Selling and delivering professional services through cyberspace offers an opportunity you don’t want to miss. We’re already buying and selling books and many other products through the internet. New professional firms are using the internet to attract clients. Traditional legal, financial planning, and other professional firms need to follow.
Many professionals who established their practices prior to the internet boom have stuck with the traditional face-to-face delivery format. While they have established web sites and email newsletters, these are only electronic resumes and marketing brochures not true electronic selling and delivery.
They assert, “We need to get to know our clients at a personal level.” While the personal touch is key, it doesn’t necessarily require face-to-face contact. In fact, some prospective clients want to check out their choices for professional services without the effort, commitment, or pressure of an in-person interview. Furthermore, many legal and financial planning cases require involvement of family members and outside parties that can’t come into the professional’s office. They need a virtual solution.
So, how can professionals shift their practices to catch the wave of virtual sales and delivery? Here are some tips.
Embrace the virtual information imperative.
Don’t fight the trend. Today’s consumers require more information before making a buying decision. How prospective clients decide has changed. It’s time to think of virtual delivery as a fundamentally new approach rather than as an add-on to traditional service delivery models.
Convert services into packaged products.
Service delivery in a virtual environment requires more concreteness. It doesn’t cut it to say, “Come in for an initial consult and here’s our hourly fee.” With virtual delivery, prospects need clear descriptions of what benefits they’ll gain, what it will cost, and why it is their best choice and an excellent value.
Take the services you offer and translate them into packaged products. Shift from talking about the tools you use to the value clients will gain. Market your service packages as investments with attractive returns rather than as fees.
Relatively few prospects will be ready to commit thousands of dollars in fees without some intermediate steps. Create a flow of packages that move from small dollar commitments to larger investments and returns.
Offer electronic hors d’oeuvres.
Today’s consumers want a taste before they buy. How can you give the virtual client a sample of what you offer that they can access on their own terms?
Checklists and self-scoring profiles alert prospects to opportunities and the value of what you offer. Prospects like to figure out for themselves whether taking the next step will be valuable.
Use third party endorsements and affiliate marketing.
Credibility is a tough problem in cyberspace. If prospects don’t come to your door, how do they know that you have substance and that they can trust you?
Here’s where you need to link with people and organizations that they trust. Look at how you can use client testimonials with real names, faces, and even video clips. Which organizations do your ideal prospects turn to for information and advice? Pick non-profit groups or associations in your market area. Establish affiliate relationships with these groups to co-sponsor programs or provide special benefits for their members.
Selling and delivering in cyberspace is now the wave for professional services firms. Catch it and enjoy the ride.