Selling a Service – 'Push' or 'Pull'?

Which strategy do you adopt while selling services?
Do you believe in ‘pushing’ (cold calls, invites, introductions, speeches on value, asking for business) your service, or do you ‘pull’ your clientele to you- creating situations wherein they show interest in your business prior to you making a pitch, even.
Please state your mode of thought (‘push’ or ‘pull’, or a mixture of both) with rationale – keeping in mind that you’re marketing a service, and not a product.
Hopefully, the best approach in this discussion shall get what it deserves – business 🙂


  • Whether product or service, the era of “push” is ending.
    People are sick and tired of it, plus one of my “laws” of the Internet is that it “reverses all processes”. There are no exceptions.
    The future is “pull”.

  • believe one needs to use both — especially pull. In light of the service, what business outcomes does one get from using it? Who are the ideal customers for the service? How does one talk to a customer in the “Untroubled/Unaware” stage?
    Build thought leadership based on a customer buying process and personas of target clients — white papers, webinars, e-books, web content, blogs, etc. Start up search marketing too.
    Push can be used to gather information, refine marketing databases and qualify leads.
    I hope this helps,

  • Well, I believe the best way is promote something “viral”.
    The pull methods are more frendly.
    good luck

  • Hi Zohaib,
    I have been responsible for a couple of services businesses. In the beginning, it seems that “push” is the primary vehicle to drive sales. However, during this period, I have tried not to “carpet-bomb” prospects. Rather, I try to tailor the unique value proposition (UVP) to their specific needs. By making the pitch more personal, I try to make it seem less cookie cutter and heavy handed.
    However, after the business has become established and has developed a favorable reputation in the field, pulling provides more and more of the prospects. People hear about what you are doing from other satisfied customers and the business begins to take off.

  • I’ve seen this type of question before and I would have to answer it by first asking a question; is this geared to B2B or B2C? “Push” or “pull” would resonate differently just based on target. Is the service a business solution or is it a consumer service: spa, hair salon, etc. Depending on that answer the approach would be different. Second question is what is your buyer persona – what works for them? Is it a high-level, long sales cycle issue where multiple prospects are part of the decision process? I do agree with Jeff’s answer that a mixture approach does help to increase conversion rates, but the need to understand the buyer persona will help to move the needle.

  • I think it depends on where the product/service is in the lifecycle – is it new or do people know about it?
    There needs to be a balance between “push” and “pull” if in the early development/launch phases. Once a brand is more established, releasing control of the message to gain potential customers is critical.
    Consumer behaviors continue trending toward having control over marketing and reflects the need for businesses to be better educated about their market, create a corresponding marketing strategy and create the need for customers to “pull” when they are researching and/or making purchasing decisions.

  • The answer really depends on what the service is that you are offering and the audience you are targeting. Consumers, for example, require more of the “pull” approach as a general rule.
    Businesses, for example, work best if you use a combination of compelling “push” techniques and “pull” marketing.
    Personally, I think you have to find balance. A great marketing strategy can only pull so much. You still have to use proactive approaches to grow a business through push work. The balance point (err, the tipping point) is really knowing how to sell properly. (If you can sell well, your marketing will have more “punch”.)
    Too many people are making the same kinds of sales calls and using “we” based marketing strategies. You’re probably tired of hearing me…but value (absolutely compelling, mouth-watering, I have to have it) is how you open up the door.
    You have to court the client base to understand where the wound is and keep touching it enough that it bleeds. If you don’t understand that, you can even begin to create your value message.
    Whether you use push or pull techniques, the message you present needs to be clear, concise and attention grabbing. And, most importantly it needs to knock the socks off the person listening or reading your message. Without that, you might as well me throwing mud against the wall and hoping some of it sticks. (And that wastes time AND money.)
    I also think that businesses need to understand the power (or impact) of giving something without expectation. Anyone can offer a free consultation (for example), but does the party walk away with something of value (and with no strings attached)…or do you make the “free” session a mini marketing pitch?
    For years I’ve run a marketing strategy where I offer a free consultation and guarantee 5 unique strategies that can be implemented to increase website visitors, online sales, etc. And, I tell people there are no strings attached. I’m happy to part with a little intellectual property to get the lead.
    In all the years I’ve been doing this, the prospect asks me what would it take to hire me. (And, in 100% of the cases.) I don’t always get the contract in the end, but what I say apparently impacts the prospect enough to want more to continue the conversation at a higher level.
    The key is that you have to know how to position the service in such a way that you make an offer they can’t refuse to get them to connect with you. Then, if you’ve done that, you need to use value messaging that is based on homework you do.
    For example, when I do prospecting, my offer is clear. But before I agree to consult with them, I ask them to send me their website, etc. This way, I know what they have going on and can do a gap analysis. By the time we get on the phone (or via face to face meeting), I have high end questions to ask, and value I can give them. That’s what closes the deal.
    In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “He who fails to prepare, is preparing to fail.”
    1) Take the time to really know your prospects on an individual basis by doing behind the scenes research.
    2) Create your messaging and pitch with value-based messaging that presents an irresistible reason for a prospect to connect with you. (What intellectual property can you bear to part with to win a client.)
    3) Always speak in terms of value and “you”‘/ “them” messaging. (Avoid the “we” marketing pitch! It’s not about you…it needs to be about them!)
    4) Always get a commitment to take the next step. What are the expectations moving forward. Whatever is committed…follow through!
    5) Recognize how much time you are willing to spend to earn the business of a new client. What’s your “break even” point? How much are you willing to court a prospect? And…what language will you use to get a dangling prospect to fish or cut bait?
    Do the above, and you’ll find a balance between both push and pull techniques!

  • For me it has been PULL rather than PUSH. I have long made it my practice to provide a Value Added Service. Becoming the “go to guy, in an industry is not the fastest way to gain business but it is most rewarding. 95% of my business comes from referrals so in reality they are pre-sold before I speak to them.

  • If you have something good that everyone needs to know about and be made aware of, then PUSH is my mode. I stay in push. I have potential clients that PULL my services. PUSH can be understood as intrusive marketing such as billboards, radio ads, etc. I did not call or ask to see or hear about a particular service, but it was PUSHed on me. I promote myself and my business, therefore I PUSH and will continue to even after reaching that million dollar sales revenue figure.
    Henry @ Mission Vision Partner Consulting (MVP)

  • Dr. Jennifer Lupo

    Since I don’t sell any services I have to answer your question from my experience in working for service oriented companies. I have seen both methods used singly or together and I have to believe that it is a combination of both.
    First, it depends on the service you or your organization provide and at what stage of the organization’s life-cycle you are in. If you are just starting out, you don’t have a choice but to PUSH. However, if you are established you can do both — PULL and PUSH.
    As an established company your PULL is that your service in itself encourages your clients to a) come back for more business, and b) talk amongst their network about your business. This is where you can retain and grow business from your current base.
    On the PUSH side, you need to use your success stories as a motivator to get new business. Show what you have done, its success, and who your clients are. These will be done through aggressive marketing strategies such as speeches, cold calls, etc.
    With the Internet and other newer marketing I think most companies need to use a stronger PULL method to keeping and gaining business. However, a startup has very little choice but to get their name out and pushing their service to build up a client base. Without that, they really can’t PULL.

  • I personally don’t like being pushy. I like to invent ways for my clients to come to me. Most of the clients I get are through referrals and web marketing and I don’t use any sales people to push my services.

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