Selling the Intangible

When you sell energy efficiency, you’re selling a high-dollar intangible. Whether or not you can physically touch the chiller or the LED lights or the solar film or whatever, you’re essentially selling an intangible because your customers aren’t really buying metal chillers, LED circuit boards, or plastic films. They’re buying the concept that their lives will be better in the wake of installing these technologies.  If that perspective is true – and believe me, it is – you have to ask yourself, “How are other intangibles sold?”

A vacation, for example… is that a tangible or an intangible good? Can you touch a vacation? Can you feel it? How is a vacation sold? Do they give you the size of the room or the speed of your cruise ship? No. They give you all sorts of emotional images about how much better you’re going to feel once you’re on vacation.

Let’s get back to the energy world. Assume you’re selling solar panels to a homeowner. You can tell your prospect, “If you install these solar panels on your home, you’ll save $1,000 a year on your electric bills” and hope for the best.

Or, you could continue, “Think about it. That’s like giving yourself an after-tax raise of $1,000 a year. How much would you pay today to guarantee yourself $1,000 in increased after-tax annual income (plus inflation!) for the next twenty years, which happens to be the predicted useful life of these solar panels?”

In fact, you could kick it up a notch, as Emeril Lagasse is fond of saying on the Food Network. What is the before-tax value of that $1,000 raise? At a 35% marginal tax bracket, it’s more like $1,500 per year (plus inflation). So now your question becomes, “How much would you pay today for a $1,500 (before-tax) increase in your annual salary (plus inflation) for the next 20 years?”

Your prospect will undoubtedly get the point – the value of that increased income over the next 20 years is greater than the cost of the panels…and a whole lot sexier than the thought of saving $80/month on the electric bill.

What’s the moral of the story?  Forget talking about equipment specifications… Ask questions that evoke an emotional response.

Selling an intangible is all about reframing the sale in a way that allows your prospect to grab onto something that is tangible – something that they can visualize and become emotionally attached to.

Selling Energy Blog

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