How to Sell Tangible Vs. Intangible Products

by Craig Woodman

While tangible products can be seen and touched, intangible items often must rely on promises and future performance. This difference creates some specific challenges for intangible item sales, and some roadblocks to overcome. The biggest differences between selling the two types of items are in the preparation for the sale, and in the presentation of the product or service. Many of the steps, such as prospecting and closing, are the same regardless of the product type.


1. Determine the value in what you are selling. Both product and service providers must focus on what they do for the customer. In the end, the customer does not buy just a product, he buys what that product will provide for him. He does not purchase only a car, but peace of mind (safe and reliable transportation) or the prestige. The intangible item provides benefits, but may be more difficult for the buyer to see. The sales rep will need to to demonstrate these benefits proficiently.

2. Quantify the value to the customer, particularly if it is a business customer. Business customers are interested in the benefit to their income statement. If your intangible service provides cost savings to the business, demonstrate what these savings will mean over a period of time. Do the same if it provides for increased revenue. Business owners also buy based on other non-monetary reasons, such as more personal time or less stress. Be sure to present these reasons as well.

3. Prepare your presentation, and practice it repeatedly. Your presentation may be a simple, one-on-one conversation, and could have a 30 second sales cycle, particularly for simple, low-cost tangible items. With higher priced items, a more detailed presentation will be necessary. This may include samples and product demonstrations. While also important to tangible products, intangible sales presentations may focus more on handouts and slide shows, or power-point presentations. This requires good communication skills for the sales representative.

Selling Process

1. Prospect regularly. It is important to always keep the sales pipeline full, and manage time properly to do this. Determine the necessary time it takes to prospect for new business, and make sure that you invest this time each week. Use a good customer relationship management software package if you are good with computer software, or maintain a well-organized notebook for monitoring your prospecting activities. This is important regardless of the type of sales you are making.

2. Qualify your prospects. A sales representative will waste a great deal of time if constantly presenting to people who are not qualified buyers. The prospect may not have the financing to purchase what you are selling, or you may not be talking to the decision maker. Ask before you begin a presentation. The person may be a gatekeeper to the decision maker - it is his job to screen all sales reps first.

3. Make the presentation. Leave early to make sure that you are on time, accounting for traffic or any other slow downs. Have all necessary equipment and samples with you ready to travel, and packed neatly for easy movement. Ask someone to show you to where the presentation will be made, so that you can set up in advance and be ready when the prospect arrives.

4. Close the sale. This is the most important step in selling. Never be afraid to ask for the sale, as you lose 100 percent of all of the sales that you do not ask for. Work on several closing techniques, and learn which ones work better in certain situations. Work through a trial close process where you test the buyer's willingness to purchase before closing the sale. After you close, follow through with all of the commitments that you make.


  • Make sure that presentation room conditions are perfect before the presentation. Locate the thermostat and adjust the temperature to a comfortable level. Have water available for drinking. Be sure that the lighting is adequate, and all audio visual equipment is set up and operating correctly.


  • Practice your product demonstrations until you can operate the product flawlessly. Fumbling with a switch or operation will disrupt the flow of the presentation. With intangibles, know the details of any contracts and terms in detail to be able to answer questions. If you do not have an answer, say that you will get one, and follow up within 24 hours.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images