How to grow your service firm: Applying your skills (Part 4 of 6)

Robert Craven
Managing Director | The Director's Centre
11th April 2014

In part one, two and three parts of this series, we looked at why and how The Expert! model is so important for the success of service firms. We went on to look at the components of the model.

To grow a service firm is not just about knowledge of The Expert! model. It is also about how you apply your skills and attitude and how well you understand the business environment that you work in – in other words how business works.

Let’s look briefly at sales and marketing:

The most effective sales method is… 

When small and growing businesses were asked what ‘the most effective sales method’ was, they put at the top of the list at Number One and Number Two -

  • Face-to-face selling, and
  • Referrals and client recommendations

Most respondents (85%) agree that better selling skills and behaviour are necessary to move their organisation forward. The key issue is whether the organisations (and individuals) are prepared to pay the price for such activity (ie make the changes required).

In a nutshell, key barriers to better sales are:

  • Bad use of… or lack of… time, appropriate systems, tools, techniques
  • Initiative fatigue
  • Lack of desire to make it happen
  • A feeling that selling is somehow ‘dirty’

We expect some combination of the following to be present to create successful selling behaviour:

  • Appropriate skills/training, tested measurement and delivery systems
  • Attitude - A ‘can do…’, ‘yes, and…’, ‘blame-free’ culture that recognises that success and failure go hand-in-hand - a ‘willingness to pay the price’
  • Rewards and systems
  • Employing the right people, adopting the right strategy and putting it all together so that it really works.


  • Where do you spend your marketing and sales time and money at the moment?
  • Where do you get your best results?
  • Where should you spend your time and money?

The results of the survey suggest that the most effective sales methods are of the old-fashioned ‘pressing the flesh’ variety. No surprises there!

Sales performance will improve if you focus on the following 'crunch questions':

  • Who is the ideal/target customer?
  • What are their problems?
  • Why do they buy your product?
  • Do you really understand what it is that the customer is buying?
  • Are you selling the benefits rather than the features?
  • Why should people buy from you when they can buy from the competition?
  • What makes you different from the rest?
  • How to start and finish a conversation?
  • Do you deliver a credible and compelling Audio Logo/Elevator Pitch/One-Minute Intro?
  • Can/do you ask for the business?
  • Can/do you ask for referrals?
  • Are you able to close the sale?

The ads don’t work - WOMM

As implied earlier, advertisements just don’t work in terms of providing a value for money offering for most service firms.

In a world where no-one believes what companies say about themselves, potential customers depend on what others say about you.

Ten minutes of research on FaceBook, Twitter and Google can tell me exactly what others think about you.

My business grows because of the extraordinary power of word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.

And for your business…

  • Who are your raving fans and ambassadors?
  • Who have you blown away with your legendary service?
  • Who have you affected so much that they would want to see others also benefit from your business?
  • What would you need to do to get this untapped resource working for you?
  • Do you have a formal process for identifying, nurturing and developing relationships with your raving fans and lovers? If not, why not?

Most of us have a budget for advertising and web costs etc but we don't have a time and money budget for developing the Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) - yet for many of us WOMM generates most of our new business. Just think about it for a minute. What are you going to do about it?


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