One of the defining characteristics of an ideal customer is that they buy your high-margin, flagship solutions.
But ideal customers are tough to come by.
And when we’re fortunate enough to earn the attention of one that fits the bill, selling those flagship solutions is usually no easy task either. From the customer’s point of view, these solutions:
- Are often complex
- Command a significant financial investment
- Require involvement from a committee of decision makers
- Come with consequences (if they fail)
When our prospects hesitate from all the perceived risk of buying what we’re selling, we tend to make concessions. Often, we’ll force ourselves down one of two less-than-desirable paths to win their business:
We chase the prospect on a long, consultative, time-sucking journey to prove our worth, spoon feeding expert advice along the way with no guarantee of a dime in return.
We settle for selling a “foot-in-the-door” solution. You know what I’m talking about – those low-margin, undifferentiated products or services we push in hope of establishing rapport.
But despite our intentions, these somewhat insignificant transactions typically just cement our role as vendors of, well… low-margin, undifferentiated products or services.
So how do we steer clear of these two paths?
No matter how perfect your solution feels, how many bells and whistles you attach to it or how many credible sources vouch for you, your sales pitch to a new customer will almost certainly be light on one key feature:
Until your future customer has experienced working with you or physically put your solution to use, the perceived level of risk will be high.
But what if we could physically sell trust?
What if we could package up a little bit of trust and trade it for actual dollars before we climb the uphill battle to selling our big, perfect solution to that big, perfect customer?
Seven ideas for selling trust
What follows are seven ideas for earning the trust you’ll need to close the bigger sale, while getting paid for your expert advice along the way.
1. Site audit
If, for example, you’re in the business of factory automation services or you sell complex, custom machinery that’s used inside of manufacturing facilities, you’re probably no stranger to site audits.
But how do you position this service to a prospective customer?
If the opportunity looks right, would you willingly hop on a plane across the country, burning cash and worse yet, a day or two of your time to give away your expertise for free?
What if instead, you packaged up that site audit along with defined, proprietary process and promised a buttoned-up set of written recommendations following the visit?
What price tag might that deliverable command?
And because it’s not a free giveaway, might the service feel more substantial to the customer?
2. Second opinion service
The cost of switching service providers is often significant enough to delay change.
So rather than asking a future customer to dive in head first and put all their eggs in your basket, could you first offer a paid second opinion service?
If you were considering switching doctors, the price of a second opinion would warrant a $40 or $50 copay and a few hours of your time. If it didn’t work out, you’d stick with your current doctor or keep looking.
What low-risk equivalent could you as a B2B manufacturing organization offer your prospective customers?
3. Paid consultation
In my line of business (Marketing), “Free Consultation” buttons are as common as company logos when you visit agency websites. But the savvier firms also understand that a paid consultation can generate significant demand (while also attracting better customers).
Our Industrial Marketing Road Map is an example of a paid, in-depth consulting service that helps our prospective customers figure out the right path to their desired business outcomes.
Sure, we’ll start with a “free” conversation to establish whether we could be a good fit for each other. But beyond that, we’ll reserve our advice for a paid engagement.
By spending the first chunk of their budgets to identify the most viable opportunities and avoid wasting their time and money throwing darts, we set them on the path to success.
After that, we’re often hired to implement the solutions we’ve recommended. But even if we don’t handle their implementation, the customer walks away with a sound action plan, backed by research. And we’ve been compensated for the value we created.
As a manufacturing organization, couldn’t you do the same in some capacity?
4. Research report
How about conducting some investigative work to explore a variety of solutions for your customer? How could you package up the insights you uncover and turn it into an actionable report in exchange for a fixed fee?
5. Knowledge transfer
This one applies more to service providers than manufacturers of physical products. But depending on your line of business and the type of customer you serve, is it possible that you could train your customer to effectively do some of what you currently do for them?
By helping the customer save money in simpler areas of their business, the trust you establish will likely open the door to helping them with bigger, more complex issues they need to address.
At Gorilla, we’re in the process of developing an online training course for Marketing Directors at manufacturing organizations. We can work intensively with about 15-20 companies at a time. But we can reach a whole lot more by providing our expertise at scale.
Whether through one-to-one on-site training or the delivery of on-demand content that packages up your knowledge as scalable intellectual property, how could you be compensated for transferring knowledge to your customers?
6. Product sample
The last two on this list of seven apply more to physical products. If you’re a manufacturer of plastic (or other materials), packaging solutions or something that could be physically placed in a small box and mailed as a sample, could you put a price tag on it?
You might be shaking your head and saying, “We do that already, but we can’t charge for it.”
But are you sure?
Home Depot charges $3.27 for you to experience a paint sample on your wall before you spend $30-50 on the full gallon.
Software companies put small price tags on “light” versions of their products before requiring you to commit to the full package.
What’s stopping you from doing the same?
7. Rental or lease
I recently consulted a manufacturing organization that sells large-scale filtration products. But closing the sale requires a big financial commitment from the buyer, operational down time and frankly, a leap of faith.
Our client has answered the hesitations of their future customers with an option to lease their equipment for a short period of time. The customer gets a firsthand trial without the big commitment. And our client gets paid in the meantime.
Lowering the barrier to entry
All seven of the services I just covered can be used to lower the barrier to entry for an ideal customer. When you can mitigate their perceived risk of moving forward with your solution, you:
- Create the opportunity to build trust
- Build that trust without sacrificing your time (or your positioning in the marketplace)
- Get paid to take a critical step forward with an ideal future customer
One final note
What we sometimes forget as expert practitioners in our respective fields is that the value of our high-margin, flagship solutions isn’t exclusively limited to our physical product or service in and of itself.
Our products and services are the implementation of problems we’re helping our customers identify and solve. But implementation has little value without the expert advice we provide to identify that solution.
So let’s get smarter about how we position the value of our advice, and begin using it to our advantage.