We can’t handle or touch everything we buy. Intangible goods and services – like consulting services, software and downloadable music – are available everywhere, and are commonly bought and sold.
However, selling intangible goods and services can be tricky because there’s nothing for the customer to physically examine. We’ll review essential strategies, and discuss what not to do, when selling intangible goods and services to help you fine tune your sales process and marketing plan.
The secret to selling intangible goods and services
Trust is essential when marketing and selling intangible products and services, such as business insurance or bitcoin. When there’s nothing tangible to show customers, trust and integrity become the pillars that promote sales.
Your organization’s credibility is built over time. Prospects favor companies with a broad user base characterized by customer loyalty. Loyalty represents the faith customers have in the organization because of previous positive interactions.
When purchasing an intangible product or service, the customer trusts the organization to make good on its promise and provide the agreed-upon offering. Everyone in your business must work together to uphold your customers’ faith. Goodwill ensues when an organization works with integrity, and happy customers spread word-of-mouth recommendations that draw in even more clients.
Instead of focusing on closing the sale, build trust by listening closely to your customers’ needs. Trust is built on good listening skills.
How to sell intangible goods and services
While marketing and selling intangibles can be challenging, it’s not impossible. By following specific strategies, your business will grow.
Here are some top best practices to follow for selling intangible goods and services:
- Focus on personalized selling. Explaining to prospective buyers how your product or service can positively impact their lives will increase its appeal. Your sales team should strive to address the needs of the target audience. Additionally, the sales pitch should be as personalized as possible.
- Show the tangible benefits of using the product or service. Although the offering itself is intangible, post-usage benefits are often tangible. Give prospects examples of success stories to build credibility. Success stories are one of the strongest tools in a salesperson’s arsenal. Also, customize the sales pitch to include the prospect’s problems, and place the product or service as a solution to those problems.
- Offer comfort and advice to clients. While a tangible product offers comfort by its mere presence, an intangible good or service can’t do the same. Your organization’s job is to provide comfort and reassurance to the prospective customer by telling them about the benefits of using the intangible offering. An excellent example is the sale of life insurance policies. While the policies themselves are intangible, their effects are highly tangible. Address any specific issue or worries the prospects have, and advise them on how the goods or service will benefit them.
- Draw parallels between tangibles and intangibles. Suppose you’re selling digitized content like e-books. E-books are intangible; you don’t have a physical book available to show the customer. Draw parallels between a tangible book and its digitized content. For instance, explain how online content will reach a wider audience and more quickly by a simple download. The case is the same when selling software applications, online music and other intangibles.
- Demonstrate how your offering works. Use videos, audio files and pictures to show how your service or product works. The biggest reason customers fear investing in intangibles is that they often don’t understand how they work. Resolve this issue by showing prospects how similar goods and services perform. For example, if you are marketing a premium massage service, show a video clip of a relaxing massage session. Seeing this tangible feature will help customers overcome their fear of the unknown.
- Act responsibly toward stakeholders and the environment. Apart from the provision of service, your organization’s behavior toward its stakeholders and its use of environmental resources impacts how customers will view your firm. Existing customers choose to stick with an organization that treats internal and external partners with respect. People also value environmentally conscious organizations with a sustainable business model. Prospective customers will also likely be drawn to such high-integrity companies.
Many companies market their green business innovations, showcasing the efforts they’re pouring into sustainable business initiatives by using applicable terms: sustainable, eco-friendly, organic and recyclable.
Mistakes to avoid while marketing intangibles
When selling intangible goods and services, you’ll want to stay clear of certain actions. These errors can kill sales and make it more challenging to attract consumers.
Here are some marketing mistakes to avoid:
- Promoting an unclear vision. If you aren’t clear about the problems the product or service that you’re selling solves, you won’t be able to convey its need to consumers. Take the time to write out your vision, including what your product is and why it’s essential.
- Lacking a target market. Not every product or service is for everyone. Develop a buyer’s persona – sometimes called a consumer’s avatar – to get a clear picture of who your product or service is for. Also consider creating a customer journey map. When marketing, all your efforts should aim to attract your target market.
- Missing a unique seller’s proposition (USP). You need to help your consumers understand why your brand is better than the competition, and this often boils down to your unique seller’s proposition. Without a USP, you’re just another product in a sea of sales and marketing materials consumers receive on a regular basis.
- Providing trendy products. While many intangible products and services are hot trends, you want to make your marketing efforts evergreen. This means you can show your consumer that your product or service has a long shelf life and isn’t something just to use for the moment. However, stay informed of industry advancements to alter your product or service as needed to stay current.
Kimberlee Leonard contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.
Contributing Writer at business.com
Jonathan got his start through an Advertising agency. He began in the production department and eventually worked his way up to managing a small team. He then decided to make a transfer over to sales, and over the course of a year built a book of business valued at north of $2.5MM a /year in revenue. Jonathan was given the opportunity to manage a team on this end as well (combination of junior account executives and sales reps) in bringing in new business, monetizing existing business, and growing revenue streams to their full potential. Later, he left the agency to form his own company as a financial intermediary, helping small businesses attain necessary funding during hard times. More recently, Jonathan has founded his own management consulting firm A.K.A. Furman Transformation, igniting his full passion in transforming all aspects of a company’s Sales, Marketing, and Operational Growth strategies, into the most powerful and polished version of themselves.