Sunday, July 20, 2014

Debunking a Marketing Myth: People buy what you're selling

I'm really lucky in a lot of ways, but one specific way I am lucky is that I get to talk about marketing strategy with a lot of people.

I'm reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers, and it's really a great book.  (I'm going to add this to my suggested reading list.)  One of the central points within the book is that we do not get to be really "good" at something until we've done it for 10,000 hours.

I did not get into the "marketing game" until 2009, and I'm still learning a tremendous amount about it.  Certainly, I read quite a bit about marketing--each books and articles, and I do my fair share of "marketing actions."  However, I feel like I learn a TON almost every time I have a conversation with someone about how to make their business generate more sales.

One of the most frequently recurring themes is a belief that people buy what you are selling.

I'm learning that is ONLY SOMETIMES TRUE.

Let me rephrase that...Of all the people who buy from me, very few of them buy what I am selling.

So what are they buying?

They are buying what they PERCEIVE I can help them accomplish.

Sometimes, buyers read or listen carefully, and the understand completely what they are buying.

However, most of the time, buyers approach me to solve a problem they have.  They perceive their life will improve after paying me to do what they want, even if I did not offer it.

There are only a few things to do when this happens (which is almost EVERY TIME):

1. I can simply take their money and blame them.

I don't suggest this one, but many (nearly every business) does this.  If I take this approach, I don't care about your satisfaction.  The money is mine, and the heck with you.

If you decide to do this, you would be wise to make sure your business model simply depends on one-time sales, opposed to repeat or referral business, because you won't get a lot of either when you take this approach.

2. I can try to clarify at the time of the sale.

Since I am more of an educator at heart than I am a salesperson, I try hard to make people understand BEFORE they purchase anything from me.

Sometimes, this will stop the wrong customer from buying the wrong thing from me, but usually, it simply makes them want to buy from me that much more.  By accident, it seems to become an effective negative sales technique (pulling away from the customer, making them want what you're offering that much more...This technique is taught in sales schools and books.).

If they are bent on buying, most of the time, the only way to stop them is to insult them.

Honestly, I'm only willing to do that SOME of the time.  It's frustrating to burn a bridge when I'm trying to do the right thing.  So I am learning (slowly) to try something else...

3. I try to provide value for them for the price they pay me.

I am only beginning to learn that customers are really buying ME...they are not buying the "service" or "product" I am offering.  They are buying my integrity, intelligence, and knowledge to help them solve a problem them have.

This means that when I am making a sale, I need to focus on clarifying what my new customer really wants...not clarify what he or she is buying.

Hopefully, I can do this without losing money on my sale.  Of course, we all want to feel like we are getting a good value.  None of us hopes to pay more than we should in exchange for whatever product or service we're buying.

So maybe they should NOT be buying the SPECIFIC service I am offering at the moment.  Therefore, I can accept their order and try to find ways to help them or their business be better for "dealing with me," even if what they purchase is not the "missing piece."

So my lesson is that people are not usually buying what I am selling.  It's my job to provide what they're really buying, even if my invoice calls it something different.

It's my job to provide them value.  After all, that's what they're REALLY buying from me, and isn't the customer always right?

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