Selling Professional Services

Building the Motivation to Buy

What is selling? 

To many professionals ‘selling’ is a dirty word.  They base their views on the experience of being sold to badly by pushy salespeople who appear to be interested only in making a sale.  Very few professionals would like to be seen as pushy by their clients or anyone else.

How then do we reconcile client-focused, and totally professional, business development and client engagement with selling?

Let’s start by defining our terms.  There are numerous definitions of selling.  The dictionary tells us:

To sell: To persuade others to accept

That seems simple and reasonable enough. 

However at PACE we are uncomfortable with one of the words included in this definition.  That word is “persuade”.  If I feel my job is to persuade you then I will be tempted to do so by the force of my argument and by my genuine ‘enthusiasm’ for what my firm does.  Unfortunately if you are not immediately persuaded I might be tempted to ‘persuade’ you harder.  Then persuasion can become pushiness or pressure and pressure in this situation is usually counterproductive and leads to resistance.

Also if my job is to persuade you then all of the energy in the interaction will tend to come from me.  If I am to be successful I need the energy to come from you.  I want the energy to come from you.  I need you to really want to move forward in the relationship – to want to engage with me; to want to consider my ideas positively; eventually to want to buy and to continue to buy from me.  I don’t want you to be persuaded – I want you to be motivated.

Our definition of selling is therefore:

To sell: To build the motivation to buy 

If my job is building someone’s motivation over time – not too quickly but also not too slowly – rather than trying to persuade them to do something, I can learn a lot from my experiences in motivating others in my management role – and my experiences, good and bad, of my manager trying to ‘motivate’ me!

The best people-managers do and say the things that get people in their teams to want to do the things that will make them, and the team, successful.  The good ones are able to do this because they understand some key facts about motivation.  These include:

  1. Everyone is unique.  No two people are motivated by identical things.
  2. To motivate someone you need to understand what ‘makes them tick’.  Not just what they do but why they do it.  Not just what they say but what they mean.
  3. If you try to motivate others by what motivates you, you will almost certainly not succeed.  Many people will not be motivated by your actions – some will even be demotivated.
  4. It is useless to make value judgements about what people should be motivated by. The manager needs to understand each person’s mind and motivations in detail and  then to work with what is, not what he or she would like to be.
  5. In order for the manager to get to the point where his or her team is comfortable to be open about their motivations and feelings he or she must build a relationship with them, really listen to them and build confidence and trust.

In building the motivation to buy and re-buy (i.e. motivation in selling and creating new clients rather than in management) the lessons from the above list include:

  1. Beware using the same argument (or features, benefits, proposal pages or slides) for   two clients or potential clients.  If you find yourself saying the same things to different people – or cutting and pasting chunks of proposals into others – you are   acting as though you believe those people are the same.  They are not.
  2. The key to success lies in understanding what makes each (person in each) client tick – not just understanding what they need.
  3. If you spend your time telling people that what you believe is great about your expertise or service you will put off many clients.  You will in fact come across as the very pushy salesperson we all so despise.
  4. Don’t moan about clients making ‘stupid decisions’ based on lack of understanding. Work with what the client sees and believes – and build the kind of relationship that allows you to influence their thinking before you need to put forward your solution.
  5. Focus efforts of building trust and understanding.  Invest most of your time in this and, in general, seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.

Gaining Commitment – Moving Beyond the First Meeting

Handling Resistance 

The Chiropodist Story