Relying on Old Sales Wisdom

I love reading old sales training books. I find that the practical wisdom in them is a refreshing change from much of today’s glib thoughts on the reach of the latest social media. Sales is a hard science, by comparison. It relies on decades, centuries of experience in understanding people and how they react. Sales teaches you, more than anything, to be a student of the human character. As such, the concepts are timeless and the applications are tangible.

The Real Need

businessman with question mark sign on white backgroundOne such sales lesson I learned was to discover the need “beyond the need.”  The need that operates at a higher level in a person’s consciousness, other than the tangible need they express.  In other words, a person shops for running shoes, but what is the higher, driving force that will ultimately make them decide?  The need for a new pair of running shoes may be practical, but the factors that ultimately make the decision are emotional.

What are the emotional factors?

That is simple – are these shoes to impress the others in the gym?  Are they a status symbol?  Are you identifying with a sports celebrity and want to wear their shoe or brand?  Is the color of the shoe intended to be noticed?  What then is a person looking for in a purchase of a running shoe?  Acceptance?  Independence? These are the emotional factors behind much of today’s advertising – especially in shoes.

For me, if I’m honest, I still have memories of the peer pressure exerted by a room full of 6th graders that emphasized the importance of white Nike tennis shoes, Jordache jeans, and a large-handled plastic comb in the back pocket.  Later in high school I rebelled against that group and became independent by wearing Chuck Taylors – just like all the other rebels in the clique.  Shoes are highly emotional, I’ve learned.

What is so important about the “real” need?

The real need focuses attention on the customer – what they need, what they want.  Really, the standard with which they will judge the value of the purchase.

I had the privilege of meeting Mark Hunter a year ago, and some of my team helped him with his website.  A great guy with great insights reflects the same sentiment in his article, Quit Selling on What You Provide. Sell Based on What the Customer Gains.

Your entire focus as a salesperson is in understanding what the customer’s needs are and finding a way for you to help them deal with their needs.

When we understand the customer’s needs, we can then begin to realize how much more what we’re selling is really worth.

The customer who has a significant need is certainly going to be willing to pay more. Our challenge is to help the customer to realize the need they have is significant.

What it comes down to is the mindset you as the salesperson has going into the selling process.  When you go in with the approach of helping the customer gain or improve their position, you will be in a much better position to realize the full value of what it is you’re selling.

– Mark Hunter

Practice Finding the Need

FisherPrice homepageMy favorite example of finding the customer’s true need is the Fisher-Price website.  The homepage itself has very little product content.  Rather it focuses on stories, pictures, playtime and parent-interaction.  When one digs into the website, you will find that the content is about the importance of play, the development of cognitive and motor skills, and only then will toys be presented, but not as mere objects, but as important steps to learning and development.playtime guide on Fisher-Price

What Fisher Price ultimately sells is being a good, caring parent or grandparent.  If you care about your child, you won’t just buy them any old toy.  No, you are going to buy the ones that will stimulate learning and development.  Toys that will inspire a love of learning or music, or building.  Toys that will enable a child to be smart, get good grades, get into a great college and have a successful career – that’s what we’re buying.  Not some plastic toy, but an investment in the overall development of your child – because you love them.

What distinguishes your online marketing?

Do you sell the immediate need – or the emotional need?  Chances are, if you sell the immediate need, you compete on price, get the first sale, and have very little loyalty.  However, if you sell towards the emotional understanding of your customer, then chances are your customers are more loyal and respond positively to your communications.

You understand them – and that’s powerful.