In the Big Discussion we will take one topic, bring together three leading experts on that topic and put four key questions to them to help us better understand its potential impact on the field service sector...
In the first instalment of this topic our experts answered the question "It is often said service technicians are the greatest salesmen – what are your views on this?"
and now onto the second question of the topic...
Is there a difference between selling service and selling products?
Yes, there is an enormous difference.
Selling products requires the salesperson to focus on the form, fit, and function of the product and how it meets the customer’s needs. Selling products is about selling the tangible.
Selling services requires the salesperson to focus on how the service can help the customer solve a problem, improve their situation, or achieve a better outcome.
More importantly, it is about selling the intangible.
In general yes, but not always.
If a service is very tightly defined in terms of the value proposition and delivery, then it can follow a very similar feature/benefit selling process of a product. In other words selling against a tightly defined customer specification. An example of a service sold in this way might be an extended warranty.
The difference comes when the customer need is less well defined. Here the selling process moves towards addressing a business problem and involves an element of co-creation between the customer and supplier.
The more co-creation that is required, the more business orientated the discussion becomes. Not only is the sales process very different in terms of the discussion and detail, but also the management level at which the decision maker sits tends to be more senior. So yes, the more co-creation is required, the greater the difference.
In technical terms, there is a difference between selling service and selling products. You can touch and feel a product. You can see and hear it operate. You can see the craftsmanship in its features.
Selling a product often involves helping the customer see the benefits in the product’s attributes and purchase decisions rely on both the trust built by the seller and the product’s features and track record.
A service, on the other hand, may not necessarily be seen, felt or heard. Good service may even result in the absence of something (fewer unexpected outages, less downtime or fewer complaints for example). Selling a service is more about helping the customer see the benefits of the experience the service will create for them. Success in selling tangibles depends on the salesperson’s ability to help the customer envision the experience the service will provide. Purchase decisions for services tend to rely more heavily – if not exclusively – on the customer’s trust of the seller.
In practical terms I don’t think that this difference is very important when a field service professional makes a recommendation as a trusted advisor. In most cases the field service professional has high levels of trust from both a personal and a professional perspective. The approaches that he or she uses to justify the recommendation will be the same whether product or service.
Look out for the next part of this series when we ask our panel "Is incentivising service technicians to 'sell' opening up new revenue streams or putting their “trusted advisor” status at risk?