Selling Tangibles vs. Intangibles
What’s The Difference?
by George Angus
When we learned to sell an automobile, we were taught to do a features and benefits presentation. This is the key to
selling a big ticket, tangible product. The effective automobile salesperson knows that the more product value the
customer perceives, the better the chance they will buy the product. A higher perceived value also helps to justify the
asking price for the vehicle. This is why we spend so much time and effort teaching a proper walk around presentation,
demonstration ride, and in depth product knowledge. As a matter of fact, we are probably the best at a feature benefit
presentation of all the salespeople in the world. A good automobile salesperson will spend more time showing a customer
the features and benefits of an automobile than a Realtor trying to sell a home. We know how to sell tangibles.
The problem arises when we move into the F&I office and apply these same principles to selling intangibles. Intangibles
are a very different type of product than tangibles and are most effectively sold using a completely different sales method
and approach. The feature benefit method is less effective and causes a level of tension and frustration for the customer
and the F&I manager, alike. Why?
We have conducted a huge amount of research into F&I presentation methods. During this research, we did a time study
on the value building methods taught at three of the major F&I schools in the country. We measured the average time it
took to do a complete feature benefit, value presentation, as taught in these schools. We used a standard amount of F&I
and after sale products. The average time it took to do a proper presentation and price disclosure, using those methods,
was 29 minutes. The problem is: How many of your customers will sit and listen to a 29 minute, value presentation in the
F&I office? The answer is: Not very many. So what really happens?
The reality is that you present your products, conscientiously, until the customer resists and then you back off. You
decide which of your products you want to sell the most of, present that product first, and present the rest of your
products until the customer stops the process. This doesn’t happen because your presentation skills are weak. It
happens because the customer is sales resistant, impatient, tired, skeptical, and stops listening at 4 1/2 to 7 minutes into
your presentation. Sound Familiar?
That is because the 29 minute value presentation does not work well for you, or anyone else.
As we examine the answers to the problem of selling intangible and tangible products, we need to study the methods
used by those who make their living selling only intangibles. The methods used by the life insurance industry are
completely different than the methods used by the automobile industry. Theirs is a completely assumptive sale. They
assume, up front, that the customer is responsible, wants to protect their loved ones, and they offer the customer options
that will insure that their families needs will be met. We can apply some of those same assumptions to our customers.
Intangibles are best presented as an assumptive product.
The problem is that we move into the F&I office and have intangibles, but also tangibles to sell. These two product types
require two different kinds of sales approach. You also have to present the options and products quickly, and in a format
that the customer can easily understand.
Any effective F&I presentation has to separate tangibles from intangibles. By assuming the intangibles, we can quickly
include those products, let the customer choose, and move on to the description of the tangible or up-sell products. This
is critical to the process.
F&I managers sometimes ask why they cannot put all the products in one package and assume all their products. We
have found that when you combine the two types of products, the customers exhibit the same type of resistance as they
do with the old methods.
Separate the products properly, and you will find that your customers will choose more products, offer less resistance,
and the whole process will be productive and free of stress for you and the customer.
George Angus is with Team One Research and Training, a research and training company that specializes in scientific,
research based program development and training programs for the automobile industry. George has trained thousands
of F&I professionals and develops programs and techniques with the top performing F&I departments in the country.
Team One can be reached at 1-800-928-1923 or on the web at www.teamoneamerica.com
George Angus has had over 100 articles published in news and trade publications. This
article is a recent example of George's reporting of information derived from researching,
training, and working with the leading F&I managers in the US and Canada.