Service not selling? You have options

If your business sells intangibles, you can’t blame the ether for lackluster sales. Look at your alternatives for boosting them. Ask yourself: Do I need to change something about the service or its pricing structure, or add a new service?

Matthew Burlile was offering website maintenance but felt he could organize it more fairly. As founder of 7 Day Web Design in Temecula, Calif., he noticed that client commitment to a monthly service led to two problems.

“I was getting more work than I was being paid for or I was being paid for no work,” he says, “so it wasn’t working either for clients or me.”

Burlile started charging per project for as little as one month.

Brett Cotter, CEO and founder of Stress Is Gone LLC in Queens, N.Y, seeks to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder. He grew up in the military with relatives who’d served in combat. Cotter was coaching veterans and paramilitary, and offering corporate training in stress management, but wanted to strengthen his mix of services. A random email led to attending a panel on which he gauged venture capitalists’ interest on projects from 20 entrepreneurs.

“I noticed a blueprint of the ones they liked,” Cotter says, “a subscription website with one or two mobile apps to back up the offering.”

His app with three subapps to counter PTSD is free to veterans.

Alaia Williams, owner of Alaia Williams Consulting in Los Angeles, found that her hourly services organizing homes and offices weren’t generating optimal revenue, partly because clients weren’t seeing projects to completion.

“I wondered where I was going wrong,” she says.

A colleague suggested dropping the hourly charges in favor of a prepaid package.

Williams says the revised offering changed the perception of her clients, many of who had spent months, even years, becoming so disorganized that she had to help them search for checks to pay her.

“They were paying their bills late,” she says. “So why would I expect them to pay me on time?”

Susan Luskin, president of Diversified Administration Inc. in Hollywood, Fla., was selling Employee Retirement Income Security Act documents so employers could meet government requirements for employee benefits plans. Wilting sales prompted her to find a way to persuade clients to buy something that they need only if the Labor Department comes calling. (Employers that lack it can be fined $100 per day.) Bundling this document service with two others led to greater efficiency, faster service delivery and easier sales.

RESULTS

All four entrepreneurs got results by fine-tuning their services.

“Document sales in the first quarter of 2014 increased 15 percent,” Luskin says.

Burlile and his clients find his service fair and benefit from reduced conflict. More potential clients are calling Cotter.

Williams found herself doing more projects as her income increased, partly because clients, having paid in advance, would contact her to follow through. It also led to two other services, consultations with a plan for the self-propelled and business consulting.

Here is what the four advise if your service is underperforming:

■ Do your research; develop and implement a plan (Cotter).

■ Make certain you’re marketing to the correct people (Luskin).

■ Price and charge differently; develop packages; deliver the service differently, perhaps even as an online course (Williams).

■ Consider doing things differently from everyone else (Burlile).

Dr. Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2014 Passage Media.

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