People who sell a service rather than a product are people who sell an idea about something, perhaps even something a product does, but not the product itself. Doctors sell no product; they sell their diagnostic or surgical skills, their specialization, their understanding, their medical (or dental or psychiatric or other) knowledge and their experience. As such, everything they do in selling themselves and their services is wrapped up in an idea—the idea of overcoming or containing illnesses of whatever nature, or the idea of preventing illness before it happens.
Lawyers do what they do, idealistically, basically within the idea of justice; their services and the use of all their skills, experience and knowledge are focused on seeing that their clients are protected under the laws and statutes of our government. The services provided by a teacher are done within the idea of learning and developing. A technician or mechanic sells himself and the idea of keeping mechanical things doing the things they’re supposed to do with as little down time as possible.
Insurance salesman sell future freedom from want for loved ones; counselors sell guidance in all kinds of matters ranging from careers to marriage; a minister or priest or rabbi sells, basically peace of soul; a travel agent sells, perhaps romance and adventure, a police officer sells protection. Whatever the idea behind the service, there is the need to sell oneself as well.
People who sell a service of some type along with themselves, however, rarely think of what they do in terms of the idea or concept. When they learn to do so it becomes far easier to do a better job of selling themselves. It doesn’t matter what the service is—the intangible. You might be a delivery person, a swimming coach, the leader of a scout troop, a waiter or waitress, a bank teller, or snow remover—whatever. You surely get the idea of what a “service” is. It doesn’t matter whether you are highly paid for your service or if you perform it for nothing like a den mother in a Cub Scout pack who volunteers her time and service. All these people will do a better job of selling themselves along with their services if they learn to build the IDEA of that service into their lives.
I can best tell you what I mean by retelling the famous and familiar story (author unknown at least by me) of the traveler who was passing through a city. He chanced to stop to watch a laborer patiently laying one stone brick upon another skillfully and with loving care. Curious, the traveler asked the laborer, “Why are you taking such pains over the laying of some dirty bricks?” “I am not laying bricks”, the workman replied smiling. “I am building a cathedral.” You see, there was a great big beautiful idea behind that workman’s service. In knowing this, he did a great big beautiful job of selling himself as well. The traveler moved on, impressed. “With workmen like that, this building will stand a thousand years!”
Service sold along with oneself is always a great package to buy. One way of selling your service is to be a good listener and to respond with compassion. So, selling yourself does not mean boasting about your accomplishments. It’s a question of being able to understand where your customers or clients are coming from and what their needs are, what their backgrounds are and what kind of life experiences they bring to you. Look, you’ve got to leave yourself wide open to a great number of experiences in order to relate to your customers. The more experiences one has, either in life or at work, the more you will be able to sell your services effectively. No matter how lofty your service or how humble, start building cathedrals instead of laying bricks.