Different Approaches to Selling Your Services
Can I supersize that?
A lot has been written about different service and sales approaches and how they affect customers. Of course, I’m interested in selling my services without being pushy, without underselling myself and also without being rejected. That’s why I like to keep a close eye on how other people handle their sales approach.
A non-representative case study
Recently, I’ve been exploring my options about updating my website and have been talking to various people who might be able to help me. What has struck me is how differently they handled my request.
I approached Person 1 at a networking event and asked for advice about possible options. Person 1 was perfectly nice and friendly and asked me to write down in an email what we had talked about so that we could go into further detail.
Unfortunately, a back-and-forth then ensued because Person 1 wasn’t really reading what I wrote but relying on what had stuck in his/her mind during our conversation. So, I would write something like “I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. What I mean is actually this…” Person 1’s reply would then pretty much regurgitate what had already been written and what I had (unsuccessfully) tried to correct. Sure, I could have picked up the phone and called. I didn’t. Instead, I sent a friendly email saying I wanted to think about things.
Bottom line, if someone can’t listen long enough to find out what I want and need, that does not bode well for any work to be done.
Person 2 actually approached me. We spoke on the phone and I answered quite a few questions, after which Person 2 took a closer look at my website situation. And then, unfortunately, it took almost 2 weeks for an estimate to arrive. But, everything I wanted had been factored in, proving that Person 2 had been listening. Person 2 was also very friendly and approachable. All in all, everything was pleasant. The long delay between our initial discovery call and the quote made me wonder about their responsiveness and time management, though.
All good things come in threes. Person 3 responded to an initial email from me within 2 hours, answering every single point I had touched on, offering a Skype consultation AND including a questionnaire to determine not only my needs but also my USP, motivation, style preferences and examples of websites that I like. What’s more, the questionnaire quite cleverly asked what other services might be needed, such as creating a corporate identity, stationery, business cards, social media profiles. And it got me thinking about other things I might want to improve and redo. Smart!
Person 3 won’t be providing any fast answers because filling out the questionnaire will take some time. It will be time well spent, though, and should provide a superb basis for discussing what Person 3 can do for me – beyond my initial inquiry.
(I’m pretty sure that Person 3’s services will come with the biggest price tag, but it’s blatantly obvious why.)
The moral of the story
Listening is key, that’s a given. It’s also rather obvious whom I’ll want to work with when I decide to revamp my website.
The questionnaire really stands out for me. This is the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of such a structured and strategically designed questionnaire. I have to admit that I’m not sure when I’ll actually get around to filling it out – but the idea of someone being this interested in tailoring their services to my needs is immensely appealing.
When I’m working with new customers, I’m never sure whether they would prefer to answer all the questions I have for them on the phone or take their time to fill in a simple questionnaire. Having a nice chat on the phone makes it easier to keep the client close, but it puts them under pressure because they may not always know the answers off the bat. A questionnaire lets them get the necessary information without them having to own up to not knowing something.
At the same time, a questionnaire can easily slip all the way to the bottom of your to-do list. If Person 3 has to follow up because I haven’t returned the questionnaire yet, I’d feel like a guilty school kid. That is not the kind of effect I want to have on new or potential clients. (And now I’m curious and might wait to see what kind of follow-up I get.)
Hmm. Do you use official questionnaires or briefing templates? Or do you prefer a more informal approach? Or do you have other ways altogether of getting the information you need to make sure that you AND your client are aware of the scope of services you can and will provide? For copywriting, an extensive brief is essential and needs to be in writing, so that both parties know what they’re talking about. There’s simply no way around that. So, how do you get that information without freaking out a new customer?
9 replies on “Different Approaches to Selling Your Services”
When we re-designed our website, the designer we worked with had the same approach as your Person 3 – a detailed questionnaire about what we liked (logos, colours, websites), stationery etc. It did take a bit of thinking and brainstorming to fill it in, but it was certainly worth it.
I think the approach depends on the client. We have clients who prefer the phone (including to answer questions), others for whom emails are the best option. How formal/informal and whether to use a questionnaire or not depends, again, on the client and on how much information they provided in the first place.
I agree that a one-size-fits-all approach probably doesn’t make much sense. Having all the important information in one document would be really neat, though. I guess I’ll have to stick to creating that document myself 🙂
Thanks for your comment!
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I think it depends on who the customer is. For example, I work with marketing houses/ad agencies and the automatic question for them is, Is this for a spoken script or for written use, and Do you want to translate/localize the name of the company. I’ve actually decided to throw in the question, Do you want a literal translation, idiomatic … etc. translation as well as although all the greatest clients who will go to heaven are the ones who love the excellent native speaker sounding work that we do, there are also clients who want something more literal.
I also had a detailed questionnaire to fill out for the lovely lady who did my logo, it’s absolutely worth doing and I would get on it right away. 🙂 It really helps you to give yourself guidance, besides really making sure you get what you want. It’s great to have creative ideas in writing, especially since I think there are professionals who really know to interpret that information and turn it into something you’ll love.
Thanks for your comment! I have to admit that I haven’t filled out the questionnaire yet 🙁
I work mainly with direct clients. Many of them are quite surprised or even taken aback when they realize how much thought should go into translating their website. I’ve found it easier in most cases to have a pleasant chat on the phone to avoid overwhelm. The downside is that it takes much longer to get the necessary information.
Then again, I’m still sitting on that questionnaire … 🙂
For website translation, I think a questionnaire would work really well. I’d keep it to one page and make the questions direct. For example, perhaps the first one would be Do you want it localized or translated literally? That opens the door to discussing cultural issues.
The great thing about the questionnaire is that it’s in the hands of the client now (after you give it to them). In the case of my logo, I took a day to think about it seriously (though I had brainstormed for a month or two before that on what I wanted) and then answered the questionnaire the next day. My logo lady got back to me about a month later with three options to choose from and comment on. I took a couple more days to let that sink in and then finalized it in about 6 weeks. I guess the moral here is that if you have the structure in place it makes your job, any job as a professional, that much more automated and efficient.
It sounds so easy when you describe it like that 🙂
I have a standard stock of questions that I mostly email to new clients as a kind of informal questionnaire – and then we talk on the phone. What I like about chatting on the phone is that it lets me explain WHY I’m asking something and what the different options might be. I’ve found it hard so far to turn these thought processes into a questionnaire that doesn’t just skim the surface and also doesn’t scare people off by being too detailed.
Hmm, I obviously don’t have the right structure in place yet 🙂
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Hi again Else,
It’s all about talking it through. 🙂 I also have phone conversations with clients, but only if they insist. We’re talking in Mexican Spanish over phone lines that somehow are never reliable and cut in and out. I’ve found that explaining the reasons why something has to be one way or the other, while we always think “hey, they’ll realize what I’m saying and why” and all that. But the truth is that this is seldom true and each person is going to see it from their angle. What happens down here in Mexico a lot is that you have to CONVINCE people that what you are writing is good, honest English and that the changes they are suggesting verge on bastardizing this sweet amalgamate of words we call English. But when the text is really important, I just really do have to insist. Just yesterday I sent a client a Wikipedia article for example, explaining something he wasn’t quite getting. And it was in his language, so Wikipedia is doing a great job for me.
Anyhow, my point here is that sometimes explaining is a waste of time. I always like to find out what the client wants first, and then decide what the translation is going to look like. And I can only tell you this from getting texts, not finding out what they were for, and then those texts ended up not being as good as they could have been.
So with the questionnaire, you have it all down in writing *their own mind you, and it’s clear. I think you’ve heard my case though. 🙂
Have a great weekend!