Selling – Products versus Services

B2B, Sales

When I was younger and people would ask me what I did for a living – my typical answer would be – I get out of the house on my rounds and sell whatever I have been asked to sell that day – some times its potato chips, sometimes its computers. That was in a lighter vein but over the years I have been involved in selling so many different products and services that I don’t actually see too many differences.

I fundamentally believe that selling is selling. Irrespective of what you are selling and to whom you are selling. Whether you are selling a product or a service, at the end of the day, the customer is buying a result that the purchase will give her/him. So you need to figure out the result that the customer is looking for and how you can get them the result. However there’s a lot of academic discussions which talk about why they are different.

My two cents on this topic are as follow

  1. Every thing that you sell has a nuance to it. Even within products – different products would have different kind of audiences , different price points, different results, same would be the case with different kinds of services
  2. The orientation of the consumer sale would be different from the business sale, in terms of the complexity involved in the business to business sale (i.e. number of people and steps) and the time involved.
  3. The way you showcase the result could be different – in consumer products you use advertising, while in B2B you might use a direct sales team.
  4. The way you solicit the business may vary – but some consumer products are also sold to businesses and what was once considered a business product (like computers) could soon become a consumer product.

Inspite of all the above points – one distinct difference is that , generally, products have well defined boundaries while it is tougher to put boundaries on what is constituted as a service because humans are involved in the delivery. So standardisation is much tougher.

In most cases today, the product and service get intertwined – do you go to a restaurant because the food is good or because the ambience and service is excellent or all of them.

Till next time then – it doesn’t matter what you are selling as long as you know the result you get for the customer – rest of the things can be managed.

Carpe Diem!!!

Pre-empting conversations

Affirmative action, client management, Fear, Trust

While my experience has been sales and then marketing, I also carry a revenue responsibility.

When you carry a revenue responsibility, managing client engagement becomes a major task.

A lot of times deciphering the why behind the what becomes a tight rope walk. Especially when you are selling services, where, unlike in the case of a product, the boundaries are not clearly defined, managing the gap between the customer expectations and the delivery of services is an every day challenge

One thing I have found useful is to pre-empt the conversation. You don’t give a chance to the customer to come and complain. You go and tell her the challenge, what could be the impact and how you think you are going to solve it. Then you ask the customer for suggestions so that she sees herself as superior to you, which helps manage her ego . Also since you have informed her of the problem, before she could complain, she is now partly responsible for finding the solution. This affirmative action also increases trust.

A lot of the out-bursts which happen when a customer complains, can be completely avoided if we pre-empt things. However most service delivery people are scared to do this out of fear, that the customer will fire them, not realizing that the firing in a complaint situation is even worse.

If you are in services, its always a good idea to pre-empt the conversation if you want to be successful.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!