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Sales Mindset Tips For Professional Services: Serve, Don’t Sell

Sales Mindset Tips For Professional Services: Serve, Don’t Sell

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
8 min read

The key to selling more is not selling at all.

There are tons of sales mindset tips out there, but I implore you to internalize this one.

Yes, my best sales advice is to focus on helping people, not selling them something. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s really not. And maybe even more counterintuitively, it’s critical that you understand sales and how people buy if you want to be any good at it.

Before I get to that, I want you to know why I’m so focused on selling, and what I believe about it.

I can convey it in a single phrase, in just three words: serve, don’t sell.

What do I mean by that?

Let’s start at the very top.


This Article Talks About:

Why Focus On Selling

It’s Next To Revenue

For starters, as a consultant, you can’t thrive – much less continue on with your work – if you’re not able to sell. From that perspective, not being able to sell is a real hindrance and challenge to your business as a whole.

If you can’t sell, you simply can’t develop your business or get better and what it is that you do.

But that’s obvious, right?

It seems like it, but you’d be surprised at how many people just can’t sell effectively, but still balk at selling, which leads me to my next point.

It’s Not Taught Effectively

I’m an avid reader. And when I look around the marketplace, I’ve noticed that sales is not taught effectively.

When it comes to selling, what I’ve seen is that there are some fantastic books such as Spin Selling, New Sales Simplified, and Getting Naked – which is one of the closest books to my paradigm of consulting sales and what I would want to teach people about consultant sales.

But, sadly, there’s nothing specific on selling consulting services.

And I started wondering why that is.

You see, I think this gap in consulting sales training is strange because you – the consultant – spend years honing your skills and getting exceptionally good at what it is that you do to help clients whose situations will improve through the delivery of your expertise.

This is amazing, right?

You’re in business to help other people become better at their business, solve their pains, and improve their lives, which is why, in my opinion, you have an obligation to not only help them with their pains but also to teach them to become more effective.

Which is exactly the third point on this list.

You Have An Obligation

Let’s face it, we’re all humans, and there’s obviously a limit to what we can do to help, but I do believe we have an obligation to serve others.

In fact, I believe that part of the meaning of life for us as human beings is really participating in our communities, serving others, and helping others.

That’s where our personal fulfilment draws from.

But there’s a problem with this approach.

You can’t fulfil your obligation without being effective at selling.

We all need to pay for a lot of things; we all need to bring money to our businesses, and the thing that allows to bring in more of it is effective selling.

Yet, there’s this huge gap because nobody’s teaching you how to sell your services effectively.

You see, regardless of what you sell, I bet that your education more than likely was not how to sell effectively and, yet, it turned out to be one of the most critical things in your business.

And you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself.

Enter the fourth point of this section.

You Can’t Fulfill Your Consulting Projects Unless You Sell Them First

Before we continue, let’s take a look at some metrics.

The way that I look at a consulting business’ revenue is pretty simple:

On the one hand, you have leads, which represents the number of people interested in what you’re doing.

On the other, you have your sales or the conversion percentage.

So, if you have 100 leads and 5 of them converted, you have 5 clients and your conversion percentage is 5%

Now, multiply that by your average client value. Let’s say $20,000. That’s your service delivery. In this model, your 100 leads become 5 clients, which give you $100,000 in revenue at the end of the year.

Well, this approach and these metrics speak specifically to your effectiveness in the sales process.

And I believe the best way to be the most effective in your process is to serve, rather than sell.

I know I’ve been talking about this the whole post, but we’re getting closer. Bear with me, because I’m about to show you what I’m talking about.

Sales Mindset Tips: How To Sell More Effectively

Serve, Don’t Sell

This is the one tip to end all other sales mindset tips.

Trust me.

I believe the way to be most effective in your sales process is to serve rather than sell. I know it sounds counter-intuitive and I’m aware of the irony.

But keep in mind that the way you sell as a consultant is different from the way people are teaching you to sell in general.

And I think there’s a huge reason for this:

Most of the selling techniques are 40, 50 years old and the sales landscape and the decision-making processes have changed a lot since these techniques were developed.In short, classic selling techniques are product-driven and short-term focused.

And as a consultant, you are not selling a product, you’re selling a service.

So, what’s the difference there?

Well, when people buy a product, they don’t have to talk to someone after they’ve bought that product in most cases.

Let’s use my vacuum cleaner as an example. I have two Dyson vacuum cleaners, and I haven’t had to talk to anybody from Dyson since I bought them.

This means that product sales are largely transactional while consulting sales are relational.

In consulting services, what you’re selling is, essentially, yourself or other people on your staff.  People are part of the sales process, and people are the product.

Because of that, the impression you make during the sales process will largely affect the impression clients will have of you and your services.

Here’s another example. I once paid a HubSpot subscription, and they paired me with an Account Executive to help me with the onboarding. But this guy was an awful salesperson. It was cringeworthy to sit there and listen to him, but since I wanted the service, I had to listen so he could collect his commission and I could use the software. He was just a means to an end.

Even if you don’t deliver the services yourself, the negative perception people have will bleed negatively into the perception of the service you will deliver.

That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, I’m adamant that what you should do is serve, don’t sell.

But how do you actually serve your clients?

Ways To Serve

Play The Long Game

Sales mindset tips often leave out time horizon.

In most consulting services –unless you have a very inexpensive, short, project-oriented service – we thrive on having repeat business or long-term projects.

This means that you should play a short-term game; instead, play a long game with no end. If you intend to be a consultant forever, the only implication that makes sense is to play a long-term game knowing that even if someone doesn’t buy from you now, they might do it in the future.

They might be a referral source, and whether or not they buy from me – or you – now is not relevant because there are many other ways we can serve each other in the long run.

That’s why you need to try and understand your client and find ways to serve them and put their interest ahead of your own. Even if it’s not tied to revenue.

Let me show you a couple of examples that would qualify as serving your clients’ best interest. I guarantee some of these might surprise you.

Refer Them Somewhere Else If Appropriate

We’ve all been in this situation: you’re on the phone with a client, and you start to see that you’re probably not a good fit. Maybe it’s not your perfect client type, you’re not sure you’re going to get the results, or maybe they’re not ready to work with you yet.

In this case, the right thing to do is to refer them if you know of an option that would be more helpful to them that you would be.

That’s one of the best examples of serving and not selling.

For instance, I do sales training and coaching for consultants and one of the problems people come to me with that I could solve but it’s not cored to my business is lead generation and marketing.

For those cases, I have people I can refer my clients to. The same goes for other areas because there are many other people who could work with my clients that solve problems that I don’t solve and those are the type of referral partners that I want.

If they have a problem that you don’t solve, just refer them to someone else.

In this scenario, the opposite of serving would be trying to convince someone that they should pay you money even if you know they should be focusing on something else.

But of course, there are times when the best way you can help someone is to tell them that you can actually help them.

That’s why you should…

Tell Them You Can Help Them

Sometimes, you can help people, and when that happens and you know you can help them improve their situation, that also qualifies as serving. If you take the client’s best interest into account, you should say “I can help you, and here’s why.”

And you’ll want to substantiate that when you do say it, but that’s definitely another way to serve that is related to being able to pinpoint the problem your client is having.

Pinpoint And Clarify The Problem

When someone comes to you, they’re frustrated; they’ve some tried things, they want to improve their situation.

Ultimately, these people want to buy a better future. They want to buy a better version of themselves.

To make tomorrow better, we all have to live in reality and identify those things that, if changed, are most likely to create the results that you want.

As a consultant, part of your job is to add clarity, to elucidate, and to illuminate for your clients what’s going on right now in their situation.

That might mean telling them that what their weak points are, and that you can help them tackle those weak points, even if their problems are not what they initially thought.

Whatever you’re helping with, help your clients pinpoint and clarify their problems.

Resist Talking Price Prematurely

One of the questions I get all the time is “how should talk about price if I’m not ready to do it.”

Well, believe it or not, resisting to talk about price is another way you can serve your clients.

You can say, for example: “Here’s a range where most of our projects fall into; I don’t know how much this project will cost yet, and, in order to know, I have a few questions for you.”

When you do that, what you’re showing is leadership. And you’re also showing your clients that you know what you’re doing and that you understand their projects.

This is a demonstration of service that goes beyond them saying “I’m here to serve you.”

It’s demonstrating that you’re there to look after their best interest.

And it only works if you mean it.

Final Thoughts

The core of the Serve, Don’t Sell approach is that you have to focus on helping rather than pitching your service. Of all the sales mindset tips, this is the most powerful.

Your job is to add clarity to their process and pains, even if that means referring them to someone else.

Selling your consulting services can be a long-term game. But if you’re willing to play, the benefits for you and your clients are many.

Here are a few takeaways for you to think about.

  • There’s a huge gap in the market and no one teacher consultants how to sell their services
  • Play the long-term game with your clients
  • Do what’s in your clients’ best interest
  • Refer your clients to other people if you can’t help them
  • Help them understand and clarify their problems
  • Serve, don’t sell