How would you sell computer repair services? Fast, friendly, and reliable first come to mind as the main selling points. But that kind of language speaks to the company's opinion of itself, not necessarily much else.

Instead, focus on the customer—not the company. For example: "Your computer will not stall out after it leaves our shop." Or: "Bought a new gadget or computer? Let us set it up for you."

Next Marketing Challenge

How to create a killer word-of-mouth campaign.

Click here to offer your advice.

The responses we received to this dilemma should make it easier for you to get creative. Also, check out Metaphorically Selling, an excellent book on how to get creative when making the pitch.

Previous Challenge: How to add a dash of creativity to service solutions

It's not uncommon for a person to move from a product-oriented business to a service-oriented one and vice versa. I come from a product environment, where we had a defined product and targeted customers, and I was consistently a top producer. I've moved into a service-oriented business and have taken a dive because I have trouble thinking creatively of solutions specifically tailored to my client. What works well for developing custom solutions, and is it possible to succeed in both product and service areas?

—AJ, business development

Put Yourself in Your Prospects' Shoes

Everyone who wrote in said to treat your service like a product and to try to understand how it addresses your customers' needs. It's about finding the value and communicating it. Sometimes you must get creative because selling services often has invisible value—so you won't always be able to put the value in numbers such as "increase your productivity by 10 percent!"

With computer support, for instance, having a computer or gadget ready for use is a valuable service. You can attempt to add numbers or statistics by claiming that all computers and gadgets are ready for use within 24 hours. This kind of claim may not always be possible, depending on the complexity of the problem. But it doesn't hurt to think creatively and see what kind of "solid" benefits you can offer.

Steve Beaman, president of Beaman Consulting Services, provides many questions that lead to treating a service like a product. He recommends you first step inside your clients' shoes:

What benefit do the customers receive from using the service? What is in it for them? Put yourself in their shoes. What benefit would you want to receive from the service? Is there a particular solution that the service addresses or a unique way that other services don't provide a particular aspect of the service (unique competitive advantage)?

Focus on the key points that are issues for other businesses like your prospect and that the service addresses. Do you have any testimonials, quotes, attention-getting headlines about the service? How has the service helped other businesses?

Bill Huffman, vice-president of interactive marketing with The Robin Shepherd Group, believes that everything is a product, whether tactile or not. He agrees with getting to know the prospect, including developing the "problem-solving skills" or "critical-thinking skills" that are necessary to solve your prospects' problems and design a creative sales pitch:

If you are in the service business, you should still have a targeted customer list. It sounds like you just have to learn how to think like your "new" customers. If you understand your customers, then you will become aware of the issues they face. This will allow you to more effectively use your service offering to solve the customers' problem.

Another way to get creative is to look at what the competition (or even your client) is currently doing and then take their pitch in a new direction. Tamara Halbritter, freelance writer, recently found a way to beat out the competition and woo a client:

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to pitch my writing services to a new client. I knew the client was looking at several other writers, so I wanted to find a way to stand out. I thought about the way many other writers sell their services and I tried to expand on some of the ideas I've seen in their campaigns for my pitch. And then it occurred to me: Look at what the business is doing now, and show them how my way (my writing service) would be even more effective.

So I perused the company's web site from another business's perspective and realized that they weren't addressing a big problem that many of their clients face. They had also left out some critical information that many clients would need before they could make a purchasing decision. So I wrote some web copy that addresses that particular problem and explains how their product does the trick (from the client point of view, providing all the necessary details) and the business thought it was so creative and liked it so much, they hired me soon after I submitted my pitch.

Learn to think like your customers and understand their specific problems. Then go beyond your competitors' current offerings to devise a creative, custom service solution to address your customers' exact needs. Your customers are sure to be impressed by your efforts.

Next Marketing Challenge: Can You Help?

How to best use word of mouth—WOM it!

I've been reading about word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and find it fascinating. I'd like to hear from readers their stories and experiences with WOM. What elements make a word-of-mouth campaign successful?

—Hannah, marketing

If you have a situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas, 180,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.