What Are You Really Selling?

handshakeIf you sell a service, you are probably selling a relationship.

Cleaning my bookshelves last week, I came across Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith, a wonderful and nuanced book that I recommend to anyone who sells a service. I took Beckwith’s main premise to be that the more invisible the service you sell, the more you are really selling yourself and the relationship you will have with your clients.

More often than we imagine, people will make their decision based on what it feels like to be standing or sitting there with us, in that moment, talking about the service and our future together. And the more intimate their relationship with us will be after the sale, the more they are focused on how it feels to be with us, what they think we think of them, and how safe it seems to open up and give us what we need to help them.

The levels of post-sale relationship vary, and you may categorize certain services differently from how I do here, but basically we’re talking about four levels:

LITTLE OR NONE. If you sell a product like a car or toaster, you are talking about a physical object that is separate from both you and your customers. People can kick the tires, or plug it in and watch it make toast. You’re talking specs, known analytics, maybe some Consumer Reports data. Whether or not they like and trust you is still relevant, but less so. Once they’ve bought the product, they’re outta there and will probably never see you again.

WARMER. If you sell a service like legal work or accountancy, people know that they will see you again, share personal information with you, and maybe put a part of their lives in your hands. They need to trust you, and some will want to like you. Without any proof that you will do a good job, they need to feel good enough about you—if only on an intuitive level—that they’re willing to put out money before they know how well you will actually perform.

WARMER STILL. If you provide a service like hair styling, personal assistant or organizer, or coaching, trust may need to be even stronger. People need to know that you will not harm them or use their intimate information against them. They may actually be more vulnerable with an attorney, but they’re likely to feel more vulnerable with someone who is going to see their physical, psychological, or professional messes, and who may even be holding a pair of sharp scissors. When you talk with them, they need to feel secure that you are a good person—and perhaps more importantly, that you know they are good people and that you honor and respect them.

HOT. If you sell more intimate services like bodywork or spa treatments that involve physical contact, trust may be even more important. Certainly, they need to know that you are an honorable person who respects both them and the standards of your profession.

How can you give people this confidence? How can you begin a relationship that they want to continue, one in which they trust you and know that you honor, respect, and appreciate them?

There’s only one solution: Truly honoring, respecting, and appreciating them—and being clear that you provide a service that will benefit them, and make their lives richer, better, and/or easier.

If you do that, they will get it every time. Your sales conversations will be a fun, deep, clear, and relaxed. And that will be just as wonderful for you as it is for them.

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  1. A piece of eriudtion unlike any other!

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