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Posted: October 16, 2012

If they can see it, you can sell it

Give customers something they can hold

David Sneed

Federal Express offers a small computer that goes inside your soon-to-be-sent package. It calls to tell you where the box currently is – and how hot, wet and high it is. They market it as a way for the freakishly obsessive to watch what’s happening with the Johnson file, or the sprockets, or the artificial lung they’re shipping to Toronto or wherever.

They charge for it, but that isn’t what they’re selling is it? FedEx sells delivery. Always have. But you can’t touch a delivery service. You can’t see it either.

But even more than delivery, they’re selling a promise that your sprockets will get to Ontario by Monday. But you can’t touch an idea, so they found a way to let you hold a surrogate for the promise they made to you. That’s smart.

Service companies make up 80 percent or so of U.S. businesses, and most don’t have a way to show you a product before you buy it. Your haircut will look kind of like this. Your kitchen remodel will be lovely, I promise.

Customers don’t always believe us; they’ve heard that before.

But the guy who can best show the customer an idea has a better chance of making the sale. People buy what they can see.

An auctioneer told me: once he sold a glass of water at a charity event for $3,000. If he had just asked for a donation he wouldn’t have gotten it. The cause was invisible. Once he held up a glass of water though, the bidders could see a thing and someone paid three grand for it. Good for him.

Service companies need to hold up something for the customer to see.

Sometimes I leave a cedar picket at my prospects house. They have 1/2000th of a fence in their living room. Taped to it is a picture of 2,000 more pickets formed up in a yard. The solid board is real, and it helps them to visualize a future. And they can touch the future.

So how many frogs do you kiss before getting a new tax return to process, or insurance policy to write? The answer doesn’t matter. It’s greater than one.  If you could convert every call into a sale though, you’d be set. That’s tough and I don’t think you can do it. I certainly can’t do it.

But if you come up with a way to show the invisible you have a better shot. If you can give them something to hold you’ll close more deals. You’re smart, so you can think of something touchable to represent your service. And you should.

FedEx made the genius move of letting you see their service in real time. Nothing changed with what they do; they just gave you a way to hold the very idea of reliability.

People buy what they can see and touch.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

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