If you think you’re selling a product, think again. Most companies that we see around us – such as McDonalds, Federal Express, American Express, Levi’s – are selling services, not products. Services are inherently more invisible than products, and call for a different sales & marketing approach. In “Selling the Invisible”, Harry Beckwith offers over 100 tips and insights – for business owners, sales or marketing people – on how to sell service effectively. In this summary we’ll be covering some of these useful tips.
Services are more invisible and intangible than products. Unlike products – which you can touch, see, smell, and taste before purchasing – services (e.g. a haircut) must be purchased before customers get to experience it. It is also harder to put a warranty on a service.
Even if you sell a physical product (e.g. software or shoes), you are likely to be competing on service (through customization, delivery, support etc.). Effective services marketing is more about how you think than what you do.
Getting the Fundamentals Right
Before you start marketing your services, there are some fundamentals that you’d want to first get in place, and we’ll be touching on them briefly here:
1. Fix your service first. We tend to think we are better than we are – it is better to assume your service is bad, and to benchmark across industries, so you force yourself to improve.
2. Get the right focus. Always start at zero, sweat the small stuff, and keep asking “is this still what the customers want?”.
3. Understand the stages of service evolution, so you can focus on getting to Stage 3 (where you make the leap to go beyond customers’ expressed needs and expectations). Do read the book or our full 12-page summary on the 3 stages of service evolution.
Surveying and Research
Why survey? Because people won’t tell you what you are doing wrong – not even your best friends. The only way to find out is to ask. In the book, Beckwith covers tips for surveying and research, including using third-party surveys, oral surveys, and phone interviews.
Marketing is Not a Department
Beckwith elaborates on how marketing needs be an integral part of the entire organization, and offer specific tips on how you can cultivate a marketing mindset (rather than have a marketing department).
Overcoming Planning Fallacies
Executives may get lost trying to develop and follow a business or marketing plan. Beckwith highlights several planning fallacies which are critical in your marketing success. We’ll just zoom in on 3 of these points for this article (do get more details the book / full summary):
We don’t always know what we want
You can get to your “desired destination”, only to realize it’s not what you really want. Hence:
– Accept the limitations of planning
– Value planning for the process of thinking, not the results
– Don’t plan your future. Plan your people.
Strategy isn’t king
Often, tactics drive strategy rather than the other way round. Start doing something/ anything, so you can learn from it and shape your thinking/ strategy.
– Stop trying to build a better mousetrap. Perfect ideas don’t work as well as imperfect ideas delivered passionately.
– Inaction breeds more inaction: keep moving to succeed.
– There’s no perfect solution nor perfect timing. Implement a good idea now. Don’t procrastinate, don’t wait.
You can’t predict the future
No research or “facts” can accurately calculate and predict human behaviour. Don’t rely on science & data for decisions.
Positioning and Focus
Focus on ONE thing
No 2 services are identical – Focus on ONE distinct thing that will give you a competitive advantage, and position that in your prospect’s mind.
Use the Halo Effect
Standing for 1 thing doesn’t mean you will lose all other appeal, because people will associate that 1 thing with many other things. Position yourself as the expert at the hardest task in your service. That special skill should imply you also possess other valuable skills, and position you strongly in other areas.
In the book, Beckwith also shares 7 questions that you can ask to establish a clear positioning statement and how to close the gap between your position and positioning statement.
Other Tips for Selling the Invisible
The book covers more than 100 tips, each presented in 1-3 pages, with short, simple examples for most “chapters”. Not all the tips will be relevant or helpful to your organization, but you will almost definitely be able to find useful insights or reminders that you can apply immediately.
Besides the tips above, Beckwith also covers tips on selling the invisible including : how prospects think, pricing, naming and branding, communicating and selling, nurturing and keeping your clients. Do get a copy of the book for the full mojo or get a detailed overview from our Selling The Invisible summary bundle.