Nothing up my sleeve!
After racking up twenty plus years of experience, I decided the next logical step was to become my own boss. Simple! I would offer my expertise in transportation to companies who needed assistance in managing their freight and saving them money.
What I didn’t consider was that consulting was a complex sell. Selling a service can be a tricky business. Having a product you can present to the client, something they can see and hold gives you an edge. They can envision how they will use or benefit from this great thing you are selling.
Familiar services are sold based on who offers the best bang for their buck: easy on the pocket haircuts, or reputation; the friendliest cab drivers. When you are offering an unfamiliar service, how do you capture their interest, achieve their understanding of what you are offering and close the sale?
The customer will need to be shown “what’s in it for me” and this is not always easy when offering a unique service. An unfamiliar service can make visualizing the outcome and rewarding your time one of the challenges consultants face daily. You really are offering you, your experience and your intellectual property. So how do you sell an unknown? There is nothing for potential customers to see, smell, taste or hold onto.
First and most importantly, be honest and realistic. Fairy tales do not always end happily ever after. Talk about what your customer can expect to achieve or receive by using your service. Give specific examples of results, if possible. Remember this is not a job interview. Talking about your past experiences should be limited to one good example and only if it is relatable to the customer’s requirements. The focus really has to be on what you can do for them and how you will achieve this.
No tricks, gimmicks or illusions; be certain that you offer what you can provide. Maintain your professional image; respect and integrity will carry you further than any gimmick will ever get you. Be prepared to listen to what your customer needs and answer questions. Close the deal by telling the customer “what’s in it for them”.
For me, closing that first deal seemed ever elusive. But staying true to who I am, giving honest advice and listening to my customers is the recipe for my success. Hard work, perseverance and honesty… nothing up my sleeve!