When I went into business doing social media and marketing, I thought I knew what I was about and what set me apart. Then I started meeting other consultants (in and out of my field) and clients, and was surprised by one thing: people were gravitating towards me in droves. My reputation began to precede me, and when I walked into a room people knew who I was and wanted to put a face to the stories.
I was the loud, outspoken young marketing guy.
Two questions burned in me: What sets me apart? and, Can I share with others what makes me successful?
I did a lot of research into what makes a good service provider, coach or consultant and it got the wheels turning. I put my own theories to the test, and found it: I have been (unconsciously) building a personality and set of behaviours people love and appreciate, and makes me approachable.
Now that I have figured it out, I want to share it with you.
If you provide services to people (that is, intellectual and practical support) then this guide is for you. A Google search for "tips for service providers" yields over 25 MILLION results - that's a lot of noise. Here you will find the definitive guide on pit falls to avoid and positive behaviours to enforce to be an excellent service provider. Service providers include therapists, consultants, financial planners, coaches, insurance agents, planners, organizers, real estate agents and more.
The key is they don't (typically) offer products, but may as a side form of income. By being a service provider, your process from marketing to sales, retention and creating advocates is very different than those who sell products (watch for my next guide on excellent customer service for goods providers).
I will give this disclaimer: It is easy enough to name these pitfalls and highly successful behaviours, and another thing to implement them. If any of these qualities need to be honed in on, do it in smaller steps. The testament "either you have it or you don't" IS NOT TRUE.
I will start with common mistakes I see other consultants and service providers make, and offer the solution. Turns out my tried theories are even discussed on other platforms - and I've shared those articles with you too.
1. Many service providers don't have something that truly makes them stand out. Sure they have a kind of cool name, or a partially defined strategic position, and maybe even a blended and somewhat unique service offering. But it's a lot of those "kind of's" and "partially" and "somewhats" that hold them back. What's the easiest and fastest way to combat the half-done nature of most businesses?
a. Have a winning personality. When you're a service provider, YOU are your brand. People want to know, like and trust you to do business with you. Being outgoing (which IS possible for introverts), wise (without showing off), insightful and creative will get you a long way.
2. Information overload is what happens when a specialist in a field tries to share A LOT of technical information to a potential client in an effort to show how much they know. The thing is, as an outside service provider chances are you're already being seeing as an expert - so now you're doing more harm than good by causing your potential client to shut down. How do you combat this?
b. Get to know the person, and make a connection. This way you hear out their entire situation, what they know and don't know about their situation and how you can help. This can prevent you wasting time explaining many technical aspects and possibilities that will harm the relationship. This also makes you a closer contact, so even if you don't close the deal then/there, they like you. By getting to know the situation and making a connection, you're also taking steps to plot the relationship forward (which is important in business, and you can read more on here) As Maya Angelou said, "people won't remember what you said to them: they'll remember how you made them feel."
3. If you find yourself going into meetings to meet a potential client with a solution, package or dollar value in mind first, you are doing more harm than good. Applying a similar, or "cookie cutter" solution to multiple customers does not push you to be a better service provider, does not show you're authentic and may not work out for the client. However, you can challenge this within yourself and for your client by
c. Listening, clarifying and reframing a dilemma or opportunity. Sometimes we need an outsider to provide insight, and illuminate that we may be looking at the problem from the wrong angle (or not at all). When you listen, rephrase and reframe, it shows you are listening, understanding and working to provide solutions. This way you are creating a positive and resilient atmosphere (more on that here). In fact, I always recommend you take this to the next step and
d. Get creative! Always have ideas, but be sure they always come to a cohesive head (that is, the big goal of the client that you uncover). On problem solving and creative solutions that boost your service post, I recommend you read this post.
4. A common (and unhealthy) behavior many service providers will go through at one time or another is to go for the biggest sale first. This is an extension of #3, with a hefty price tag attached. Instead, it is CRUCIAL, you MUST, MUST, MUST
e. Provide value first, always. Give freebies, dispense advice, share ideas and collectively brainstorm without giving the impression you're honing in on the sale. Care for your potential client and provide value first.
5. Finally, the hardest one to overcome: not being able to properly highlight successes (and failures). This requires a delicate balance of hard data you can point to (number of customers you've had, how you've helped) and anecdotal evidence relevant to your potential client. When it comes time to talk how you will truly help a customer,
f. Be prepared to talk facts on your success with appropriate anecdotal evidence in a simple and clear way. This way you'e covering your bases, answering questions and appealing to left- and right- brained clients. There's a great article on this concept here, and on the need for great communication skills.
If you correct these behaviours and replace them with happy, healthy ones you too will be a highly successful service provider. It's tough work when you are your own brand and deliver something that is not tangible. That does not make you less than in business, but means you have a different way of delivering something of value to another person.
Have ideas on this, or need help? I love to chat success, brands and small business: give me a shout here.