You might have noticed that it’s easier to sell a tangible (one you can touch) item than it is to sell an intangible (one you can’t.) I’ve never heard someone wake up in the morning and say, “I’m in the mood to go and buy insurance today” unless they just experienced major damage to their home. You do hear people say, “I’m in the mood for ice cream” or “I want a new iPhone” or “I’m tired of this car breaking down. I need a new car.” You should sell differently when you’re selling an intangible. Here are a few points to consider.
Provide a way to evaluate your sale.
You must help your prospect evaluate your proposed work whether you are selling insurance, legal advice, or an engineering process. One engineer was selling a process to transform an engineering idea from concept to implementation. He had experience successfully doing this for many clients. What he could demonstrate was the process and what was required to move from idea to implementation. He could create a timeline with a range of expected times and criteria for the times to occur. He could judge the quality of the steps because he had successfully done the work so many times before. Now his prospects could understand that he had a formal plan and be more confident in what they were buying.
Prove that it works.
Most customers are thinking in any sale, “I wonder if everything he says really works the way he says it does.” Remember, most people think very little of salespeople’s credibility. You are less believable when you have something to gain. You do have something to gain—the sale— and in some cases salespeople will say almost anything to get the sale. You should get other people to say the same things you want to say about your work so you can be more credible.
That’s where testimonials come in. Interview your satisfied customers and take notes on what they say. Don’t ask them to write the testimonial letters for you. They won’t because they don’t have the time. Instead, ask them, “Would it be all right if I took what you told me and wrote it up and sent to you for your review? Please feel free to make any changes. Then, put the letter on your letterhead and mail it back to me by U.S. mail.” What you’ll get is a perfect testimonial because someone credible, other than you, is talking about you and your work.
Introduce yourself as part of the product.
Your prospects are much less able to envision an intangible product. Just as with tangible products, they want to be sure the service after the sale will meet their requirements. That’s where you come in. How do you compare to other sales professionals who also sell your products? Are you more experienced or knowledgeable? Do you work harder for your customers to ensure they have a better buying experience? Do you use your expertise to ensure they buy the best products that meet their unique requirements without overpaying? What can you do to demonstrate that you truly understand their business? Do you have data to show how other businesses perform in their industry so you can meet to compare their performance?
A good sales professional realizes that the salesperson is even more important in the sale when the product is intangible. This is especially true when the role you play helps guide the prospect to make his buying decision. There may be so many variables for a prospect to consider that he becomes overwhelmed and unable to decide. You become the filter to explain a limited number of choices and the choice that you recommend for that prospect.
It may be harder to sell intangible products. You can choose to change your sales strategy and include a few steps so you make it easier for your prospects to buy.