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Selling an Idea: 6 Ways to Succeed in Conceptual Selling

You’ve all seen the infomercial where the guy glues a car together and takes it off-road. Admit it, you’re hooked right away. That’s because selling a tangible product is an engaging experience. It touches all the senses. You can drop it on the table, flip a switch, do a demo, and maybe even let the prospect test drive it for a while. When selling tangible products, features and benefits can sometimes be easier to demonstrate. It also may be easier to point out flaws or limitations of your competition when you can see or touch them. Heck, even when it breaks, you can just send the customer another one.

But when you sell professional services, the attributes connected to the sale are not initially visible to the buyer. You cannot switch on a consulting experience, check out a technology assessment before completion or know what a migration process looks like until it’s over.

That makes selling an idea a little harder. Intangibles, such selling services, training, business continuity, data and systems migration, desk top management, consulting, managed services and so on, can’t be taken home for an overnight test-drive to fall in love with that “new strategy” smell. Other than some well-worded technical writing, there’s nothing for them to admire.

The biggest difference between selling “things” and intangible services is the pivotal role of trust. Trust is even more critical to selling intangible services than it is to selling things.

So, how do you create a connection between a potential buyer and your intangible product?

 

6 Things to Remember to Successfully Sell Intangibles

  1. Make it personal. The fastest way to make your product tangible to the customer is to describe how it will make their life safer, easier and better. Maybe HR Harley wants to improve engagement of her company’s employees or Salesperson Steve needs to find a new incentive to get his sales team buzzing. You have to put in the work. You have to research. You must learn about your prospects and be an expert, not only in your industry, but maybe in your client’s industry to earn coveted trust.
  2. Keep it simple. The world is a complex place and the last thing people need is more complexity when trying to make difficult decisions. When selling something complex you have to bring things down to the lowest common denominator. “It’s like Uber for barbershops…” “It’s like your personal bank vault in the cloud, only accessible with your thumbprint…” Your message must be simple and repeatable to sell to investors. And in a world overflowing with options, simple beats complex—every time.
  3. Track progress correctly. It’s more important than ever to be as transparent as possible with everything you’ll be doing for your clients. Much of the work in tied to strategic solutions is never seen by the client so it pays to open up the curtain and let them know everything they’re getting. You tell the customers what you’ll do for them and then go out and do exactly what you said. 
  4. Accentuate the trivial. Talk up the little things; when you have similar services as a competitor, you must hype the differentiator—that which sets your solution apart. A good brand is associated with a trustworthy firm that will perform like it’s supposed to perform.
  5. Articulate the ROI. Ideas need muscle in order to gain traction. Whiteboards, visualizations, pictures and “napkin math” are great ways to get the ball rolling to estimate the financial investment and possible returns. No idea gets off the ground without “financial translation”—you must be able to articulate the ROI before any idea gets support.
  6. Sell peace of mind. What you’re really selling is the comfort of knowing that everything will be okay even if the unexpected happens. People worry about their finances, their families, their reputations, their futures, their style choices, their social media status, etc. People worry about many, many things. If your offering can remove an item from the worry list, that’s a benefit worth selling.

 

Make Intangibles, Tangible

Telling a proven story of how your product helped another customer makes what you’re selling more real. Create a vision of the concrete outcomes if something bad happens, both with and without your product. Once your prospects place themselves in the situation you describe, and understand the very real financial safety net you offer, your product will become more of a necessity than an option.

Intangibles aren’t an easy sell, so you may need help rallying your sales force. You can inspire them with TED talks that motivate sales professionals or offer stress-management tips from regional sales managers that’ll keep their stress down and motivation up.

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