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client-first sales strategies
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The Podcast

#001. How Service-Based Selling Will Transform Your Business: 3 Essential Steps that Will Turn Prospects into Paying Clients

January 1, 2020

Episode ONE is in the books (and it’s a REALLY GOOD ONE!). And I’m recapping everything I talked about below! You can also listen to the full episode above OR check it out on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to all your favorite podcasts!

Oh, and if you’re looking for that FREE GUIDE I mentioned in the episode, here it is:

 This is my first attempt at a podcast. I’ve never done it before and I have SO MUCH I want to share with you. It was honestly really hard to just pick one topic, but this is a topic I absolutely love talking about. It’s also something that’s applicable to everyone. So today we are talking about SERVICE BASED SALES. I’ve got three easy, essential steps that will turn your potential clients into paying clients.

So why would I even chose this topic? I’m sure a lot of you are wondering about that. The word “sales” is not very sexy in the creative industry. That’s actually why I want to talk about it! I think a great sales process can totally transform your business. I think it allows you to serve your clients better, and it makes our industry and our world a better place. You probably think I’m crazy for saying that but I truly believe it, which is why I’m going to share all about my own sales process today. Then I’ll give you some really easy steps to follow so that you can implement these tips right away. So let’s get started!

Today we are talking about SALES and specifically SERVICE-BASED SALES. You may be thinking “what even is that?” Here’s my definition: this is an approach to working with clients that focus on uncovering their unique needs so that those needs can be met in a personalized way. This not only gives your client the best service possible, but makes them feel known and cared for, leading to an ideal working relationship and very satisfied customer.

I call it service-based sales simply because that’s why I’ve come to call my own process. I strongly believe a great sales process is not just about getting your clients in the door, but instead, it’s about serving your client really well. You might wonder what it actually means to serve your client well – and that brings us back to what our episode is all about today! I’m going to show you how serving your client well through the sales process is going to set you up for success and also give your client the best service possible. I’ve got 3 Essential Steps that you can use to turn potential clients into paying clients using service-based sales.

We’re going to go through those steps in just a second, but before we do, I want to share a little more about how I developed this process and why it became really important to me (it wasn’t something I just thought of out of the blue!) this is actually something that comes from my background, before I started my business. First of all, I worked for an online wedding networking company before I started my business. I worked in their sales department and sold advertising to wedding professionals . . . maybe you even got a call from me at some point in the past! This job taught me a lot about what it means to be a really great salesperson. The second thing is that right when I was starting my business, I was also a client myself. I was engaged and planning my own wedding, so I learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like about working with wedding vendors. That set me up to serve my future clients really well. I knew what it was like to be planning a wedding and also knew the kinds of things that couples would want from me as a wedding photographer. Two other things that really effected me as I was developing an approached to sales in my business: again, having been a past bride, I knew how expensive weddings were! I didn’t want to offer something to an engaged couple that wasn’t worth every penny. In developing my sales process, I really wanted to communicate that value upfront – why I was worth the money. I wanted them to be confident in their decision. The last reason I developed this sales process the way that I did was simply because I wanted to book clients! That is probably the most obvious reason, but I really did want to convince people that I was the right choice for them for their wedding photographer. And the reason for that is that I truly believe that if couples work with me, they’re going to have an incredible experience and love their photos.

That’s why having a great service-based sales process is important to me. Maybe you can related to one of these or maybe you can’t, but regardless, I think that this episode is really going to help improve your sales process and give your clients a better experience all the way around.

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into this approach!

Let me repeat what I said before:  this is an approach to working with clients that focus on uncovering their unique needs so that those needs can be met in a personalized way. This not only gives your client the best service possible, but makes them feel known and cared for, leading to an ideal working relationship and very satisfied customer.

In the creative industry, we talk a lot about building trust. You’ve probably heard someone at some point talk about the know-like-trust strategy. This concept is entirely based around the idea that clients what to buy from people they trust. The way we build that trust is they first need to get to know us. That knowing leads to liking, and eventually, liking leads to trust. I hear this strategy talked about all the time in the creative industry and for good reason. This strategy is effective – particularly by using in on social media, your blog, or other places online. But what we don’t talk about is the reverse of this. In order to build a really strong foundation of trust, clients not only need to know you, but BE KNOWN by you. They need to feel known, validated and embraced for who they are. This is equally as important in leading your client to want to buy from you. Honestly, I think this is just important in general for building a strong relationship with your client and doing an excellent job for them. You want your clients to feel confident about working for you and be happy every step of the way. If they feel like you really understand them, then they’re going to have a way better experience all the way through.

Let’s talk about how to build that trust.

We’re going to build this relationship through a real face-to-face or over-the-phone conversation with your client. My strategies definitely don’t work over text, email or DMs on social media. It’s really important that this all happens in a real, live conversation. And just as a side note, if you feel like you have NO IDEA how to even get clients to this point, please check out my FREE GUIDE: 3 FULL-PROOF STRATEGIES TO TURN AN INQUIRY INTO A CONVERSATION. I am going to be talking more about this in the future because I think it’s super important to get your client to that conversation. Business happens LIVE. Clients want to hire a real person! I highly encourage to check out this guide and keep it in mind as you listen to this podcast!

We have three strategies to talk about:

Uncovering the needs of your potential client 

Validating those needs

Meeting those needs in a personalized way

There is a lot to do here! I’m going to tell you why each of these three are important and what you can do to get started on that.

The first step is uncovering your potential client’s needs. For this step, think like a detective. I don’t mean you should be sneaky or deceitful in any way, but you also don’t want them to feel like they’re being grilled in an interview. How can you approach this as a friendly conversation of just getting to know your potential client? The answer to that is asking the right questions!

I call these the *MAGIC QUESTIONS*

Magic questions are questions that are going to get your potential clients to open up and start talking more about who they are, what their needs are, and what they want from you. Everyone’s magic questions are different. I could give you mine, but you know what to ask better than I do! I will help you start to brainstorm what those questions should be. Your magic questions should be centered around your ideal clients’ pain points.

How do you feel about the term “pain points?” It sounds really negative, doesn’t it? Well, let me explain!

A pain point is simply a specific problem that your potential client is experiencing. Every one of your clients has a pain point. Your client might be coming to you because of that pain point! But you don’t know what that pain point is in advance, and you need to find out. So at a very high level, the service you provide is solving the pain point. For example, with wedding photography, the most obvious pain point is simply that the couple is in need of a photographer for their wedding day. But what we’re going to discover in this process is that your client has some deeper pain points that they might not even realize they have. That’s what we’re going to discover using these magic questions.

So, start brainstorming. What are your ideal clients’ pain points? What are the things they’re concerned about? What are the things that worry them? What are their greatest hopes and dreams, and what is threatening those dreams? These are the types of things that you’re going to center your questions around. This might seem a little intimidating, especially if you’re new in your industry and you’re not really sure what your ideal client worries about or hopes & dreams of, but that is OK! You’re going to develop this list over time. But I want you to take 5-10 minutes to make a list of all the things you’ve ever heard a client talk about that fits into these categories.

Once you have that list, the next thing you’re going to do is develop questions around these pain points. You already know that each person is unique and has their own unique set of problems, and that is exactly why we’re developing these questions. You need to treat each one of these clients as an individual person with unique needs. The first step of discovering those needs is asking the right questions to get to the bottom of it. So as your looking at your list of pain points that you just made, what kind of questions can you ask your potential clients that will get you talking about this type of thing?

Examples? If you’re a wedding vendor, here’s a few pain points I hear all the time from engaged couples:

Couples really want to enjoy their wedding day stress-free but sometimes it feels like that’s impossible.

Brides really want to feel beautiful and attractive on their wedding day and they’re worried they might not.

Couples don’t want to be involved in the boring, nitty-gritty details

Most couples say that what is most important to them is just enjoying time with their friends and family that they don’t get to see very often that are all going to be in one place at one time.

These are just a few, and again, if you’re in the wedding industry, you know that there are a BUNCH of these! Every vendor is different, but let’s say you’re like me and you’re a wedding photographer. How can you start to uncover those needs?

Here’s a few questions that I ask:

How is wedding planning going so far? This is great because it’s open-ended and if the couple is a little more open to start with, they’ll start spilling all the different things that are important to them, that they’re worried or stressed by, and I really didn’t have to do much work at all to get there!

What are you most excited about? This reveals their priorities really quickly and it also sometimes comes along with the concern that their priority might not happen.

What has been most stressful for you so far? This is a question that I don’t ask right away because it would start the conversation out on a negative note. I ask this when we get ta little deeper and I’ve already got them talking about the things they’re excited about. Then I can ask them this really direct questions (especially if they haven’t shared this yet) to get to the bottom of what they’re most worried about

Tell me more about your vision is for your wedding day. Again, this will reveal their priorities and get them talking about what they’re most excited about, and then we can digging in to those pain points.

There are a ton more questions you can ask, but hopefully this gave you some ideas regardless of whether or not you’re in the wedding industry. But I want to talk to my non-wedding vendor friends as well! As you might know, I also teach and mentor other creative entrepreneurs, and here are a couple questions that I ask them:

What’s been working really well for you in your business? This is super open-ended and they’ll start talking about the things they’re most passion about. Then I can ask them:

What hasn’t been working very well? This starts digging into the pain points and opens up the conversation.

What does your dream life look like in 5 years for now? This casts a vision of what they’re really hoping for but they don’t have yet (at least that’s typically what happens if they’re seeking mentorship with me). And this sets me up for my next question:

What is your biggest roadblock in getting to that dream life? Right here, we’re getting to the pain point and discovering what the client needs.

There are so many more questions you can ask and it does really depend on what service you offer to clients, but this first step is important because you’re learning all about what your client needs. You’re figuring out what they want to change in their life – what’s most important to them. As they’re talking, they’re being heard. They’re going to feel known by you. This exchange is personal in general, and that personal connection is going to lead them to like you more and then trust you more.

Never skip this step! It’s essential in building the trust with your client that you need to be able to get them to the finish line of working with you and also establishing a great relationship in general.

That was step one, now let’s talk about step two!

Now that you’ve uncovered some pain points and got to know them, it’s time to make them FEEL known and cared for. Not just that you know their pain points – but you care about them. We played detective before, and now we’re going to play therapist (I know that sounds crazy but stick with me). We’re playing therapist because we’re digging in to what’s really important to them and then we’re making them feel validated and known. We’re helping them work through their problems and ultimately show them how and why we’re the solution.

How do you make your client feel known and cared for? We’re going to do this by acknowledging what your client said before and then showing them that it’s also important to us. That is going to radically change how they view you. You identified the pain points and now it’s time to validate them!

Validating, in this case, means that you’re assuring them that their needs and worries are valid – they’re OK! You’re not shocked or bothered by them. They’re totally normal. Not only that, but you know what to do. Validating your clients’ pain points is going to release tension and stress that your client feels about hiring your type of profession in general. It’s going to break down walls and barriers and hesitations they have about moving forward with you and also create a level of vulnerability and a bond that’s going to make them trust you.

So how do you go about validating your clients’ pain points? Here are a couple things you need to do:

Dig deeper than surface level

Make sure you actually understand what they mean

Give words of assurance

First, to get to that deeper level, ask clarifying questions to make sure that you really understood. The best way to do this is to just repeat back what your client has said to you to make sure you heard them correctly. As an example, if I’m talking to an engaged couple and they’ve been talking about how they’re stressed about their wedding day timeline and worry they’re not going to have enough time for everything, I could say: “it sounds like you’re really worried about the timeline for your day and making sure everything fits together perfectly. Is that right?” By repeating back their words, you’re not only making sure you understand the true pain point, but you’re also showing that you were listening and that you care. A lot of people are tempted to skip this second step because it may feel unnecessary. Maybe you’re thinking that if they’ve already said it out loud and you heard it, can’t you just move on to the next step? You really need to do this step for a couple reasons!

First of all, showing your client that you’re listening and you care really does build an extra layer of trust. Also, you want to make sure that they acknowledge their own pain point. It sounds kind of crazy, but a lot of people don’t actually realize they have a problem or pain point until it’s pulled out of them by someone else. So, you might be having a conversation and they talk about something they’re stressed about, and they just breeze right over it and don’t even realize what they’ve said. In this second step where you’re validating their needs, you’re also making sure they understand their own needs. Repeating their words back to them is going to reaffirm that they HAVE a pain point and that they need to pay attention to that – it’s stressing them out or worrying them (or maybe even just something they’re really hoping for)! Make sure that you acknowledge that – that it’s important to you and it should be important to them, too. Only after you do this can you move on to the next step.

The third thing you need to do is to demonstrate that you can meet your clients unique needs in a personalized way. Those first two steps have set you up to do this perfectly. You understand your client’s needs, you’ve built trust, you validated that their needs are important, and now you know exactly what issues your service needs to solve in order to give your client the best experience possible.

You might be thinking: my clients’ pain points have nothing to do with my service.

Think back to the wedding photography example. How is a client being stressed out about their timeline for their day have anything to do with wedding photography?

I’m so glad you asked!

Remember that list of pain points you made at the very beginning? All of those pain points also have answers! Pull out that list and start looking through it. You might think initially that those pain points are totally unsolvable with your service, but I want you to think a little harder about that. Think about what you’re really good at and how you genuinely solve problems for your clients. I want you to think outside the box here. As creatives, we’re in a service-based industry, which means the way in which we serve is often more important that the service itself. I do think that is hard for a lot of us to believe. And of course it’s important. But likely what’s really going to set you apart from other businesses is amazing customer service.

So, start thinking about how your amazing customer service can solve some of your clients’ pain points. This is an opportunity to really think outside the box and to examine your clients’ experience in general. You want to be an amazing service provider – you want to do the best job possible for your clients! Your customer service is a really easy way to improve your clients’ experience overall!

A few examples from my own experience in the wedding industry – back to that question about “how is wedding planning going?” About 75% of the time, my couples are feeling pretty negative about the wedding planning process. They are stressed, exhausted. A lot of people straight-up say that they hate it or joke about how they should have eloped (ok that’s extreme, but you get the picture). This is a really great opportunity for me. I’m able to jump in and say that it’s a huge priority to me that wedding photography is fun, relaxed and enjoyable. I don’t want wedding photography to be added to that list of stressful things. My priority is not just that they receive beautiful photos, but also that they have an amazing time on their wedding day and don’t even have to think twice about their wedding photography. That’s usually what couples hold on to when they work with me!

You might be thinking: I know you say that to your clients, but does it REALLY make a difference? Short answer: YES!

Here’s how big of a difference it makes: believe it or not, I’ve received multiple reviews from past clients before I even send them their wedding gallery. Before they’ve seen a single photo, I’ve received reviews – GLOWIING reviews – from some of the best clients about how much they loved working with me . . . AND THEY HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN THE PHOTOS YET. This has happened multiple times, not just once. I think that really proves my point that customer service is super important. I mean, I think my photography is really great, but I know I’m not THE BEST photographer out there. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of talented photographers in the world. I definitely don’t think this is a reflection of me being the very best artist on the market.

So, let’s back it up, look at that list of pain points you made, and start thinking about how your customer service can fill in your clients needs.

Let’s review these three steps:

ONE: Get to know your clients pain points by asking good questions. Make your list of MAGIC QUESTIONS

TWO: Validate those needs by clarifying and reassuring them that their needs are totally normal

THREE: Demonstrate how you’re going to meet those needs with your own service.

Are you going to get started on this? My challenge to you is to just start making a list of potential pain points that your client has. When I first started, I actually had a note on my phone and every time I thought of one or heard one, I would write it down and then I’d think about how I could make my service better to meet those needs. It’s important to me that my service not only serves my clients really well, but also makes our industry as a whole a better place. Ultimately, I do want to make a sale. But I also want it to be worth every single penny that they spend. When it’s all said and done, I want to receive that glowing review because they had an amazing experience with me. Hopefully you can see how this starts the relationship off strongly and it’s not just going to get clients in the door, but also make them lifelong fans.

Start making that pain point list, make your list of magic questions, keep it handy, add to it regularly, get to know it really well, and you, my friend, are on your way to be a pro service-based salesperson. 

Thanks again for checking out this very first episode! Your support means the world to me!

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