Blog: Business and Entrepreneurship
Selling a plan for success

Sell Solutions, Not Services

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

This is for my homies in the web industry, and service providers in any industry, who feels like they’re stuck at a plateau.


Everyone reading this wants to earn more money. But how? How do you earn more money?

You can work more hours, you can take on more clients, or you can make the clients you have more valuable.

How do you make the clients you have more valuable? You have to provide more value to them first. You have to think of ways you can provide more value to them.

Sadly, this isn’t what I see everyone doing.

There’s a ton of people still trading the performance of a service for money. There are still people trading units of effort for money. But your clients don’t want to buy the performance of your services. They don’t want what you’re selling.

What they really want is the results that your services will bring. They want the results that come after you’ve done your job. When we evaluate the value of a client project, we should be thinking about what our clients are going to get out of working with us.

Examples From Other Industries

There are service professionals that get this. One type of service that gets this is lawyers. Some lawyers cost $125 an hour. Some cost $250 an hour. Some cost thousands of dollars per hour.

Do you know what the difference is? The highest-end lawyers are not selling a service, they are selling results.

Nobody is purchasing legal service. They are buying the fact that they are going to stay out of whatever trouble they are in. They are buying peace of mind. They are buying the fact that are not going to jail. They are buying the fact that they are not going to lose many times over what they are paying their lawyer.

Whatever hot water they are in that made them seek a lawyer in the first place, the result is what matters. How much their problem costs to solve is directly correlated to the severity of their situation.

A lawyer’s clients don’t need a legal service. What they need is a legal solution.

Hospitals understand this too. When you go to the doctor, there’s a vast difference between getting a routine checkup and getting a life-saving procedure. The urgency is more extreme in one of these cases. One thing costs significantly more than the other, even if they take roughly the same amount of time. They are not billed in the same way.

Hospitals don’t charge the same, flat hourly rate for medical services, when one is a non-urgent office visit, and another is heart surgery.

Another service professional that gets it is your accountant. You pay your accountant to balance books — not only because it saves you time, but because you save money when you don’t have to pay as much in taxes. Your accountant saves you undue stress by making sure you don’t get audited. You pay them so you can sleep easy and know that things are taken care of.

Positioning In Web Development

In the web industry, I see a lot of people guilty of selling services and not solutions. Not just independent consultants, but also aspiring web studios and firms. They haven’t figured out that potential clients do not care about services. They care about the results about those services will bring.

They care about having a cohesive online strategy. They care about getting more brand awareness. They care about fixing holes in their customer acquisition. They care about converting customers on mobile devices. They care about having a steady revenue stream.

The technology stack you use get there, it doesn’t matter to most of them. It doesn;t matter as long as they know, you are going to get them the results that they must have to continue.

But the way most web developers sell themselves on their websites — it’s like they are only selling themselves to other web developers or other people in their ecosystem.

We don’t seem to understand that all the acronyms and developer-speak we use makes our clients eyes glaze over. Business-savvy clients are not hung up on what JavaScript library you use. What matters to them are things like:

  • Can you do the technical aspects of the job?
  • Will this investment be a high risk?
  • Can you get the job done on time?
  • Will this give my business a better chance to succeed?
  • Can you get me the results I’m looking for?

What we as web professionals need to figure out what result our clients need, and only then worry about the technical aspects of how to get there.

The biggest problem web professionals have is failure to think about what their clients actually need beyond getting a website built. There are literally millions of people who can build a website. But very few of those people worry about actually delivering a practical solution.

Bottom line, is your client’s problem going to go away if they hire you? Just like the accountant makes the auditor go away, the lawyer makes jail time go away, and the doctor makes health problems go away — your value lies in how consistently and efficiently you make business problems go away.

Web professionals, hear these words and internalize them. You are not being hired for your skill set. You are being hired as a problem solver.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

2 comments on “Sell Solutions, Not Services

  1. You were spot on when you said,

    ” Bottom line, is your client’s problem going to go away if they hire you? Just like the accountant makes the auditor go away, the lawyer makes jail time go away, and the doctor makes health problems go away — your value lies in how consistently and efficiently you make business problems go away.”

  2. Thanks, Kuldip. I think in the web community, we sometimes get too caught up in impressing our peers, or worrying about our own needs. We could always look at things from the perspective of our clients, and put ourselves in their shoes. This helps us figure out what is of dire importance to them.

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