Selling the Invisible – Harry Beckwith [Book Summary]

by Nick

In the United States, more than 70% of the population works in the service sector.

The service industry is well developed in other countries of the world.

The companies that represent it would achieve much more if they did not repeat the same mistake – they would not sell services as a commodity.

Selling services requires completely different methods than those offered by traditional, product-oriented marketing. Service providers who are the first to learn will be able to attract many customers even in an oversaturated market.

Harry Beckwith discusses these methods in his book, clearly explaining how they should be applied in practice. The book has almost no chapters that occupy more than one page.

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print

The Intangible Nature of Services

Services are invisible.

Before buying it is impossible to touch, smell or taste.

The service sector itself can hardly be called invisible: it employs more than 70% of the working population of the United States.

Goods, on the contrary, are visible.

Selling hairstyles or insurance is far from the same as selling cars. In the case of goods, you are selling something that a person can judge based on his five senses.

You can put the car in front of the buyer and offer a ride. Selling services, you trade promises. Customers cannot immediately evaluate what you provide them.

Only time and final results will show what they got for their money. However, many service companies continue to stubbornly apply marketing models for selling goods.

As a result, they barely make ends meet.

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How to Sell Services

Clients do not always know whether they need a particular service at all.

People have been procrastinating for years without repairing leaking taps and without updating the paint on the facade of the house.

Even less they understand the cost of your work, as the numbers always vary depending on the time spent and the volume of services provided.

If you continue to sell your services as goods — that is, by placing their functions and advantages first and not your customer relationships — your financial performance will never improve.

“When selling specialized services, you most often do not sell the knowledge of your specialists … What you sell is an attitude towards the client. And in most cases, this is what you should pay close attention to. ”

It is also true that if you sell your product without understanding the importance of the services associated with it (for example, customer service or delivery), you will not be able to isolate it from the mass of similar ones.

We live in an era of the oversaturated market when the previous methods of product differentiation lose their former effectiveness.

In order for your product to be successful in the market, you must either reduce the price or increase its value.

And to add value, you need to improve the quality of related services.

What Your Customers Want

In any situation related to the provision of services (the sale of the intangible), the client is always anxious.

You need to relieve it of anxiety – for example, by offering a trial service or performing only a small part of the order.

“Before you try to satisfy the wishes of the” client “, understand and satisfy the wishes of the person.”

Clients come to you only because they cannot satisfy their need for a particular service on their own.

In many cases, they come to you, generally having a poor idea of what they need, but for this very reason, they come to you.

Therefore, do not try to explain to them the specifics of the work you are doing.

They will not understand. Instead, inspire them with confidence that no one can do better than you (or your company).

Make them feel that you are able to complete the task. Establish a personal relationship with a potential customer. This will dispel his fears regarding the invisible service he is acquiring.

He will know that you value him and are ready to give all his best for his sake. It is these factors that play a major role when the consumer decides whether

“A sufficiently competent and pleasant consultant … will attract far more clients than a brilliant, but not able to communicate specialist extra-class.”

Many service providers mistakenly believe that their offer is central to the minds of consumers.

In fact, in the consumer’s mind, he always comes first – his emotions, instinctive reactions, and mental models.

Do not make customers want your services, but make your clients feel welcome.

Customer Need to Like

The client always notices what shoes, watches, and your manner of dressing.

These details can both strengthen and undermine his faith in you.

Clients evaluate you whenever your company comes into contact with them – when they communicate with your employees, pick up your business card, read the prospectus, see an advertisement or go to your office.

Therefore, constantly ask yourself:

  • How can I improve communications at points of contact with customers?
  • How to make them the most attractive for them?

Your competencies and skills give you only the opportunity to enter the game.

Victory can only be brought by your attractiveness to customers – you must really like them.

“Do not try to present your company as the best choice. Make yourself considered a good choice. After that, take care to exclude anything that might give you the impression of being a bad choice. ”

Your customers can also provide you with services.

If you establish a strong and lasting relationship with them, they will definitely recommend you to their relatives and friends.

When it comes to the field of intangible sales, customers often go exactly where someone recommended them go.

Your task as a service provider is to build a database of customers who are ready to vouch for you.

What You Can Not Do in the Service Sector

A number of erroneous assumptions and stereotypes hinder understanding the true nature of services and the principles of their sale.

  1. Lake Wobegon effect. Lake Wobegon is a fictional city from a famous radio show. Everything in it is in the best possible way: women are the most beautiful there, men are the strongest, and the children are very talented. Psychologists call the Lake Wobegon effect a person’s ability to think about himself better than he really is. Beware of this mistake. Even if the quality of your services is above average, it may still not be as good as it could or should have been.
  2. Confidence that everything is going as it should. When entering the market with a new service, do not take anything for granted. Ask yourself difficult questions about the most fundamental aspects of your company’s work: is work being carried out in that direction, are employees qualified enough, does anyone really need this service?
  3. Marketing comes down to the work of one department. If one department is involved in marketing in your company, then you are not doing everything that you could do. Moreover, you are extremely far from this. Each employee of your company must contribute to marketing every time he contacts a client. Stop thinking about marketing as a department and start thinking about it as a task for the whole company.
  4. Inattention to new technologies and ideas. Despite its world-famous name, the New York Stock Exchange has long been no longer a giant in its market. The first strong blow she received in the 1980s when personal computers appeared. They allowed investors not to resort to brokers at all. The exchange failed to adapt in time to this technical innovation. Other blows are new financial instruments (“tax havens”, mutual funds and so on), which were offered by competitors and which the exchange ignored. If you want to always be on the crest of a wave, make researching new technologies an integral part of marketing.
  5. Incorrect understanding of competition. Your true competitors are not necessarily other companies; Often these are your potential customers. They do not choose between your services and those of another company. They choose between three possibilities: the first is to do everything yourself; the second is to do nothing; the third is to resort to your help. So that customers choose you, convince them of their need and develop their fears.
  6. Strict logic-based pricing. Prices do not always lend themselves to a logical explanation. When installing them, monitor the reaction of consumers. If no one complains, most likely the price is underestimated; if everyone complains, it is overpriced. Your goal is 15–20% of those who are dissatisfied. This method is much more effective than the usual practice of determining the highest and lowest prices and calculating the average. The price tells your customers how high or low you consider the quality of your products and services.
  7. Silence is a sign of satisfaction. If a person does not complain, this does not mean that he is satisfied with everything. In the service sector, the absence of complaints does not automatically mean that customer needs are met. Just most people tend to avoid conflict. They will tolerate silently for some time, and then decide to no longer have anything to do with you. Constantly monitor the development of customer relationships. Ask them, ask to share their impressions of cooperation with you, point out your shortcomings. But keep in mind: customers are more talkative behind you. Therefore, use the help of third parties to conduct such surveys.
  8. Exaggeration of promises. If there is a big gap between what your customers expect and what they get, then you are creating a serious cause for mutual discontent.
  9. Bias. Do not give too much importance to initial impressions and judgments, so as not to be in a state of stagnation. At the same time, remember that your customers are also biased, which is already based on their impressions and opinions. Do you want to change any of them? If so, think about how.
  10. A too-long list of services. The longer the list of services offered, the greater the likelihood that some of them will be forgotten by customers and not paid attention to some. Therefore, when advertising your services, focus on one thing. Your advertising message should remain extremely simple and concise.
  11. Excellent is the enemy of the good. David Ogilvy also noted that customers do not have to offer superior service. No less success can be achieved by offering an undeniably good service. People are not looking for first-class services, they are not ready to overpay for them. Moreover, they are skeptical of the claims of someone’s perfection. And numerous surveys show that one or another service provider is chosen because it is simply convenient for customers.

Planning is Not a Prediction

Do not be mistaken about the fact that you know what you want to receive in the future – your desires can change repeatedly.

Your planning options are very limited.

Understand that the most important thing in planning is the process itself, that is, discussions, information search.

Who should engage in these discussions and research?

The people you work with. Therefore, plan only what people will determine the future of your company. Find truly outstanding professionals with whom you generally agree.

They, too, will not be able to predict anything. But they will make the right decisions in the present.

“Preach honesty as the gospel and pay well for it. This is the main thing that creates your brand. ”

Also, consider the following points:

  • Tactics are more important than abstract strategy. Sometimes it’s much more effective to shoot first and then aim. Tactics allow you to get an instant response – a market reaction. You will not get any information from the strategic plan. He is not able to teach anything at all.
  • It is not at all necessary to spend time and energy searching for a better idea. You can start with any idea, gradually developing and improving it.
  • The best time is right now. Do not put ideas in the long run just because they have not yet “matured” or you are not ready for their implementation. If you don’t bring your ideas to life right now, someone else will do it.
  • Do not trust too much marketing research and expert opinions. The phrase “Studies have shown …” and many numbers make a strong impression. But there may not be any exact scientific evidence behind them. The fact is that human behavior cannot be measured; one can only observe it. If you place too much hope in various “scientific facts”, you run the risk of being fooled. As for the experts, they only express their point of view.
  • Personal experience has its limits. You cannot experience absolutely everything. Therefore, you should not rely solely on your own experience, it can fail.
  • Common sense will take you to the middle level; inspiration will allow you to rise much higher. You have a ton of different possibilities. Which one to choose? This will tell you your inspiration. Common sense in this situation is only a shield, it will protect you from serious mistakes.

How to Choose a Company Name

When choosing the name of your company, pay attention to the following recommendations:

  • Do not use abbreviations in the company name. This approach worked for IBM, but that does not mean that you can repeat its success.
  • Avoid words that describe the properties of a service that it should have by default. For example, the word “quality”. This is what goes without saying.
  • If you do not consider your company to be ordinary, do not give it an ordinary name. If you really can’t think of anything, give her your name.
  • Test the name: what information does it communicate to the consumer?

“Satisfy the most important need of your market: give it only one worthy reason.”

Brands are still valued on the market.

Customers prefer what they know, so this is the shortest path to the heart of the buyer.

In the service sector, where in principle it is difficult to give any guarantees, the brand is your promise, your word that the consumer believes.

When building a brand, remember that it starts with employees. One poorly served customer can cost you thousands of dollars in loss. Remember that associations are formed at a subconscious level, and do not allow negative associations with your brand.

How to Use Words

Words have power over the mind.

They do not just describe reality but create it.

In the service industry, where you sell the invisible, words turn into powerful weapons.

They can both save and destroy you. Avoid cliches and idle talk.

Do not describe, but form the image you need. In order to influence people and change their behavior, you must clearly know what you want to tell them.

The lively and vibrant language will help your service stand out from the crowd. Your name should be constantly present on the pages of publications, appearing either in advertising or in editorial articles.

And most importantly: attract consumers by telling them true stories related to your service.

True personal stories are quickly remembered and have a strong impact on people.


  • Invisible services cannot be promoted as visible and tangible goods. This is a serious mistake of so many companies.
  • Since services are invisible and intangible, acquiring them, customers feel insecurity and anxiety. The task of the service provider is to dispel these concerns.
  • The client has three possibilities: to order the service, to do what he needs, to do nothing himself. The last two are competitors of the service provider.
  • Marketing should not be carried out by a special department, but by each employee of the company.
  • Services sell well not due to their advantages and features, but due to well-built customer relationships.
  • A client who is satisfied with the service provided is ready to render the service himself – bring his relatives and acquaintances.
  • Customers do not want to hear what the company is saying about themselves. They want to hear about their problems and how the company can help them.
  • The main thing in planning is the search for information and discussion.
  • Do not rely too much on the results of market research and expert opinions. Neither one nor the other is able to reflect the real situation.
  • Tactics are more important than strategies. It gives an immediate answer – the reaction of consumers, the strategy gives no answer.

Why You Should Read “Selling The Invisible”

  • To access a gold collection of practical tips
  • To learn how to sell services successfully
  • To stand out from your competitors by offering your clients something unique

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print