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  • Writer's pictureMark Hordes

How to Build a Product Sales Force That are Skilled in Selling Services

Building A Product Sales Force That Can Sell Services

By: Mark Hordes

Mark Hordes Management Consultants, LLC

713 416 1781 office


Look around and what are you starting to hear professionals from product-centric companies talking about at software trade shows, industry conferences and on the Internet.

Everyone is asking about the services business. New management themes come and go but companies like IBM, Compaq, Apple and even McKinsey believe that the new frontier for product-centric companies will not be more products but a transition to balancing their overall portfolios with new integrated service offerings.

Even medical products companies are jumping into the services arena as customers demand more integration between medical equipment, systems, data and patient care be wrapped around their service promise.

So how do you make the transition to services while maintaining a solid grounding in your company’s product offerings? And, more importantly, once we know the strategy and direction how dowe build a Services focused sales force that can be effective in this new reality.


Step back for a moment and take a 360-degree review of where the software and IT product-centric company stands. How can business owners start to think about becoming a professional services firm and begin a transition process of transforming to selling services.

Eights anchors are required to create a superior services sales force and process:

1. Teach Everyone Who Touches the Services Sales Process How to Sell the Invisible. Selling services is different than selling products and it’s not about giving spreadsheets, negotiating about price and delivery; it’s really about trust, experience, talent, scope of the work and understanding the totality of your customers business.

2. Learn How to Amplify the Voice of the Professional Services Customer. A little knowledge can be dangerous but being able to define which customers just want quality and delivery as well as good response time is different than a customer that wants innovation and partnership. Defining how an existing customer base can and should be segmented in the future will help the marketing and sales messages come closer to hitting a home run and closing the deal.

3. Understand What it Takes to be a Superior Services Salesperson. Required competencies to reach this goal include: a professional services mind set, the ability to clarify complex customer issues, skills in communicating the benefits of intangibles, insight on how to customize each solution, skills in compressing the sales cycle and how to commercialize the services sales promise. Which skills and capabilities do managers possess today? And which skills are needed in the future?

4. Define What is Required to Qualify Great Services Business. Think of a good account in your business that has the potential for professional services. Conduct a “Voice of the Customer” initiative to ask them what services could you offer in the future that would meet their future needs? How much would they be willing to pay for these services? And what are the characteristics of what these services would look like?

5. Build Skills in Relating to Different Personalities. Understanding a customer’s personality and communications style is helpful but being able to relate to a full range of personalities is ideal bringing full circle the essences of the deal. Skills in understanding the most common styles that sales professional will encounter builds confidence and provides an upper hand in communicating and “getting to yes” in the sales process.

6. Master Gaining Project and Engagement Commitment. In services, skills in planning,

positioning, advancing, closing and reviewing are essential building blocks to obtain the

right level of commitment. Knowing the sequence is not enough, practicing these steps

sets the stage and helps take control of the sales call.

7. Align the Sales Environment to Maximize Performance. Keep in mind that alignment and balance are critical elements to maximizing performance. A great services business sales force will eventually fall behind if the sales environment is not supportive. Elements such as fitting the performance specifications, adequate resources, minimal interference, consequence management and quality feedback all help build a superior sales environment.


During these turbulent times, companies of all shapes, sizes and dimensions are seeking new ways to expand their portfolios, customer base and revenue streams.

Forward thinking and action-oriented organizations are exploring professional services in order to capture new business that will expand their product line and build for the future with a stronger market-facing alternative.

Building the necessary skills in the product sales force to successfully sell services through a services focused market model is the key to success

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