From speaker to life coach, dentist to designer, one of the most difficult things to sell is professional services. Why is it so challenging to sell services than a product? Because services are intangible. You cannot hold one service in your right hand and hold a second service in your left and compare the two to see which one looks and feels the best.
I’ve been selling my own services for more than 13 years now and about once a month I’m asked how I continually bring on new clients in such a competitive field of Internet strategy and promotion. There are many answers to this question, to be sure. But, if I had to pick just three that any serivce provider could use for any industry, I would offer these suggestions:
1) Assure your services are current – As you can imagine, what works and how things work on the Internet changes rapidly. So, I’m always buying books and products and attending workshops to see what strategies people are using online to promote their businesses.
Recently, I bought a book at the bookstore that claims to list every method known to man for bringing traffic to a website. One of the techniques described would most certainly get your entire website banned from Google. I was shocked that any writer would add such a suggestion in an Internet strategy book.
Turns out, the book was printed in 2001, which means in Internet years, I might as well be reading something from the 1850’s about marketing. Make sure your services are up-to-date and haven’t been sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for 20 years.
2) Do something that your clients haven’t done yet – My clients are familiar with a website I started in 1996 called MusicMates.com. Already one of the nation’s leading on-line musician referral systems, I’ve always been wanting to take the site’s search engine positioning to an even higher level.
We started a new feature on the Music Mates site that gained top positioning on search engines for practically any search engine phrase related to musicians, bands and instructors…specifically when someone searches for that phrase including their home state. For example, “Florida Bands for Hire,” or “New Jersey Music Instructors,” or “Utah Recording Studios.”
In a future issue, I’ll explain what we did. The point is that none of my clients have taken their companies to this level of a national search engine presence. I’m doing something for my own business that they have not been able to do themselves and then I share the strategy with them.
Make something happen for your own business or project that your clients haven’t tried to do yet, or have not been able to accomplish on their own. You will be thought of as a forerunner in your industry instead of a follower. And, people find great value in having service providers that are in the forefront of their industry.
3) Use your own recommendations – I always suggest that you should use your main programmers and designers for your core project. But, give a kid a chance when it comes to the add-ons.
The new Music Mates feature was created under my direction by a 17-year-old for $150. I’m pretty sure he’s spent a cumulative total of about 40 hours on the project. And, he’s fine with his payment because the project will be a great addition to his portfolio.
My point with this step is that you need to make your suggestions work for yourself before you recommend them to others. Why? Because you need to discover all of the little challenges that will occur in the process so that you can inform your clients to expect the same.
In my published book Web Marketing All-in-One for Dummies (Wiley 2009), I have a section devoted to finding, hiring and managing Internet developers on-the-side because I’ve done it so many times before. I also created a free whitepaper you can download at to learn how to outsource your Internet marketing. What kind of nightmare would I lead my clients into if I didn’t share what I’ve learned with these hired hands before my own clients put my suggestion to task?
In summary, the key to selling your professional services is to really not try so hard at selling them. Simply prove that what you recommend works by continually trying new techniques before you suggest them to others. You will be considered a leader in your industry for years to come. Then one day, you’ll turn around to find your company expanding to the new levels you’ve been hoping for.