Selling services as a solution

by Leigh Wallinger.

Prospects will only buy your services if they solve a problem that is costing them more than your services would cost. You might save them money, save them time or improve their efficiency and productivity.  In reality, your company isin the problem-solving business.

This is not the same as “solution selling” from the past – where suppliers defined solutions and then sent their sales team out looking for relevant problems to solve. Having off-the-shelf solutionsavailable, each waiting for a problem to appear,is no guarantee that you will grow a successful business.

On the contrary, offering flexible services that can be moulded to fit a prospect’s real day-to-day challenges will be attractive to them. If you can solve some of their current problems, you have a long-term client who will talk positively about your company and who may buy more and more services from you.

A collection of happy clients gives you a solid foundation on which to grow your company. They will be well-disposed towards you, will expand their use of your services and, directly or indirectly, will convince other prospects to sign up to your services

For this strategy to work, small business owners need to ensure that everyone involved in selling to both prospects and clients:

1. Has a detailed understanding of the company’s services and what can and cannot be flexed to meet a specific requirement.

2. Has a good understanding of the common challenges being faced by prospects that your services could address.

3. Has a thorough understanding of how your services are used by clients and what problems/challenges have been solved.

4. Is armed with 20 – 25 thought provoking questions to ask in sales meetings that will help establish confidence and credibility as well as identify possible problem areas to be investigated further.

You will frequently encounter prospects who believe their requirements are unique, even if they might appear to be familiarto you.  This belief might have its roots back in the time when salespeople were selling off-the-shelf solutions.  Buyers soon learnt that having non-standard problemsmeant buying non-standard solutions.  Thisgave them a way to avoid “solution salespeople” andbeing manipulated into buying something inappropriate for their business.

Whenever a prospect suggests their requirements are unique, you should agree and share some stories of how your services are used by other clients to meet their particularly unique requirements.  It can be beneficial to present your services as a series of separate elements that can be combined in many different ways to match the specific and unique needs of prospects.  You have to become expert at telling stories and painting verbal pictures to show how your service elements can be combined to work for each prospect.

Persuading prospects, convinced their requirements are unique, that your services will improve their situation requires patience.  It is made easier if you canrefer to the experiences of other clients.  What you, the seller, claim about your services usually carries less impact than the same claim made by one of your clients.

As a result, you should look to produce a series of success stories and testimonials confirming what benefits your services have produced for each of your clients.  Consider producing one or more success story per client and ensure each contains a selection of testimonial statements from named sources from your client’s senior management team.

In some situations, it may be appropriate to arrange for prospects to talk to or meet with one or more of your clients.  Again, arranged correctly, these can prove to be very persuasive and move your prospect closer to buying from you.

Buying services can be a scary proposition for inexperienced buyers.  It’s impossible to see exactly what you are about to buy.  You are really buying into the promises made by the seller.  Fear of buying from the wrong supplier grows and this causes uncertainty and procrastination.

If the seller’s promises are backed up by other purchasers confirming they have achieved the promised benefits, some of this fear subsides.

For small business owners, this means you have to develop strategies to both reassure prospects you represent a safe pair of hands and demonstrate how you will minimise the risks associated with buying your services.


Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business.  After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses.  Contact him by email (enquiries at or via

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