Intangible Benefits Aren’tArticle by Colleen Francis, December 14, 2021
As a sales coach and trainer, I talk a lot about why you must make value-based selling the focus of your work. Your ability to master this skill determines whether you’ll consistently be successful in today’s marketplace—yes, that much is at stake here!
Sellers know that executing value-based selling—and doing it well—hinges first on defining both the tangible and intangible values that motivate customers to buy from you. But too often, that’s where the work stops. In this dynamic marketplace, to win new clients (and keep important ones) you need to master a secret known by the top sellers: convert all intangible value into tangible ROI.
It’s this step that trips up a lot of sellers and team leaders. They say to me: “But Colleen…I sell a service, not some product that you can put in your customer’s hands. How in the world am I supposed to sell an intangible as though it’s tangible?”
I’ll tell you here what I tell them: stop being so rigid in your thinking. Reframe!
Intangible value can be made into a tangible benefit by asking questions, understanding your customers’ business, and being unafraid to talk about the money involved in your client’s business operation. Stop assuming you’re chasing some singular, right way to define how your customer sees the worth behind what you’re selling. There are multitudes. You just have to start digging.
Let’s look at a series of intangible benefits I hear most often from sellers in my workshops. I’ll show you how to uncover a range of tangible benefits simply by reframing the story you’re telling so it’s no longer just about yourself and is, instead, about the return on investment your customer will benefit from.
“We offer great service.” Everyone makes this claim and very few sellers back it up. It’s just an aimless promise unless you quantify why service excellence benefits your customer. Now look at what happens when you do that in units of dollars while asking questions. “What’s the cost to your operation if your supplier suffers a lapse in service?” And: “What if a product or project is delayed…how much does that cost you or your client?” Once you have a monetary qualifier for the loss in service, you can turn around and sell it as a tangible value. Do that by making a statement, such as: “Service excellence delivered by us translates into an average of $20,000/year savings by you.” Suddenly, your customer can see the true monetary value behind your claim.
“We’re reliable 24/7.” Don’t just stop there. Define the risk behind that differentiator. Ask the customer about the risks posed by switching suppliers or moving to a supplier that doesn’t not have your experience and reliability. Dig deeper. Ask them how much it would cost them if one of those risks becomes a reality. Show the customer what it would cost them if they were to choose poorly in a provider and wind up running out of something. What’s the cost of lost business? What about damaged reputation? Put a price on these risks. Your customer sure does.
“Our service is so easy to use.” Again, this is an empty promise until you back it with something tangible that’s also meaningful to your customer. What’s your customer’s time worth? How much of an employee’s time is consumed by using a more difficult solution? What’s that worth per hour to fix? An easy-to-use service or product consumes fewer hours to get the results they’re counting on. This can reduce headcount or overtime. That leads to happier, more productive employees. Define and quantify those saved hours. Look, you’ve just created a new TANGIBLE benefit! Same goes for “peace of mind.” Show the monetary value behind someone not having to worry about the choice they’ve made by doing business with you. Show every hour saved as a unit of dollars.
“It’s low stress when you choose us.” No one wants more stress in their workplace. But stress is an abstraction until you define with tangibles what’s really at stake here for your customer. We know that higher stress in the workplace causes higher absenteeism and greater employee churn. It also can lead to more on-the-job mistakes. Each of those risks carry potentially disastrous expenses for a business. Ask your customer if stressed-out workers have caused any problems in the past and what those problems cost them to fix. Quantify and define. Show the risk in dollars and time.
“We’re trusted by leading brands.” The halo effect can be a powerful, persuasive motivator. It hinges on social proof. People are inclined to make the same choices they see others making. But again…don’t stop there. You must show your customer how much new business they’ll attract by being associated with a trusted brand. Also, understand why those leading brands keep choosing you. There are tangible reasons. And you’ll find them only if you go look and ask probing questions about the measurable, monetary benefits your existing customers gain by choosing to do business with you.
In business, all intangibles can be tangibles. And when you recast all your value this way, you accelerate the total ROI your customer can expect from you. That’s the key to shutting out the competition and creating a high-growth, high-profit business in today’s marketplace.