Selling Nothing But Air

What are you selling?

Make the mistake of asking a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman that question and he’ll whip out his cleaning machine and be into his sales pitch faster than you can scream, “NO!”  If his sales pitch were a bullet, you’d be dead before you hit the floor.

Ask that same question of a doctor, or an attorney, or any other kind of “service professional” and you would probably be met with a blank stare followed by the response,  “I’m not SELLING anything.  I’m a [fill in the blank].”

Unfortunately, NOTHING and I mean NOTHING is further from the truth. If you’re in business, you’re selling something – PERIOD!

If you’re in business and you can’t pull out  a product to hand to a prospective customer for review, then chances are strong that you’re in the business of selling nothing but air.

  • Your education – nothing but air.
  • Your experience – nothing but air.
  • Your services – nothing but air.

Sometimes referred to as “knowledge professionals”, many of us who live and work on the web are selling nothing but air.  We are joined in the “real” world by dozens of service professionals whose services can not be wrapped and mailed.   The list of those selling nothing but air includes plumbers, dentists, attorneys, doctors, chiropractors, electricians, acupuncturists, realtors, writers, accountants – the list goes on and on.

If this were a paper for a professor in business school,  I’d be using the more “technical” term for selling “nothing but air” and I’d call it the intangible sale.  Then, I’d begin prattling on about the strong connection between MAJOR SALES and INTANGIBLE SALES.   I would point out that while not every Major Sale is an Intangible Sale, every Intangible Sale is by nature a Major Sale.

Thank goodness this isn’t a term paper on Web Marketing 101!

Just as a refresher, there are two types of “sales” your business can make.  There are Minor Sales which are sales that don’t warrant a lot of time or energy on the part of the buyer.   Almost anything offered for sale in a Wal-Mart would qualify as a minor sale.  Even the few items that are sold by Wal-Mart that would meet the criteria for a Major Sale are reduced to Minor Sale status thanks to Wal-Mart’s permissive return policies.

A Major Sale is one where the buyer’s financial and/or emotional investment is significant.  As a result, the purchase warrants significant time and research into alternatives. In the Major Sale, another key factor is that there is the potential for a long-term relationship between you and/or your business and the customer.

In other words, in the Major Sale – the consequences of making a purchasing mistake are high.

  • Choosing the wrong doctor can be a matter of life and death.
  • Choosing the wrong tax professional can mean the difference between business success and business failure.
  • Choosing the wrong divorce attorney can mean the difference between splitting your assets or turning them all over to your soon to be ex-spouse.
  • Choosing the wrong Realtor can mean the difference between buying a house the floods or buying one that is high and dry.

Our town of Port St. Lucie, Florida was making national news after Tropical Storm Fay rolled through.  We got  a lot of rain dumped on our fair city over the course of a few days, exposing to the world a critical flaw in our fair city.  Explosive growth combined with poor planning by city officials = exceptionally poor storm water drainage.  As a result, much of the city was shut down by extensive flooding.

I was getting a manicure last week and he conversation turned to Fay and the extensive flooding that resulted.  I asked my manicurist if she was affected by the flooding.  Her response, “We had a REALLY good realtor who told us when we began looking to buy a house up here about the problems the city has with drainage.  As a result, we purchased our house with the possibility of flooding in mind.  Our house sits high and dry thanks to our realtor’s advice.”

Attention: All Realtors – especially those of you who are “afraid” that the internet is going to replace you-  it won’t if you understand what it is you’re REALLY selling.

Three years later, a manicurist in a popular day spa is still singing the praises of her exceptional realtor – the one who guided them as they made a Major Sale Purchase and kept them from buying a home that was susceptible to flooding.

This is why when you’re in the business of selling nothing but air why it’s so important to build TRUST with prospective clients/customers.  We live in an age which can be defined as a “No Trust Zone“.  Building trust is an essential part of making the sale when you’re selling “nothing but air”.

Realtors – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise of your local housing market.

Attorneys – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise at negotiation and persuasion.

Doctors – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise of the human body.

Accountants, you are selling nothing but air a.k.a. – your expertise and knowledge of the tax code.

Once you recognize the fact that you’re selling nothing but air, it sets the stage for creating physical product you can put in someone’s hands.  Writing a book, an eBook or even a blog is a great way to “bridge” the trust gap and demonstrate your expertise.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Kathy – this is a really good point – especially if you’re selling a service – the customer needs to know in simple terms what benefit it will be to them. And that benefit is your real USP isn’t it?

    Glad the hurricane didn’t affect you too badly.

  2. says

    Kathy,

    Intangibles? People. But then again, you can touch them. But still, what those people things say and do gives substance which makes people think.

    I aint a doctor. Nor an accountant. But I work in a field which is based upon people.

    Not something you can pass to anther so they can touch. A service.

    And back to Cath’s article about negative people. There can also be negative clients. Those that will never be happy. Even if you go that extra mile and throw yourself at their feet so they can pat you on the head.

    They won’t. They’ll smack you.

    I got rid of negative clients. And it works wonders. I don;t put up with them. In fact I advertise locally (Liverpool, UK – home of the Beatles) in such a way that the nasty clients are offended before they would even think of enquiring.

    And it works.

    We attract clients that are fun. And we work darned hard for them too. Because we like them.

    Nasty and negative clients drain your soul. And the souls of your colleagues.

    So get rid. Tangibly, once they are gone, you have an almost intanible but real sense of relief.

  3. Liverpool Student Accommodation says

    Brilliant article. Trust is so important. However, I do believe customer service is just as important. Most businesses seem to be losing focus on this, especially in the UK.

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