Clarity: the key to selling professional and technical services

Professional and technical services are, by definition, complex and time-consuming to execute. That’s why the customer needs us.

Unfortunately, this also makes them complex and time-consuming to explain, which means we feel under constant pressure to get straight into unpacking our methodology and implementation plan – what and how. This often comes at the expense of explaining the problem we’re solving (why), which from the customer’s perspective is the only reason why they would even consider buying from us.

According to Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, the qualities of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity (A-B-C) are what’s needed to be effective in today’s world of sales, where buyers and sellers are evenly matched on information. This makes pretty good sense.

In terms of how we put these principles in practice, though, we actually want to think in terms of C-A-B:

1.     Clarity means knowing what you are really selling, understanding the value it creates for a customer, and being able to articulate why they should buy it. Clarity comes from focusing squarely on value (why) rather than methodology (what and how). Clarity needs comes first, because without clarity nothing else really matters.

2.     Attunement means being able to understand what buyers want. Most popular sales and marketing books are about attunement, because figuring out what buyers want is what most people associate with success. However, “wants” are only part of the value puzzle. As an expert selling a complex service, and who wants to deliver great work as a result, attunement needs to go both ways – not only to what buyers want, but also to what they really need.

3.     Buoyancy means being able to overcome rejection, so you can keep going until you get a result. Many selling skills methodologies focus on buoyancy (resilience) because it is what veteran salespeople understand is the key to longevity. By selling value, though, we will experience less rejection, and thankfully also need to rely less on being able to rebound like a human punching bag.

A good reason to start with Clarity is that it’s the only one of these three attributes where we can exert total control.

Attunement and Buoyancy both require that we develop strategies to respond to factors external to ourselves, which is much more challenging, and pretty much impossible when we don’t have Clarity.

Clarity starts with examining what you really do, the results that you’re creating, and what is truly remarkable about your work.

That understanding - that clarity - is the key to winning the business you want, at the margins you want, and making the difference you alone can make.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business that is won through competitive bids and tenders. Her clients have won and retained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with many of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers.

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