I read a post recently that I thought did a nice job arguing the idea of selling solutions over selling services. I liked the post but I had a few points of my own to make regarding the topic. Just to point out in advance, I don’t take issue with anything in John’s article and these are just thoughts I’ve had for a while regarding this idea (his article reminded me to put them in a post).
I agree that clients typically don’t care about the technology used to create their website, although I have had overbearing individuals contact me about doing something with technology they heard was “all the rage” despite not knowing anything about it. If you’re a knowledgeable developer and not a hack charging the client for building a website with something you don’t understand, the technology really shouldn’t matter all too much as long as it gets the job done.
That said, selling solutions over services as a web pro is not a black and white concept. Selling attainable solutions? Absolutely. However, broadcasting that you sell a “solution to meet the client’s goals” (or some similarly generic claim) opens up a gaping hole full of potential headache, mainly because that type of language can very easily be construed as a guarantee of results across the board and, when coupled with unrealistic expectations, will often backfire. This is why I usually favor language that lends itself toward selling a professional service over a solution…to avoid appearing disingenuous for promising certain results and those results not being realized.
While a doctor can pretty much guarantee you will get over an illness with a certain medication and a lawyer can keep you out of jail, web professionals deal with different types of clients with different expectations and goals. Like most developers, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve had potential (and actual) clients looking for a money-making website that does what they want it to do…make money with little to no effort. I don’t care how good a developer one is, that’s just not how things work. Succeeding like that takes a lot of time and effort (and money if you don’t have the desire to put the other two in yourself). Even then the results are not guaranteed. At the time I’m writing this post, Google revealed that there are over 644 million websites on the internet. That number grows every day and many of them belong to companies and individuals looking to make money. If making money was as simple as setting up a website, I wouldn’t provide development services because I’d have a bunch of my own sites making money for me. Therefore, to make a general, overly-broad statement that you can deliver a solution to achieve the client’s goals is not realistic and either naïve or disingenuous. It all depends on the expectations and what the client considers to be a “need.”
This is just my take on stuff to consider when selling “solutions” rather than “services.” I think using the language that you are selling solutions is perfectly fine but it’s very important to put expectations in check by distinguishing what you can guarantee from what you cannot.