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Sales Just Doesn’t Understand – Wait – Maybe It’s Me!

I started my career working at a consulting firm for twelve years. My job was to help our clients with the opportunity de jour. This could be software selection, implementation, process re-engineering, along with pure management and strategic advice. In short, we were the "pros from Dover" that could dig into the as-is, define a to-be and layout the plan to close the gaps.

It was fun, engaging, and allowed our creativity to flow.

When I was dropped into a software company to build a consulting and professional services organization, I figured I would talk to the sales team, explain the as-is/to-be roadmap approach – and they’d be off to the races selling consulting services.

Instead, I found that what product sales teams were good at and comfortable with was “selling Susie the subject matter expert (SME).” That is, they could walk into a client, explain Susie’s background and technical chops – and they could come away with a purchase order for 160 hours for Susie.

I saw this model in the three different verticals:

Susie was the SME for Vertical 1; Scott the SME for Vertical 2; and Tony for Vertical 3.

On the one hand, Susie, Scott and Tony seemed to appreciate the model.  They were in high demand, esteemed by their peers, and respected by their clients.

On the flip side, they often worked 60 – 70 (sometimes 80) hours a week – all because the product sales team was selling “them as the product.”

This approach scales for software, but it sure doesn’t scale for the individual.  Nor does it enable the services organization to scale.

To get out of this “sell the SME” approach and into a more repeatable – and growth-oriented model – services organizations need to define and package repeatable service offerings – thus enabling products sales to sell “services as a product” (oh yes, the irony here!).

What I mean by “services as a product” is the:

1) Definition of the consulting/services offerings offered by the organization
  • Pitch deck that lays out the offering and deliverables
2) Standardized pricing by offering
  • As consultants we may be used to “it depends” when it comes to pricing, but to get product sales more acclimated to selling services, define a “list price” for each offering (sure, there can be a range of prices, but keep it simple)
3) Package up past/sample deliverables
  • Nothing helps your sales team (and your clients) understand what you do better than seeing examples

The packaging of services offerings gives the product sales team the confidence that 1) the services organization knows what they are doing; 2) they (the sales team) can walk in and have a conversation about services (in much the same way they do about the software product).

An additional benefit of “productizing your services” is that you end up arming the services team with the assets that help them deliver on the work.

  • Less tenured/experienced services personnel can deliver the work;
  • This helps break the capacity constraints of “only Susie the SME can do this;
  • Enabling the services organization to more readily grow.

And that is why we should look at selling “services as a product.”

Author: Mark E Sloan | msloan@withum.com

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