Explaining the value of your service – How to sell just about anything

A core component of any sales pitch is to educate the customer on the true value of what you offer.

However, spouting off the features and benefits of your product or service won’t cut it for a lot of sales.

Instead we need to use strategic questioning to try and understand the unique challenges each customer faces and their own unique motivations for buying.

The added difficulty is that when we start off, the customer doesn’t always know exactly what they need or why they need it. (As much as they might think they do). So, more often than not, we need to ask questions in order to let them discover for themselves what they actually need.

Ok, so this might sound like an overly complicated idea, all dressed up in corporate jargon, but please bear with me! Let me show you how we can do this in straight forward terms.

The process:

A successful sales pitch of almost any product or service can be broken down to 4 key areas:

  1. Understanding the situation. Before you can do anything, you need to understand the context of the situation and start to qualify whether or not your services might be a good match for their requirements.
  2. Customer needs/problems. Use questions to establish a more detailed picture of what their needs are.  
  3. Implication. Uncover why they have these needs and what the implications of these needs are. This is where you determine the urgency of the situation and why they need a solution. This phase is crucial when selling higher value services as you need to establish why solving the problems you uncovered in phase 2 is so important.
  4. Value. The final stage is explaining the full value of your service, in terms that are customised to the client. When done correctly, the customer should actually be explaining to you why what you’re offering is the solution they need.

Seeing as the majority of people reading this will be decorators, let me show you what this method would look like if I was trying to sell you a paint brush.

NB: At time of writing, I do not sell paint brushes for a living, so this should be fair!

Step 1: Understanding the situation

This step is relatively easy, as I can do most of it through research. I’ve already established you are a decorator so you are very likely to need paint brushes, but I would use this time to understand what sort of decorating you focus on with a few simple questions like: Do you brush/roll your projects? Or spray? Is it primarily residential work you do? Or commercial?

Let’s say we establish you are an interior decorator, who primarily does residential work and you brush/roll the vast majority of your jobs.

Step 2: Customer needs / problems

I now need to work out what problems / challenges you are facing and establish what you actually need.

I will ask questions such as: Do you have to be very careful to get rid of brush marks when cutting in? Do you find you need to apply an extra coat when using a brush compared to a roller? Can it be frustrating if the brush doesn’t hold enough paint and you have to keep reloading it when you’re trying to cut in a perfectly straight line?

Step 3: Implication

Now, I need to uncover what your answers to step 2 actually mean to you. Typically, a customer won’t understand the full scale of the problem, so you need to help them see this.

I would ask questions such as: If you were to leave visible brush marks on a job do you think your customer would be less satisfied with the work you have done? I would assume yes. Does this then affect your chances of getting repeat work for that customer? Or referrals? Could a poor finish even lead to your reputation being damaged? If your brush doesn’t hold much paint does this slow you down? By how much? When you add that time up over a month or a year, what do you think the cost of this is when you times it by your hourly rate? Is this problem exacerbated by the fact when using a brush to cut in you often require an extra coat? Or you have to spend time at the end of the job touching in? How many hours per month/year does this take up? What does this mean for you / your company?  

I would also expand on these questions by asking you things like: You say that leaving a less than perfect finish could affect your chances of getting repeat business. Are there any other issues it could cause?

Now you might actually start telling me why a good quality brush is so important!

Step 4: Value

Firstly, notice the fact we are almost all the way through the sale, and I haven’t told you anything about the paint brushes I sell. No features and benefits, no statistics. So far, it has all been about you.

Only now do I start to talk about my products.

I’ll start by summarising a couple of points…for example:

‘You said that leaving a perfect finish can be a struggle with conventional brushes and you explained how important it is to you and your business that you do great quality work for every client.’

Then I’ll tell you what my product does:

The paint brush I’m offering uses the highest quality filaments available which have been shown to almost completely eliminate brush marks.

The filament technology also holds 3x more paint than a conventional brush and has been specially designed to make it easier to get perfectly straight lines when cutting in and also to reduce the need for additional touch ups. I know this is something that can save you a lot of time and money.

Every part of the brush has been manufactured using highly durable materials, so they last on average twice as long as a standard brush, they are also easier to clean, and the bristles stay softer for much longer.

I’ll then ask questions like: So, tell me, as a decorator, what do the benefits of this brush mean to you? Do you think this brush would help you and your business?

Hopefully at this point, you’ll actually start telling me how great this brush is and why you need it so much. You may have worked out that this brush could save you £100’s in time, but more importantly it could even lead to more work and being able to charge higher prices.

Now, this paint brush is made up. But out of interest, please comment how much you think this brush would cost. Or how much would you be prepared to pay for this brush? £5? £20? £50? £100? Let me know. I think the answers could be interesting.

Now you know the basic methodology of sales, you just need to take the time to sit and work out how you can adapt it to sell your services to your customers. Try and write down some questions you could ask for each of the 4 stages.

Think about what you offer and what questions you could use to lead the customer into understanding why it is important to them.

For example, if you use a dustless sander you could start asking about how important to them it is that a tradesman maintains a clean and dust free environment when in their home? After probing slightly, you might uncover that they have asthma and dust would aggravate that greatly.

You might also find out they had a bad experience with a decorator in the past who left dust and dirt everywhere and it took days for them to sort it. When you press more onto this topic you might also find out other short comings of the previous decorator. You can then try and establish how much time / money this cost them and how much hassle it caused. Then when you start telling them about your dustless sanding system and cleaning practices you’ll look like a knight in shining armour!

In conclusion, take the time to work out some questions you can ask when you are talking to a typical customer.

Once you have these questions, pick one or two and try them out in your next pitch. Try them a few times and see if they help. If they do, great. If they don’t try some different questions.

Keep tweaking the formula like this and you’re well on the way to closing more sales at better prices.

Credit: This technique is based on a number of ideas and methods I’ve developed over my career, but a large portion of it is based on the SPIN selling technique. I would recommend the book ‘SPIN selling’ by Neil Rackham to anyone who is looking for a more detailed look into this method of selling.

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