Are you experiencing any of these common B2B services challenges?
- Flattening or declining qualified sales pipeline.
- Lowering average deal size?
- Protracted or extended closure timelines?
- Increased selling complexity or recurring requests for information?
- Loss of competitive advantage due to new market entrants?
- Customer defecting/leaving you for the competition?
The world of marketing and selling B2B services is constantly undergoing change. If you don’t keep changing with it, you’re done. It’s that simple.
We’ve all been there. Where a B2B services sales team has had great success… then they can’t seem to get appointments or returned calls any more. Where we had a sizable backlog of signed services deals… now you’re faced with quickly shrinking utilization rates and higher “bench time” rates.
This doesn’t need to be the case. Consider the following ideas and see how you can reinvigorate your B2B services pipeline, sales and profitability.
1. Value proposition. Evaluate your company’s and the services value proposition. Make sure it is truly unique, differentiable and actually wanted by the market and your customers. Customer expectations are constantly changing so don’t assume that past value propositions, still in use, will automatically resonate within current or new prospects and customers.
2. Positioning. Perform a win/loss and competitive analysis. Find out why the services you used to offer, and were in high demand, are no longer so. Know why your customers no longer do business with you or why a prospect chose a competitor; know where your competitors are outmarketing and outselling you. Turn this information into new, update and compelling competitive positioning that sets you apart and creates positive bias to your company and services.
3. Packaging. Today’s prospects and customers view services through the lenses of “product.” They expect to see productized services offerings, marketed and sold like a product. Allowing them to evaluate services value and benefit in easy, clear terms. Package your services like a product, grouping details and branding and creating solutions out of disparate services that scream value and benefit to the market and prospect.
4. Create a brand. In a services business, customers often associate your “brand” with the person walking through the door delivering the services. Customers become loyal to individuals and the value that the individual delivers. This is a problem as people come and go—leading to customer defection when you lose a great resource to a competitor. Work hard at creating, packaging, communicating and reinforcing a company brand value and identity. Get your prospects and customers to attach and be loyal to your company instead of specific individual resources.
5. Targeting. Don’t fall into the death-trap of thinking that your services are needed by every business, everywhere. It’s simply not true. Complete an assessment of your past successful sales and engagement history. Identify common characteristics that stripe across customers and engagements to determine your “ideal prospect target.” Focus your marketing and sales investment, time and effort to that characteristic and see pipeline and utilization rates grow.
6. Messaging. Stop messaging and communicating in general ways and hoping that the market and prospects will “get it.” Create messaging that attaches to your value proposition, positioning and ideal targets, with sub-messaging that connects to known, validated need. Doing so will boost interest and consideration of your services.
7. Customer experience (CX). Often services companies want their services to “speak for the company.” Thereby allowing the customer to define your customer experience. Stop this. Take a larger view of customer experience starting with the first contact, through engagement wrap-up and identification of re-engagement, to long-term customer relationships. Prospects want to know and have the very best customer experience at every connect point, not solely isolated into the services engagement. Identify your customer experience, drive it through everything. Watch loyalty increase and re-engagement rates grow.
8. Make it personal. People buy from people. Be personable. Be relatable. Show interest in them and their company and problems. Make a connection. View the relationship with your customer as a long-term business partnership and not through the lenses of a financial transaction.
9. Connect to emotion. What, you say? Emotion? It’s true. Today’s services decision makers indicate that approximately 65% of their selection criteria revolves around how the relationship, services, value and benefits “feel.” They want to feel that the decision they make will positively affect their professional standing, skill, ability, compensation and life. Connect what you do to these (hidden) evaluation criteria; or, risk being irrelevant.
10. Qualify better. In selling services, it is critically important to do a much better job qualifying opportunity. Those you wish to talk with are busy, the ones you don’t aren’t busy. Salespeople seek meetings and pitches as a sign of success and progress without having qualified if the effort will pay off. Have a rigorous lead and opportunity scoring methodology to help guide where and with whom to give time to.
11. Up/cross-sell. The deal or engagement is never done. Services selling and closing is never a “one and done” activity. Every connection, conversation and interaction are points of need discovery for cross- and upselling. Ensure everyone in your company has a responsibility to continuously pursue new need discovery and solution/services recommendation—even your practitioners delivering the services to your customers—and watch your loyalty and revenue increase.
12. Connect to balance sheet. Nobody needs your services just because you’re offering them. They seek out and engage with you to solve a particular problem that is connected to one of two things: balance sheet and/or income statement. Your prospects and customers utilize your services to improve on or both of these items. Connect your services, marketing and selling activities to quantifiable improvement in the balance sheet or income statement. Demonstrate that by using your services you will increase revenue or profitability. It’s not hard to do and it also helps overcome service fee “sticker shock” issues.
13. Thought leadership. Listen, you’re supposed to be the expert. That’s why they evaluate and choose your company and services. So, step up and be the thought leader that brings new ideas, tools, methods, innovation and technology to your prospects and customers. Doing so will lead to strategic conversation (reframing your relationship away from being only a tactical vendor) and to new, highly-qualified and profitable opportunity for your services.
14. Customer relationships. This bears repeating again. Your future success is in direct relationship to the number of positive, loyal customer relationships. Those that you have connected to beyond a transaction. Those that “feel” like you’re their best advocate to help them solve challenges in a manner that benefits their company AND them. Ignore customer relationships and the time and energy it takes to create them at your peril.
Oh, there is one more. Perhaps the biggest thing to consider when seeking to overcome B2B services sales challenges. Addressing unspoken risk perceptions.
Unlike a product which can be seen, touched and experienced BEFORE a purchase decision, services are unseen, future oriented and unable to be experienced until AFTER the purchase decision, project and payment. Simply stated, services selling must address and overcome issues of risk. It can’t be ignored. Position your company and its services as the “least risky and safest” decision that the prospect or customer can make—inferring that the status quo and any other services provider option is the “most risky and least safe” choice.
The Afterburner Group has been selling services and turning around services sales and marketing problems for companies in the technology, energy, services, manufacturing and non-profit industries for over 25 years.
If you think that your services should be selling better or could benefit from an assessment, strategy and refresh, fill out the contact form below and let’s discover what that might look like and how you’d benefit.
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