Practice Pipeline Blog

Is Sales the Enemy of Service?

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Most service professionals are resistant to the idea of selling, even if they are effective service providers to their clients. Sure, they'll attend networking functions from time to time and keep their LinkedIn page up to date, but very few pursue new clientele as if their future depends on it.

I believe this is because many of the characteristics that make for a great service professional are the very traits that make for a poor sales professional.

Sales and service professionals' internal motivations and career demands differ on almost every aspect:

Efficiency

  • Service professionals are judged by their ability to produce results efficiently.
  • Sales professionals must become comfortable with the inefficient decision-making process of a prospective client. It can take months or even years before a prospect engages them.

Uncertainty

  • Service professionals' career depends on their certainty. If they aren't certain about how to handle a client matter or business problem, they could risk feeling incompetent or losing face professionally. They are uncomfortable with uncertainty.
  • Sales professionals deal with uncertainty on a constant basis. Not knowing whether their solution fits the prospect's problem, their prospect's budget, or when their deal is going to close are unknowns that salespeople encounter daily, so they tend to be much more comfortable with not knowing the answer to every problem.

Time

  • Service professionals dedicate nearly all of their time to servicing their clients, leaving little time to pursue new clients.
  • Sales professionals, must not only find new clients, but sell to them, or they don't eat.

Emotional Involvement

  • Service professionals are emotionally dedicated to delivering excellent service to their clients. They are deeply invested in fulfilling their clients' needs.
  • Sales professionals must distance themselves emotionally from their prospective clients lest the frequent stings of rejection become unbearable.

We can see why service professionals struggle with sales; They are neither incentivized nor naturally motivated to pursue clients in the uncertain world of sales.

This doesn't mean that service professionals can't sell, but these facts do illustrate why business development can be particularly challenging for those who are not intrinsically cut out for it. If you resonate with this, fear not; service professionals can leverage their most useful traits to support their sales skills.

Here are a few steps you can take to become more comfortable with sales:

  • Sales is service. The best business developers I know have learned how to mentally re-frame sales as an act of service. They view their offering as a must-have and deliver their message with relentless evangelism.These are the people to emulate, because they believe in what they sell just as passionately as those who believe in how they serve. 
  • Baby Steps. If you feel reluctant to develop your sales skills, don't expect overnight success. Sales skills must be exercised to become stronger, so take baby steps in an aspirational direction. Determine a business development risk you are comfortable taking, where the downside is low, if for no other reason than to exercise your skill. Take that step, then re-assess and continue. Eventually you will find yourself more and more comfortable with the sales process.
  • Remember the big picture: While you develop your sales skills, keep service in mind, knowing that you have something unique to bring to the table with your business development.

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