Salesmanship has often been defined as the ability to persuade people to do anything. “He could sell ice to Eskimos!” is a common way of describing the ultimate salesperson. Indeed, selling a product by using intense, hard-sell techniques used to be a popular business model.
The ability to sell people things they don’t need may be indicative of great persuasive skill, but it’s not a good way to build a sustainable business.
For one thing, selling that way is really hard work. For another, it suggests rather fluid ethics. Do you want to be the guy or gal who brags about convincing someone to buy something that they could have had for free, or that they won’t ever use?
We need to be sure we are pointed the right way. Think about the customer's own motivation -- their "gravity," or the force that would compel them to make a purchase. Your customer comes to you with their own needs, wants, and desires ... these are all part of gravity.
And, as in the real world, it’s a lot easier to work with gravity than fighting it. Persuading customers to do something they don’t want to do is like trying to push them the wrong way on a slide.
With enough strength and effort, you can indeed overcome gravity and force them up the slanted surface. But it’s hard work, and far less enjoyable than letting gravity propel them from top to bottom.
Align Your Message
Instead of that uphill battle, we need to align our message with what the customer wants. Our persuasion task will be far easier if we can show how our offer will relieve customer pain points or make the customer happier or more successful.
In your persuasion efforts, you need to work with the customer’s needs and desires.
Present a solution for a problem the customer is wrestling with. Show how your offer gets the customer closer to an important goal. Identify a customer pain point and offer relief. When you do this, it will be a speedy trip down the slide!
That’s not to say you should sell only to customers who have already established a need for your product. A supermarket can put eggs on display, and shoppers who need eggs will buy them. That’s a fine model for food stores, but it won’t work well for the rest of us. We usually have to show the customer how our offering fits their needs or will help them in some way.
For example, you could pitch a set of exercises videos in two different ways -- one way that fights the customer's desire to save money, and one that encourages the customer's desire to get in better shape.
Fighting Gravity: “Buy all 10 exercise videos for $199!”
Gravity Helping: “Get fit and feel great in 10 weeks, guaranteed! Just $199!”
When your main pitch is something the customer has no predetermined need for or interest in, you are fighting gravity.
Expensive exercise videos don’t sound all that appealing in comparison, even if they are a better solution and cheaper in the long run. But focusing on the customer’s needs and desires injects your solution into the mix.
When you express an offer in a way that matches your customer’s conscious goals or unconscious desires, the probability of conversion increases dramatically. If your products or services aren’t meeting a real customer need or moving her toward a desired goal, you’re in the wrong business.
You’ll be trying to push your customer up the slide every time. Even if you can muscle your customer to the top occasionally you’ll end up questioning the value of the effort.