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In the world of sales, the way to a sale can vary widely depending on whether an offering is service based, a physical or digital product. Some business development professionals choose to stay in one lane so they can become an expert at selling in one particular segment, but as a sales agency with experience across the realms, we know the unique challenges of selling varied solutions. For example, because our company supplies outsourced services, selling other outsourced services like IT management, business consulting, etc., comes naturally. Selling services can be complex, and after knowing how to do so, it seems easier to sell more straightforward, physical products*.

Each type of sales has its own challenges, and it’s important to understand the nuances involved. So, how do service sales vs. products sales differ? How to excel in either kind? Well, those are great questions! Let’s start with the core differences, or basics that distinguish the two.

What Distinguishes Product Sales from Service Sales

Driving a fundamental difference between service and physical product sales is the attribute of tangibility. Selling physical product allows for hands-on demonstration during which the customer can experience and perceive the product’s value more directly. Services, by contrast, are intangible. This intangibility means that selling services often involves consultative dialogue, explaining features and benefits verbally or through aides like case studies, whitepapers, charts, etc. Services are sold through conceptual selling, which makes the sales process more complex.

It’s also important to mention that when selling services, it’s not only the service itself that will influence a buying decision, but also the credibility and capability of people delivering it.

Other elements to consider:

Customization: Services are typically more customizable than products, with the exception of custom designed/built products which are sold through bidding sales processes and delivered more like a service. While mass-produced products can come in different models or colors, they typically are not tailored to the specific needs of customers.

Relationship Building: Selling services often involves deeper relationship building. Not only do services typically require a longer sales cycle, but even after the sale, it’s crucial to maintain client relationships for renewals and upselling.

Pricing Complexity: Pricing services can be more complex than pricing products. While pricing services, the sales rep must consider the scope, scale, and sometimes the duration of service delivery, which are often less predictable and more negotiable.

What’s Important When Selling Services?

Business development experts know that selling services requires a mix of empathy, adaptability, and strategic thinking. Here are some insights on behaviors to adapt in order to effectively sell services:

1. Establish Trust: Trust is the cornerstone of selling services. Customers must believe in your ability to deliver future outcomes. Building trust starts with understanding their needs, demonstrating your expertise, and previous successes.

2. Use Of Case Studies, Testimonials, and Data: Because services are not physically demonstrable, sharing success stories and testimonials is necessary for providing concrete examples of value and credibility. Data is especially important for B2B-buyers with PNL responsibility, as they may need it to support buying decisions that will affect stakeholders’ bottom lines.

3. Focus on the Solution, Not the Service: When discussing services with potential clients, emphasize the problems you solve, not the service itself. Relate every aspect of your service to a benefit your client will receive, turning features into solutions.

4. Continuous Engagement: Service delivery takes place over time, so keep your clients engaged and informed. Regular updates and check-ins will make your client feel valued and reassured.

The Nuances of Selling Physical Products

Selling physical products, while more straightforward, still requires knowledge to navigate competition and customer expectations. Your strategies should include taking time to:

1. Highlight Unique Selling Propositions (USP): How is your product different and better than others? Focus on the unique aspects of your product, whether it’s innovation, design, price, or quality.

2. Leverage Visual Tools: Use high-resolution images and videos, product samples and other collateral to showcase your product’s features and benefits. Having sample or demo products available for your audience to try is a major plus.

3. Provide Exceptional Customer Experiences: From the point of sale to post-purchase support, ensure that every interaction is aimed at exceeding customer expectations to foster repeat business and referrals.

4. Optimize the Sales Environment: Whether it’s a physical storefront or an online shop, the environment in which you sell your product can significantly impact customer decision-making. Make sure it’s intuitive, accessible, and customer friendly.

Observe, Optimize

If you’re selling a new product or service and want to refine your sales tactics in either realm, remember to adapt your approach to the nature of what you’re selling. Service and physical product sales each have their challenges, but the principles remain the same: understand your customer, deliver value, and build relationships.

When selling services, remember, it’s about selling an ongoing relationship. When offering products, it’s about ensuring the product meets the customer’s immediate and longer-term needs. In both cases, documenting strategies and outcomes is crucial for learning and growth. Keeping track of your journey helps with refining tactics, understanding what works and what doesn’t, especially when transitioning between selling products and services or selling product-service hybrids. Customer feedback, quality scores, or product return rates can help you understand the needs of your market better and help in making informed decisions regarding your business development strategies.

Whether you’re fine-tuning your service offerings or aiming to showcase your products more effectively, we’re here to help guide you through each step of the process. Reach out today with questions for a free consultation tailored for your situation.

*In this article, we generally refer to the sales process for simple products that can sold without technical expertise or custom engineering.

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