In professional services selling, relationships are the key to success. You need to nurture the relationships you have and constantly develop new ones in order to have a consistent, scalable cash flow. Many professional services firms are great at nurturing existing relationships, but struggle developing new ones.
The key to developing new relationships with qualified leads is to give them the right information at the right time. Content marketing is a natural for professional services firms. Professional services buyers turn to web search queries when they start their quest for information.
Getting found when they search for information on the problems you solve is essential to filling your sales funnel with potential new business relationships. But inbound marketing alone isn't enough to have a predictable revenue stream for professional services firms.
Here are 3 easy ways to sell professional services in your professional services marketing strategy.
1. Take advantage of the relationships you already have
The first step any professional services firm should take when developing a revenue generation strategy is to make sure you're maximizing the relationships you have. It all starts by exceeding your customer's expectations by delivering an amazing customer service experience. You can't take advantage of a bad relationship - satisfied customers are the ones who will help you grown by referring you to new customers and buying more of your services. Here are some ways you can take advantage of your relationships.
Ask customers for referrals. Asking for referrals begets receiving them, but many professional services leaders feel uncomfortable asking for referrals. Make asking for referrals part of your service delivery process. When doing service reviews, look for an opportunity to ask for a referral. If the customer is happy about work you've recently done, ask the if they know anyone in their professional circles who you may be able to help. Use good judgment, if the customer isn't 100% happy with your service, look for ways to make them happy before you ask for a referral.
Ask customers to buy more of your services. Working with a customer on a project is the perfect time to identify other opportunities where you can help. Make identifying these opportunities part of your service review process. When talking about these opportunities with your customer, make sure to explain how they will improve business performance and include a prediction of the financial impact on their business.
Ask customers for testimonials. Testimonials are a great way to offer social proof for the value of your services. All of these "asks" should be part of your service review process. If a client agrees to give you a testimonial, write a "mock" testimonial for them to edit. Try to use numerical values like saved $25,000 or reduced transportation costs by 25%.
Ask customers to serve as references. Almost every professional services sale I've ever been involved in has included a request for customer references. Again, ask happy customers in service reviews if they would be willing to occasionally serve as references. When the situation arises, you can reach out to them to confirm rather than ask for a favor at the last minute.
Note that all of the tactics in the list above start with the word "ask". Keep in mind that you have to earn the right to ask your customers for a favor by providing a first-class customer service experience.
2. Generate a consistent flow of new leads with inbound marketing
Inbound marketing, the practice of developing new customer relationships by sharing helpful information, is a natural fit for professional services firms. You know how to solve problems and you can generate new business leads by sharing your knowledge. A good piece of content from a professional services business serves as a free sample that help potential customers see the value of doing business with you. You may have the best content in the world, but if potential buyers don't find it, it's worthless.
Inbound marketing is a series of processes that help you get found by your target audience, move them down your sales funnel buy providing them content that addresses their point, and identifies the right time for sales outreach.
Here are some basics to keep in mind for your professional services inbound marketing.
Start with a professional website optimized for your customers. While search engine optimization is important, your first priority is to optimize your website for customers. Keep your site uncluttered, make navigation logical for visitors and focus on providing information centered around your customers (not you!)
Produce good content consistently. If you're a professional services firm and you're not blogging, shame on you. You can bet your competition is. A good business blog will improve your ability to get found by search engines, promote your firm as a trusted advisor and generate sales leads. Whitepapers and eBooks can be used as premium content on offer in exchange for marketing contact information.
Analyze and optimize your inbound marketing process. Invest in inbound marketing software like HubSpot and use marketing analytics to optimize your process. Identify what works and what doesn't. Ask questions like which content generates the most visits and leads? and which marketing channels are most productive? to consistently generate top-of-the funnel sales leads.
3. Use referrals and prospecting to supplement your inbound lead generation
I run an inbound marketing agency and you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm using outbound lead generation techniques to grow my business. Inbound marketing is an essential business tool in 2015, but growth-oriented professional services firms have an integrated marketing strategy that integrates inbound and outbound marketing techniques. Does that mean annoying potential customers with interruption techniques like cold-calling? No - it means looking for opportunities to help people solve problems. Here are few outbound techniques professional services firms should consider.
Go deep with your networking. Rather than randomly attending network events, look for organizations your target audience frequents. Get deeply involved in these organizations. Join committees, attend events, offer your professional expertise and consider sponsorship and advertising opportunities. This tactic takes time and commitment, but produces results.
Develop a target list and work it. Identify your ideal customer and develop a list of 20-30 targets that share the characteristics of your ideal customer. Research these targets to understand their needs and to look for opportunities to interact with them. Identify the people within these companies that buy and use your services and look for ways to start helpful relationships. Look for people in your professional network who can introduce you to your target buyers. The more you know about these companies, the better you will be able to help them.
Use social media to support your selling efforts. Social selling is an effective, yet underutilized, sales technique. Participate in LinkedIn Groups, answer questions on Quora and look for opportunities to help people in different forums. Remember, it's not about promoting yourself or your company, it's about helping people. It's very important to read the guidelines of each group and social network. If you overstep the guidelines, you'll come across as a spammer and do more harm than good.
Selling professional services requires an effective, multi-channel sales process that includes both inbound and outbound lead generation channels. The good news is that professional services firms are well-situated to take advantage of the modern buying process which is characterized by research before sales interaction. If you're looking to develop your sales process, try these 3 easy ways to sell professional services.