Tuesday, 5 November 2013 00:01
Nine out of every ten new jobs created today are in service companies. In today’s context, the servant selling skills are more relevant for salespersons who are in the service industry, and undoubtedly the service industry is booming globally. For instance, according to Canadian statistics, 75% of Canadians are working in the service industry. In the United States 70% of the workforce works in the service sector; in Japan, 60%, and in Taiwan, 50%. Many of them are in the professional category.
When you sell a service, you are selling something that doesn’t exist; you can’t try out the service before you buy it. You order it and then you get it. In fact, you buy most services based on touch, taste, feel and sight unseen, so it’s more of a challenge to the sales person and even for the customer.
The whole idea of salesmanship is being turned on its head. Effective sellers will “serve first and sell later”, so says Daniel Pink in his bestselling latest book, ‘To Sell is Human’. Today’s most successful sales people are service and servant oriented. “They make selling as personal and purposeful”. Pink says modern marketing should focus more on the approach of servant selling; “serve first and sell second”.
Add tangibility to your service
Intangibility is one of the unique differences between services and products. To reduce intangibility, customers always look for service quality signals, and don’t want to make mistakes. These needs must be addressed and assured by salespeople.
Most service companies provide assurances through guarantees, and they say it will be done within 24hrs or that in three workings days the documentation will be processed etc. These are the most common ways of giving assurances to customers to buy services.
Sometimes service companies add tangibility by providing a physical product with their service, to keep customers in touch with them at any given time. As an example, I have seen in the United Kingdom, some dentists routinely give patients a toothbrush after each check up. Many dentists personalise toothbrushes by printing their name, address and phone number on the toothbrush.
You don’t necessarily need to add products, to add tangibility. Welcome letters, newsletters and updates; any value added information for customers, are other ways to add tangibility to your services.
It is also recommended to financial sales personnel, who are selling credit cards, loans, and deposits, that they should be qualified as financial advisors and carry an identity of their professional qualifications. This lets customers know the salesperson’s background and can be used to showcased their abilities at their job. Customers buy services differently from products; you can make your service more visible by adding tangibility.
Challenges of selling intangibles
Developing and maintaining a sustainable and strong brand, is more complex and challenging for a service organisation, in my view, than a developing a strong brand for a product. Why? Very simply because services are less tangible and more ephemeral.
In general recognisability, performance and consistency, can make a brand strong. When we talk of a product, a carbonated drink as an example, the logo and colour can give you the recognition. The performance comes through the taste of the beverage; consistency is the element of the manufacturing processes. When talking about the management of a service brand, it becomes much complex.
In service brands, while logos and designs are the most impacted element, there are other factors to be considered. Such as, if you promote your service out of office, your physical locations, how it looks and the furnishings etc., will all impact the brand and its recognisability. Sales consultants who travel out to visits clients for example, are key brand ambassadors; including how they dress, speak, what type of vehicle they use and how well maintained it is.
In a healthcare organisation for example, how is performance measured? Through the physician, the registration desk officers, car park facility and distance to the front door from the car park? Or is the waiting room provided with magazines and LED TVs, or the delivery of care? Yes, all these things are more important for a healthcare and service organisation.
Some are important for restaurants and retail stores as well. So performance is a multifaceted process with many touch points which can either make your brand stronger or weaker.
Finally, the most important element is consistency. It is the greatest challenge of all. For products, there are more tangibles to deal with it. In services it’s all about managing human inputs and human action, ensuring the right ingredients are combined with the right environmental conditions, to produce consistent results.
Focus on servant selling
it’s about your people, developing standards and processes and communicating and ensuring elements such as consistency, in such things as how to answer a call, service standards, uniforms and how employees talk to each other etc. So the most important element in the brand is the people; while the logo and colours also have prominent consideration.
If I watched a beautiful movie that I know you would love, wouldn’t you want me to share it with you? If I went to a great restaurant that serves your favourite type of food, wouldn’t you want me to tell you about it?
If I learned something that would help you in your life and I didn’t explain it to you, wouldn’t you be disappointed? So why then would you feel reluctant about sharing a product or service that improves people’s lives?
It’s only when we are thinking about ourselves that we face reluctance. Fear is so self-centered. If you have a product that you really believe in, then think of yourself as a “Social Ambassador” serving your friends rather than a “Salesperson” serving yourself.
By doing this, you are changing someone’s life for the better. If you don’t have a product that you really believe in, you might need to get yourself a new one. I have an example of a social ambassador, who I came across, a Sri Lankan professional individual cycling enthusiastic with a vision of promoting cycling.
What he felt is the good about cycling; he is promoting to the nation through his cycling forum call ‘WROOM’ with a national interest in people’s health and clean environment. Therefore, this whole concept of ‘WROOM’ for me is about changing someone’s life for the better and with the concept of serve first
Pink says in his book, service isn’t just smiling at a customer, when he/she walks in to your store, or to the bank cashiers counter or when you deliver the ordered food within 20 minutes though both are important. It is a broader, deeper, and more transcendental definition about improving others’ lives and in turn improving the world.
The author is the Group Head Business Development & Marketing has experience spanning over 16 years in Business Management which includes three different industries, namely banking and Financial Services, Energy Sectors (Gas and Electricity) and Retailing. He also has accumulated a rich experience in diverse markets such as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Sri Lanka. He holds an MBA in Business Management from the University of Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom and a BBA in Business Management (UK). He is a member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing and a Member of the American Marketing Association.