I recently got pulled into a conversation with an industry leading strategist pitching that my agency should stop selling services and start selling strategy. Why? –– Higher profit margins, less work, and less accountability. I will admit, it sounds nice…
But I don’t sell either, and have a bone to pick with that mentality; that is, with the perception that you can just sell strategy and make someone successful. A great strategy is difficult to design, but is insufficient by itself. The hardest part lies in knowing how to implement. This requires the right timing, the right cadence, the right adjustments, and most importantly, the right people. The quality of implementation is paramount to the success of any given strategy.
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Even a subpar strategy with flawless implementation will achieve more toward a client’s goal than a perfect strategy with no guidance on how to get the client all the way to the end.
What I want to introduce is the entirely separate concept of selling value. The magnitude of this difference is the disparity between having a paper map of a foreign city, and having a native friend there with you to show you the sites and pitfalls alike. A map does you no good if it does not know about construction blockades, or it cannot recommend one restaurant over another. Neither can a brilliant strategist who offers a strategy alone give critical advice on how to navigate through the hardships of implementation. And giving that advice brings enormous value to your business as a professional services agency which cannot be gotten any other way.Selling value differs from selling strategy or services in the same way that a contractor showing step by step how to build a home differs immensely from staring long and hard at a set of blueprints. Offering value in this way positions you as a partner to your client whereas selling strategy leaves you as a mere vendor. Not only can vendors not give true value, but the title of “Partner” carries many benefits with it including:
- Longer lifetime value of clients
- Larger retainer sizes of clients
- Increased trust in the business relationship
- Mutual sharing of goals
So, what does selling value look like in the sales process?
It looks like taking the time to determine the root of why the client is seeking assistance in the first place, much like how a doctor should take the time to understand and listen to his or her patient closely before making a diagnosis.
It requires aligning with the client’s goals and taking all your knowledge of your marketing profession to figure out whether that goal is realistic or not based on the data. Oftentimes, goals are not realistic or are slightly mispositioned. The interesting part comes when you both sit down and talk about what is feasible going forward in a partner relationship.
It’s about adopting a “your company is my company” kind of attitude. Establishing a level of commitment to the client that lets them know that their success is your success, and that you sell an inclusive, transparent partnership that offers reaching personal and professional goals alike.
It’s incorporating the hard conversations into the assessment about the internal workings of the client. These could be questions such as why the sales team isn’t closing, why there’s no sales documentation process, or why there’s contention among the marketing people. Or it could be difficult conversations about the client’s revenue. Most importantly, perhaps, it’s being honest and pragmatic enough to be willing to walk away or even be pushed away (it happens!) if the agency-client relationship isn’t a good fit. Don’t worry. It wouldn’t have worked out well anyway if it goes in that direction.
Few professional services agencies opt to set themselves apart by choosing to sell value.
Selling strategy isn’t a lost cause, but is inherently margin-driven, not value-creating. Hüify chooses not to be in the game of margins. Instead, we focus our efforts on the game of growing companies and building long lasting partnerships knowing there is tremendous power in selling the value of getting clients to their goals.