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Business Development

How to Sell More Services

By Kristin Zhivago

If you were selling fruit and customers wanted to buy apples, wouldn’t you make sure you had apples? And wouldn’t you let them know you had apples? Of course you would. But this simple scenario gets so much more complicated when you’re selling something complex, like most legal services.

As the “seller,” we always assume we know what our clients want. So we include those assumptions on our websites, in our ads and in our search engine terms. Making assumptions, however, is a very bad idea.

Years of interviewing thousands of clients has convinced me that our assumptions about what our clients really want and how they want to buy it are always off the mark. The reasons why they bought—and the process they went through while buying—are different than what you are assuming.

Not Knowing Is a Problem

This gap between your assumptions and their reality is reducing the amount of money you could be making. It’s literally placing “barriers to the sale” in your clients’ way as they attempt to buy your services.

Here’s how the “finding you” process generally goes:

  1. Recommendations. People investigating complex services start by asking others who they might recommend, and by entering certain search terms into Google.
  2. Referrals. Positive referrals only come from positive experiences: How you treat your existing clients and how successful you are at advocating on their behalf. That part of the marketing equation is firmly in your control. If your clients are satisfied, referrals will be positive.
  3. Website. After obtaining a referral or finding you via search, the potential client will then come to your website. How effective your website is as a “persuasion tool” depends completely on its relevance to their need. If potential clients are looking for apples and you spend all your time talking about figs, they will quickly click away and look elsewhere. If you make it clear you sell apples—and further, just the kind they want—they will stay on your website, finding out everything they can.
  4. Contact. If your website answers the actual, specific questions they are asking, and you answer those questions to their satisfaction, they will contact you.

This is how successful marketing works.

How do you know the questions they are asking? You may think you know, but as thousands of interviews have proven, making assumptions will cause you to answer the wrong questions.

Here’s the Big Secret

You can find out everything you need to know about how your future clients want to buy your services by asking your current clients how they bought your services. If you ask them correctly, they will tell you:

  • Exactly what they were thinking as they went through their buying process
  • The problem they wanted to solve when they started looking for you
  • The search terms they used and the questions they asked while obtaining referrals
  • Why they thought you could solve that problem for them
  • How well you solved that problem (or not)
  • What they think of your competitors, and so on

Your current clients will also reveal that “special something” they appreciate about you. This is the positive message they will give anyone who asks them for a referral. This “special something” should be in all of your marketing and selling materials. It is the promise that you actually keep—rather than the one you’ve been promoting.

Your clients will never tell you what they’re really thinking while they are being sold to, because they are defending themselves against the attempt to push them into buying. After they become clients, though, they will happily tell you what they were thinking. But you must ask them the right way.

It’s simple, and almost cost-free. You, or someone you hire, calls current clients on the phone and asks open-ended questions. Amazingly, you will get all the information you need after about 10 interviews. Generally, you’ll start to see trends by the fifth call.

Armed with this information, you can create a website that will be just what they’re looking for. And it won’t sound like “market speak.” It will sound like them. You will also be able to map out your potential clients’ buying process. You can then remove all the barriers to the sale that are currently in their way, and make it easy for them to engage you. You will provide all the right things to them at the right place and time, just as they’re hoping you will.

You will also find out what you could be doing better. This is important to know, because when asked for a reference, your current clients will include this “not so great” information, too. You want to know these negatives and fix them.

By doing the interviews and attacking the low-hanging fruit, you will start seeing positive results—in most cases, within weeks.

Kristin Zhivago is a revenue coach who helps entrepreneurs and CEOs increase their revenue. She is an expert on the customer’s buying process, and the author of Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy. Kristin blogs at Revenue Journal.

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Strategy, Lawyer Skills
Originally published February 16, 2012
Last updated June 1, 2020
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Kristin Zhivago

Kristin Zhivago is a revenue coach who helps entrepreneurs and CEOs increase their revenue. She is an expert on the customer’s buying process, and the author of Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy. Kristin blogs at Revenue Journal.

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