The problem with selling services

Do you work in a service industry or service-based profession? Many of us do. In Australia, services employ more than 8.6 million people, representing 76% of all employment.

If you’re drawn to this kind of work, you probably want to use your expertise to help others, to do good work, and to make a difference. But in the real world, we must first convince people that they need our help; we have to convince them to buy from us. And this isn’t always as easy as it should be.

Products are fairly straightforward to sell, because we can touch them, feel them, and understand through experiencing them how they work.

Services on the other hand, are not straightforward at all.  Like a product, a service solves a problem, but the problem is often hard to see, and may be completely unknown to the person who is experiencing it.

As a result, people are often suspicious of buying services, because they don’t understand them and are worried that they might never get the outcome that they were promised.

But these people – your customers - have real problems that you can solve, and they need your help. It's your duty and responsibility to get out there and help them, but this means getting past your own fears and biases first.

Doing is easy. Selling can be hard.

Back in Renaissance Italy, artists were supported by wealthy patrons who admired their work.  This system had benefits for both parties.

Artists received a living wage, access to luxury materials (such as gold and lapis lazuli) and commissions to produce art on a size and scale they could otherwise only dream of.  Patrons used the art they produced as a means of expressing and enhancing their social status. Without this patronage system, we wouldn’t have many of the works of brilliant artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Raphael.

In service industries, we also need to find patrons – customers –who get what we do, and who see the mutual benefit in commissioning us to do it. This is essential if we are to have any chance of bringing our gifts into the world.

It’s easy to accept the excuse that it is all about price and that customers don't want what we have anymore. That isn’t really true. They may want it – and they probably need it – but like the rest of us, they are time-poor, risk-averse and battered by disruption and change.

Our job now is to give them extremely compelling reasons to do things the way that we suggest.

This is an extract from my new book Value: how to talk about what you do so people want to buy it. To order your copy, go to http://www.robynhaydon.com/buy/