landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative that sales leaders help their teams adapt and overcome new challenges in the marketplace. Training and support are at the core of the ASLAN sales training model. We know the power of creating an Other-Centered mindset, and we are ready to equip your team with the tools needed to succeed in this industry. Learn more about our services and schedule a consultation with our team to get started.