Chapter 30. Selling Professional Services

Charles H. Green

Trusted Advisor Associates

The best sales thinking in industry at large is well researched, based on sound marketing principles, and has proven successful for many businesses. Buying is seen as a rational, linear process of problem definition, alternatives generation, and criteria-based selection. Selling helps buyers clarify information, answers questions, and offers implications.

This is the dominant view of authors, trainers, and business schools. Not surprisingly, many in the professions believe that our clients must buy this way—and that we should sell this way.

Yet many of us have that nagging feeling telling us that it just doesn't seem to work like that. We deny the feeling because we think it means we are bad at selling. It doesn't occur to us that the model itself may be wrong!

The truth is, selling professional services is different from other selling. It is more psychological and personal. The professional services sale is by no means irrational—but neither can it be described solely in rational terms.

Our instincts are right. It is the Industrial Sales Paradigm that is at fault.


Sellers of professional services face several challenges. We are (usually) both seller and deliverer, and always the "expert." The buyer buys us as well as the service. Our services are expensive, have high risk/return ratios, and results aren't guaranteed. These factors are a recipe for complex psychodynamics.

Most sales ...

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