“Sell the outcome, not the process.”
In copywriting, we’re told this constantly.
And for good reason:
People don’t buy your product, they buy better versions of themselves.
Even when someone buys a product because they claim to love that product or the brand behind it – like clothes, for instance – it’s ultimately because they’re investing in a version of themselves that gets to be associated with that oh-so-cool brand.
So they’re buying a better, cooler, sexier version of themselves.
That’s why people are happy to pay money to be associated with Apple, Levis, Porsche etc, and sometimes, even to do their advertising for them on social media.
(Hence Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest have become so important to fashion and lifestyle brands.)
So broadly speaking, your marketing copy should focus on what your product/service delivers…
…what problem it solves for the prospect…
…and how they’ll feel when they use it.
While that’s great for selling products, apps and software solutions where the journey is much less important than the destination, it’s less clear-cut when you’re selling yourself as a trusted advisor.
…so, what if you’re a consultant, coach or freelancer?
How do you sell clients on the value of your process, when what you do to arrive at your finished work is so tied-in with what you offer?
When the journey is such a differentiator…
When it’s what makes your service so unique…
It can sometimes be hard to describe the value of the unsexy stuff that goes on behind closed doors.
But the catch-22 is that it’s this stuff that makes you unique, and is often what gets you hired in the first place.
Here’s what sometimes happens when consultants don’t do a great job of selling their process…
Prospects might start pushing back on your timeline, saying things like:
“3 weeks? Surely you can do it inside a week?”
A week? Are they nuts? Surely they understand all the research you put into a gig like this?
This kind of objection can scupper a deal, because it’s starting to sound like Mr Prospect doesn’t value what you do.
You start to wonder: if they don’t ‘get’ that you need time to follow your trusted process, should you even work with them?
It’s tricky. Sometimes skepticism like this can be a negative indicator…
But not always.
Sometimes it’s simply a misunderstanding about what your process involves, and you just need to do a little explaining to convince the client.
And who knows, they could turn out to be a dream to work with – you just need to get them to buy into your process.
What if you could handle this sticky question earlier in the process…
…in your website copy, for instance?
Prepare your prospects for what they need to know before you speak to them…
And explain how you’re not just slapping together some one-size-fits-all design, copy, illustration or whatever like a $50 elance hack…
You’re creating a customized solution to their most pressing business problem.
You’re the person they need to hire to fix whatever bump’s in their road.
But results like that need time – and a proven process that can’t just be pulled out of thin air.
Here’s someone who has some good advice on how to handle this:
That’s right, it’s the always-quote-worthy Abraham Lincoln.
One of his most famous quotes is particularly relevant to how you sell your process:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.“
If you’re a service provider or consultant of any kind, your results depend on your axe-sharpening as much as your axe-swinging.
In the weird and wonderful world of client work, no two gigs are ever exactly the same… that’s what products are for, and you’re selling tailored services.
So preparation is crucial…
And that preparation comes in two parts your client needs to understand the value of: research and practice.
You know how important your research is…
It’s what helps you understand your client, their services, their customers & prospects, their competitors and all the other things you need to become familiar with to do a good job for them.
Thing is, your client’s more interested in seeing that tree come crashing down than watching you sharpen your axe.
So you need to establish, early on, how important this process is to their results.
It’s risky to leave that until the last minute, just as your contract’s about to be signed and your fee paid. Because just like sticker-shock, it’s possible to scare off a client with a longer-than-expected timeline.
How to avoid ‘Lottery-Ticket Clients’…
My copy colleague Kevin Rogers calls people who expect ‘magic results’ with no clear idea of how you create them, ‘Lottery Ticket Clients’.
But if you set your copy up right, any leads you get from your website should be free of these chancers…
You can use your site copy to bake your ‘axe-sharpening value’ into your entire service process so it’s clearly seen as an essential ingredient.
Make clear it’s a non-negotiable – that without this ‘pre-work work’, results can’t be achieved… and you won’t sell yourself short on half-assed projects.
If you have a particular research procedure you use, one that’s worked for you in the past, include it in your sales copy.
What may seem dry, boring or just plain obvious to you can be a reassuringly professional approach to a prospect who’s on the fence.
Maybe they’ve looked at half a dozen consultant’s sites already and they’re looking for someone who’s transparent about their research…
Perhaps they already have some idea of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in your line of work, and they’re looking for someone who practices what they preach.
So don’t be shy about describing your research process, and how it’ll help your clients grow their business.
Give it a name, or put it into a 3-step summary so people can understand it better.
Make it identifiable, and explain why only you can deliver this process, and where your competitors may fall short.
Taking things a step further…
Can you directly connect your unique process to some of the awesome results you’ve got for past clients?
Offering actual proof that your process leads to success is an effective way to counter objections from future prospects.
If you have any testimonials or case studies on your site, show how your process was responsible.
You’re not somebody who promises to ‘magic’ results out of thin air, like some internet huckster – you’re an expert, a masterchef with a complex recipe that should be followed.
Then there’s your past experience…
The practice you’ve already had, the honing of your skills that’s already taken place.
Think about it: sometimes you get hired because of your particular experience, or due to a certain qualification you achieved…
These factors are all part of your unique value, and your unique offering.
They mean that nobody else around can do the same job as you – there are no ‘like-for-like’ replacements.
You’re not a factory churning out products, you’re not an app – you’re an expert made up of a unique combination of learning and experiences…
You’ve done your learning and spent your own time and money getting to the point where you’re the best person for a very specific job – and that’s all time and money your clients get to save as a result.
Essentially, you’ve become their shortcut…
A lower-priced, higher-value alternative to putting all that investment and effort into learning how to fix the problem themselves.
Think of your research process as like chiselling a sculpture from a block of ice.
Nobody cares about the puddles left around the sculpture’s feet, the ice that didn’t make it… but the process of freeing the sculpture from inside that ice is vital.
And only you can do this.
Just make crystal clear on your site (on a service page, About page or a dedicated landing page) that your process is something that can’t be compromised, and people won’t have a problem paying you for it.
Instead, they’ll contact you with an understanding that if they give you the time and materials to do good work, they’ll get good results.
Just as your client wouldn’t pay someone to cut down a tree with a blunt axe…
They also wouldn’t expect you to get to work on something as important as their business without asking the right questions…
And showing up equipped with the right tools.
So remember, consultants and freelancers:
Focus on the value of your axe-sharpening to start getting higher-quality, more trusting leads for your biz.