What does it take to start and sustain a service business?
Guest Post: by Gabriello Presenza
You might be wondering what it takes to start a business. Let me share with you what I learnt from taking that leap of faith.
Like you, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Sitting in my windowless basement office, across the hall from my state-of-the-art quantum physics laser lab, I decided I was going to start selling my services as a professional magician and hypnotist.
It had nothing to do with physics, but I needed a change. I decided I was going to charge money for my act – an act that didn’t even exist yet. It was just a concept. I knew a few magic tricks, and I had no idea how to sell. But I wanted to make it happen.
In a short few months, I was taking the stage at various venues across Toronto. Not long after starting my first entrepreneurial venture, I found myself negotiating with top executives and performing stage shows at Fortune 500s’ corporate events all around the city.
Here’s what I learned along the way about selling my services.
The one question you’ll get asked more often than any other is Why should we hire you? It’s a fair question, and the answer doesn’t need to be any more complicated than stating why you’re different. Assuming you can provide relief to your prospect’s pain – or sufficient pleasure to justify your service – you can win the business.
Could my prospects have hired a competitor of mine? Of course. Would they have had a great experience with them? Of course. But they chose me because I could tell them why I was different from their alternatives in a way that actually mattered to them.
I would answer with something like, “I weave elements of psychology and hypnosis into my performances to really engage and wow your audience. I give them a more intimate and hands-on experience.”
That’s exactly what my target market wanted: an intimate, hands-on experience that would engage and wow their audience. I was able to do that in a different way than they knew (elements of psychology and hypnosis).
How is Uber different from a regular taxi? Well, you can call an Uber with the touch of a button and track the location of your driver. Is that better? Not necessarily. Some people think it is. Others – like my parents – prefer to make the phone call to the taxi company or stick their arms out in moving traffic.
The point is that you don’t need to be “better.” You still need to be great at what you do, but it’s imperative that you are different. Better means you’re directly comparable to your competition. Different puts you in another category altogether.
Sell on Value
I think Alan Weiss said it best: “Value represents the actual impact of meeting the objectives.” As a performer, my objective was to engage an audience for a certain period of time. But the value – the actual impact of meeting that objective – was measured differently. Value for my clients meant creating a new experience, eliciting emotions such as excitement and surprise and ultimately making people happy and grateful for the experience. It was not only my job to deliver that value, but also to sell that value to my prospects to entice them to hire me.
They key is to ask Why, because asking Why will reveal the value. While success (the objective) might be to increase profits, increase employee satisfaction or improve service speed, value might look like greater investment in R&D thanks to the increased profits, increased productivity thanks to more satisfied employees or better service ratings thanks to faster service.
Keep in mind that achieving one objective can provide value in more than one way. As an example, take the objective of satisfying employees. Value might include not only increased productivity, but also reduced turnover, more time spent recruiting top performers, saved time on interviewing new candidates to fill past employees’ roles, reduced placement fees (if using a recruiter), reduced training costs, and more. In short, meeting one objective can provide tons of value across the organization.
Plus, if you can figure out what value means for your clients, then price doesn’t matter. In fact, if you can truly sell on value, then you can command a higher price than your competition. A higher price will in turn make your value even more desirable. There’s no need to discount if you’re delivering true value to your clients.
Always Ask For Feedback
At the end of a call or meeting, I always ask my prospect two questions: 1. What did you like about what you saw today?; and 2. What did you not like about what you saw today?
Similarly, I’ll ask my clients two questions after I’ve delivered my service: 1. What did you like about my work?; and 2. How do you think I could improve? When asking these two questions to your clients, you’ll get feedback on whether you met the objectives and provided the value you promised.
In both cases, diligently take notes on this feedback, because with it you can create the ideal solution for your market and ensure your clients will be happy.
I’ll be the first to admit – although it really hurts to do so – that I have failed to deliver value to some clients. When I first started my business, I was still figuring everything out. I delivered my service the way I thought it should be delivered. That was wrong. I missed the opportunity to ask those clients what they liked and disliked about my service. Had I asked sooner, I could have iterated my process and gotten better a lot faster.
Always Ask For Two Referrals And A Review
The cheapest and easiest way to get more business is to ask every client for a referral. And why not double your lead flow by asking for two? If a client had a good experience with you, it’s always worth asking for a name and contact information – or better yet an introduction – to someone your client thinks will also find value in your services. I will often go as far as asking for an introduction to a specific individual. You can do this by visiting your client’s LinkedIn page and searching through his or her connections.
With that said, make sure to always connect with your clients and prospects on LinkedIn. This will give you the greatest insight into their connections, further extending your reach for new business.
Even if your client tells you they don’t know anyone who can benefit from your services, don’t hesitate to insist. Tell them you want to share their success with others. If you did a good job, your client shouldn’t have any problem with you reaching out to their network.
Finally, ask for an honest review. Video is best, but written is also great. Reviews differ from testimonials, which imply you’re looking for a positive comment. The best honest reviews will become your testimonials that you can use over and over again to build credibility, generate higher quality leads and ultimately grow your business.
On a final note
Focusing on the right sales tactics at the beginning can lead to faster growth of your business as a service provider.
In a Nutshell
- Be different and know your value proposition
- Sell on value not price
- Ask what represents value to your clients
- Ask for feedback by asking these two questions: What did you like about what you saw today? and What didn’t you like about what you saw today?
- Ask for at least two referrals
- Ask for an honest review – preferably in video
About Gabriello Presenza
Gabriello Presenza is the co-founder at Human Kinesics. Gabriello helps business owners and salespeople serve their clients better through effective use of psychology, persuasive language, body language, sales strategies and tactics. Human Kinesics was founded on the basis of trust – if people trust you, they will believe in you and choose to work with you.