The economy may be (arguably) looking up, but that doesn’t mean that selling your services will suddenly become super easy, with clients queuing up outside your door. It’s a great dream, but selling is, was, and always will be challenging. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
However, it’s also the one thing all businesses need to get right to survive and thrive – identifying and dealing with any issues up front will give you every chance to reap the success you deserve.
Below, we’ll look at five of the biggest challenges businesses face in selling their services, and what you can do to make sure you consistently out-compete your rivals. Let’s have a look!
1. Competing With Lower-Priced Rivals
It’s inevitable that your business will pitch against rivals who bid lower than you – and it’s horribly easy to find yourself in a ‘race to the bottom’. Pricing your services correctly is core to your entire business plan – but what do you do when you’ve carefully worked out your costs and you’re still not winning contracts?
Fortunately, there are strategies you can deploy to win clients without having to drop your prices. Firstly, be sure to spell out the benefits of your service compared to your rivals. Simply put, make your pitch about value rather than price, and stress the quality of your service above all else. It could be counter-productive to explicitly name your competitors, but you can make use of the information on their website to compete effectively.
Also, check out what your rivals say they’re offering, and compare it against your own services. Ask yourself what it is that you do differently – and what you do better – then focus on these unique aspects in your pitch. You may also consider ‘innovation management’ – ultimately a technique of carving out your own niche before anyone else does. It’s not for everyone, but it could set you up with a unique client base.
Finally, if you’re feeling down about free falling prices, remember that those permanently pricing well below cost are likely going to go bust in the end…
2. Surviving in Crowded Markets
While it’s nice to think that we can invent a unique and popular product, in reality most businesses compete in markets with plenty of pre-existing competition. That brings more issues on top of the pricing challenge we’ve already discussed – such as how you stand out from the masses, and how well you connect with potential clients compared to your competitors.
To survive, you’ll firstly have to make sure your business is running more efficiently than your rivals – a well-oiled machine will run more smoothly. It’s also important have a keen focus on meeting your customers’ needs. However, one useful strategy for surviving in a crowded market is to reduce your scope by picking a segment to focus on, and providing services for a particular niche demographic.
Remember that a crowded market means there’s a lot of demand – it’s actually a good sign! However, to succeed you’ll need to identify gaps that established businesses have missed. Simply research your market to identify upcoming trends, and visit online forums such as Quora, Twitter, and LinkedIn for inspiration. You’ll also find plenty of mileage in sources such as Google Trends, or even Mintel and Mergent reports.
In a nutshell, you’ll need to be well ahead of your competition in order to take advantage of any new opportunities that present themselves.
3. Getting Through to Decision Makers
Talking to the right people during the sales process sounds simple, but sometimes (particularly in a large company) the people who put together the proposal may not be involved in awarding it. Different departments may have their own aims and views on the project itself, and you’ll need to quickly understand their viewpoint fast to persuade them you’re their ideal partner.
To get cracking here, it’s useful to identify your best contact very quickly. You’ll also need to work out what their company role is, how the project affects them, and the benefits it will bring to them. To find out more about them, take a look at any staff information pages on the company website, or try Integrum or LinkedIn for guidance on the influence they have in their business or sector.
Once you’ve gleaned some background information, prepare as best you can by asking your client who else will be involved in discussions – ideally as part of your first conversation with them. It’s also useful to create a comprehensive list of client benefits that you’ve identified from researching their website. Useful sources of information include their About page, their blog, and any contributions to relevant sector forums.
Whoever becomes involved, make sure you offer to give your client a briefing (although this article was written for copywriters, it’s much more widely applicable). That will help them to understand what you’re providing – and will also help you to understand their role, and how happy they are with progress to date.
4. Managing Risk
Risk comes in two forms: the risk you predict for any project, and the risk that the client perceives. Both need to be addressed if you’re going to be successful in selling your services.
To identify project risk to you, check the Better Business Bureau for information on your potential client’s reputation and reliability. In addition, states often have their own consumer protection units – for example, Georgia’s offers useful information on how to file complaints.
To soothe client-perceived risk, you need to do some research – as outlined above, look at the company website to understand their likely top areas of concern. Next, focus on how your services can help to reduce these risks. In your pitch, tell your client concisely (but precisely) how you’re going to mitigate their key fears, as they relate to the project. In addition, stress that if they have any further concerns that they would like to discuss, you’d be happy to talk to them.
5. Taking the Pain Out of Proposal Writing
All of your research is ultimately dedicated to ensuring that you are able to create a great, persuasive pitch: one that correctly identifies solutions to your clients’ needs, shows your deep understanding of the market, and connects with them in some way.
If you can do this, you have a great chance of winning the contract. However, proposal writing – particularly if you’re chasing a lot of contracts – can be onerous and time consuming.
Using Bidsketch will make the entire process far easier – pain free, in fact! The solution gives you access to reusable elements such as fees, content, and designs so you can pull a professional-looking proposal together quickly. There are several templates you can use, and you can also provide your own custom HTML or CSS designs:
You can also set the system to send you a message when clients approve proposals (and they are 18% more likely to approve a Bidsketch proposal than a traditional one). In addition, you can keep track of all your current and prospective clients – adding client contact details and private notes to ensure any key information is always at your fingertips.
No matter how the economy fares, selling your business’ services is still a difficult proposition – and it’s an area that requires you to put in the legwork to succeed. The consequences of not doing so doesn’t bear thinking about.
While there are a number of significant challenges in selling to clients, there are also plenty of solutions available given a little work. Let’s recap them quickly:
- Compete with lower-priced rivals on value and quality.
- Win work in a crowded market by focusing on a particular niche or target demographic.
- Get through to decision makers by identifying your best contacts from the outset.
- Manage risk by checking out your clients, and identifying likely client areas of concern.
- Use Bidsketch to ensure your pitches are presented professionally and are easy for clients to sign up to.
Have you encountered any other big challenges in selling, and how did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Geralt.