Custom work. It used to be that the ability to get something – anything – designed specifically for you was difficult, and expensive. Custom products came first, followed by the advent of boutique service providers, and we all wanted to provide customer services – at premium prices. The pendulum has been swinging back, but many consultants and service providers are slow to follow suit. As a result, many consultants end up giving away services, spending longer on jobs than anticipated.

To the customer, the word “custom” has two major negative connotations, the first being: expensive. But maybe custom should be more expensive than off the shelf, easily replicable solutions. The second negative aspect is something you can get around, but most don’t – custom can be fine if you also have off the shelf (OTS). The lack of a defined OTS offering, leaves the perception of being too small to have extensive experience, reflected by the lack of services or products which fit most.

So how do you design an OTS offering – especially if you hope not to really sell it. After all, who doesn’t prefer to sell their higher margin work. I’ll return to this later, but first the “how-to design OTS services”.

1) Write down every step you take in providing the service. This means everything, from gathering input on the problem to be solved, through planning the work, to checking back after delivery to ensure your customers are satisfied.

2) Now explain why you take this step (from your perspective). You’ll be surprised how sensible this all seems.

3) Take the results of #2, and ask yourself why these are important to your customer.

4) Collate steps 1 and 3 into a service process with defined customer benefits at each stage.

Now here’s the cool part. You’ll be surprised how many of these steps may be saleable services on their own. Even if you don’t intend to break them our this way, what you’ve now done is defined the process – and the deliverables. You should have formed a good idea of timelines involved as well. You’ve also identified where exceptions & circumstances take more time & effort. Make note of these, then remove them from the mix.

What will it cost you to do this with no complications? Great, price it like that, note the conditions, and you have an OTS Service definition.

This OTS service gives your customer a defined deliverable and timeline, at a defined cost. It also says what isn’t included. And there, you’ve just managed customer expectations, and avoided giving away your services for unforeseen complications.

The OTS offering should be your starting template for selling. You now know what’s easily replicable, and what’s not. Customers are much more inclined to purchase a standard service, with add-ons or modifications to suit their needs than an all-out custom service. And you can’t doubt the psychology too much – because it takes the risk out for them, knowing exactly what to expect.

The cool thing is that it also takes the risk out for you, as you stop giving away services.

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