Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith
You can’t see them — so how to you sell them? That’s the problem with services… This book begins with the core problem of service marketing: service quality. It then suggests how to learn what you must improve, with examples of techniques that work. It then moves to service marketing fundamentals: defining what business you really are in and what people are buying, positioning your service, understanding prospects and buying behavior, and communicating.
Selling The Invisible offers targeted suggestions for marketing your services, using anecdotes to teach. Divided into eleven sections with multiple one- to three-page chapters in each section, Beckwith’s book gives bite-sized lessons on what clients and prospects (that is, potential clients) want, expect, and find persuasive. A few notable tidbits:
Serve your clients as they want to be served. Beckwith criticizes lawyers who write a “really good brief” but fail to notice that the brief was “equally effective for the client $5,000 earlier” and that it “covers an issue that might have been avoided entirely through good lawyers.” In other words: don’t get so caught up in technical merit that you overlook what the clients see.
Marketing starts with you and your employees. “Review every step — from how your receptionist answers to the message on the bottom of your invoices — and ask what you could do differently to attract and keep more customers. Every act is a marketing act. Make every employee a marketing person.” For example, notice how you (or your assistant or receptionist) answer the telephone: would you-the-caller want to talk with whoever answers your phone, or would you-the-caller have the impression that you were interrupting something more important?
Clients seek personality and relationships. “Service businesses are about relationships. Relationships are about feelings. In good ones, the feelings are good; in bad ones, they are bad. In service marketing and selling, the logical reasons that you should win the business — your competence, your excellence, your talent — just pay the entry fees. Winning is a matter of feelings, and feelings are about personalities.”
Being Great vs. Being Good. “People in professional services are especially prone to thinking that the better they get, the better their business will be. The more the tax lawyer knows about the tax code…the more business will beat a path to [her] door.” Beckwith cites examples in law, medicine, and financial services to prove that clients place relationship, trust, good communication, and other non-technical proficiencies above technical skill. (I would add the corollary that technical excellence is a prerequisite rather than a pure competitive advantage.) Beckwith’s summary: “Prospects do not buy how good you are at what you do. They buy how good you are at who you are.” (But you still have to have the skills to deliver.)
Why should you read Selling The Invisible?
If you consider yourself skilled at selling your services (and you have the business to back it up), review Selling The Invisible for reminders. If you’re new to marketing your services, this book will serve as a foundational text for basic marketing principles. You’ll also pick up terrific ideas for client service and for contributing to your team’s or organization’s business development efforts.
Selling The Invisible is an invaluable addition to a marketing library. It’s quick to read; one could even read the bolded summary statements at the end of each chapter to get the gist of Beckwith’s ideas. But, as you read, be sure to implement Beckwith’s bottom line in the chapter entitled Fallacy: Strategy is King, and “Do Anything” (preferably passionately) rather than creating and revising strategy endlessly.