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Secrets to Selling Intangible Goods and Services

Jonathan Furman
Jul 26, 2017

Trust is integral in the marketing and sales of intangibles

Some services are characterized by their intangibility, and marketing them can be highly challenging. With physical features unavailable for customers to see and touch, the sale of services becomes highly dependent on experiential evidence.

Goods, on the other hand, have always been easier to sell because of their tangibility. This was true until a few years ago when advancements in technology created an aspect of intangibility in products as well. Now marketers face the challenge of selling not just services but also intangible goods.

An ebook, an online degree, bitcoin are some examples of intangible products and services. With no obvious evidence available to show customers about the credibility and integrity of these offerings, sales and marketing of intangible goods and services tends to be tricky.

Role of trust in the sale of intangibles

Trust is an integral factor in the marketing and sale of intangible products and services. As there is nothing tangible to show customers, trust and integrity become the pillars that support and promote sales. An organization’s credibility is built over time. Prospects favor those organizations that have a large base of loyal customers. Loyalty often represents the faith that customers have in the organization as a result of previous interactions.

When purchasing an intangible product or service, the customer trusts the organization to make good on its promise and provide the offering as discussed. It is the duty of everyone in the organization to work together to uphold the faith that the customer has placed in them. Goodwill develops when an organization works with integrity. Word-of-mouth advertising, which is one of the biggest contributors to the sale of intangibles, draws more customers to the organization.

Ensuring success with the sale of intangibles

While the marketing and sales of intangibles may be challenging, it is not impossible. By following certain steps, organizations can make their interactions with their customers more fruitful. Some of the things that the organization can do are:

1. Focus on personalized selling. Telling prospective customers how the product or service can create a positive impact in their lives will increase the appeal of the offering. The sales team should strive to directly address the needs of the target customer. The sales pitch should be as personalized as possible.

2. Show the tangible benefits of using the product or service. Although the offering itself is intangible, post-usage benefits are often tangible. Give examples of success stories to prospective customers. This will help build organizational credibility. Success stories are one of the strongest tools in a salesperson’s arsenal. Also, customize the sales pitch to include the problems that the prospect is facing. Place the product or service as a solution to that problem.

3. Offer comfort and advice. While a tangible product offers comfort by its mere presence, an intangible good or service cannot do the same. The job of the organization 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 that the prospects have and advise them on how the goods or service will benefit them.

4. Draw parallels between tangibles and intangibles. Suppose you are selling digitalized content such as an ebook, which is an intangible product; you do not have a physical book available to show the customer. You can draw parallels between a tangible book and digitalized content. Tell the customer how having content online will reach a wider audience. Demonstrate how the intangible product offers benefits similar to its tangible counterpart. The case is the same when you are selling software applications, online music and other intangibles.

5. Demonstrate how your offering works. Use videos, audio files and pictures to show how your service or product works. The biggest reason why customers fear investing in intangibles is that they often don’t understand how they work. This issue can be resolved by showing prospects how similar goods and services work. For example, if you are marketing a premium massage service, show a video clip of a relaxing massage service. Seeing this tangible feature will help customers overcome their fear of the unknown.

6. Act responsibly towards the stakeholders and the environment. Apart from the provision of service, the behavior of the organization toward its stakeholders and its use of scarce environmental resources impacts how customers view the firm. Existing customers choose to stick with an organization that treats all of its internal and external partners with respect and is environmentally conscious. Prospective customers may also consider doing business with an organization that shows such high integrity. This is true for all organizations.

Image Credit:

Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock

Jonathan Furman