Seven key aspects of selling a service

by Leigh Wallinger.

For many small business owners, lack of sales is the limiting factor constraining both growth and profitability. Selling services is challenging. The intangible nature of services means there is no equivalent to a product demonstration. There is nothing for prospects to see or to touch.

Although there is no magic formula that will guarantee sales success, there are seven key aspects to selling services that owners of small service providers need to remember.

If you focus on these seven aspects, your chances of winning more clients and retaining those clients are greatly improved. Of course, you will still face many obstacles that will block your path and delay your progress. Deal with them as they arise and never be tempted to look for short-cuts to a sale. There are no short-cuts. Patience and persistence pays dividends.

The seven aspects of service selling you should concentrate on are:

1. Know your target audience.
This means more than simply defining your niche market(s). It means you must know as much as possible about these markets – trends, threats and opportunities. It means you should know what issues, problems, challenges and opportunities your prospects are facing before you meet with them.

2. You are a problem solver not a solution provider.
Avoid developing the mindset that your role is sellingstandard solutions to prospects.  Your prospects won’t want your “off-the-shelf” standard solution to meet what they consider to be their unique business requirements. Your prospects want to buy services that are designed to meet their specific requirements. Position your services as highly flexible individual components that can be moulded to meet a prospect’s unique requirements. Engage prospects in the moulding process.

3. Your prospects are fearful of buying the wrong service.
It is hard to buy services and prospects are fearful of making the wrong choice. The closer the service is to the prospect’s core business operation, the bigger the worry. Devise ways in which you reassure prospects that you represent a safe pair of hands and work with them to reduce the real and perceived risks associated with your services.

4. Sell through (true) stories.
This is the key to successfully selling services. Stories about how your existing clients have gained by using your services will build confidence and provide reassurance to prospects.  As well as telling stories, ensure you have some success stories available in printed form.  These can be handed to prospects or emailed to them. Success stories are far more powerful and persuasive if they contain testimonial statements from each client’s senior management team. When selling services, what you claim carries little weight until prospects see or hear similar claims from your clients. Where it is appropriate, putting your prospects in direct contact with one (or more) of your happy clients builds confidence that your services deliver what you claim.

5. Be different but not weird.
Differentiation is very important for service providers. It is all too easy to blend in with your main competitors. With all other things being equal, your prospects will always buy the cheapest. You can win clients this way but why bother when it results in little or no profit? If you are different from your competitors in ways that your prospects find attractive, not only can you resist the pressures to discount your prices but you will also win more clients. Be careful not to take differentiation too far and come across as weird.  Prospects aren’t interested in backing a company that comes over as a bit odd.

6. Prospects buy from people they trust.
This saying goes back decades but it remains true today. You have to build a reputation, both individually and as a company, of being totally trustworthy. You must do everything you promise, on time and without causing your prospects and clients any disruption or inconvenience. When prospects talk to your clients, they will ask about your ability to deliver.

7. Look after all your clients.
This is more than just common sense, it is critical to your future success. Prospects will want to communicate with your clients as part of reassuring themselves your services are as good as you claim. You will certainly be able to control which clients you introduce to prospects. However, independently of you, your prospects will be using the Internet and coming across some of your other clients – on social media sites or messaging sites. You do not want prospects to find anything negative about your service from these sites. Nor do you want them to engage with any clients (or ex-clients) who may criticise your service or your performance as a supplier. The only way to prevent this is to avoid having unhappy clients.


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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