Selling Wants Versus Needs

February 20th, 2009

In sales, people talk about “wants and needs” as if they’re the same thing. Or at least interchangeable. But wants and needs are very different from each other, and if you want to increase your sales, it’s crucial to recognize that.

Needs can be physical (food, shelter, transportation) or emotional (ego, security, love). Wants, however, are always emotional. Whenever we buy something, it’s because the purchase satisfies a want. It may or may not satisfy an actual need.

When wants and needs coincide, selling is relatively easy. But when wants are in conflict with needs, danger looms. Because whenever a want conflicts with a need, the want always wins. Always.

Which means if you’re selling something based on need and your prospect wants to avoid spending money right now, there’s no sale. Unless you can figure out another want the prospect has that the purchase of your product or service will satisfy.

So as you’re talking with your prospect, ask about all their wants and needs, not just the obvious ones. The more wants you can uncover, the greater your chances of making the sale.

And isn’t that just what you want?

Selling the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 13th, 2009

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, causing anxiety, dread and fear in every man who’s in a relationship. The challenge of buying the “right” gift can be daunting. I just saw an ad on TV yesterday that capitalized on this fact.

The commercial was for a teddy bear company. What was most interesting is that they spent almost no time talking about the bears themselves.

Nearly the entire commercial was devoted to the reaction the bear created in the recipient. The woman who received the bear was overjoyed, while the other women in her office were excited, impressed and even jealous.

The manufacturer and the ad agency clearly understand an important law of sales and marketing: What matters most is not the product itself, but the results it creates.

Men don’t know or care about teddy bears. We’re not interested in their construction, quality or variety. If you put a gun to our heads, we couldn’t tell you what makes one teddy bear better than another. All we care about is that when we give a gift to our wife or girlfriend, that’s the reaction we want to get.

That’s the promise the commercial made. And it’s similar to the promise you need to make to your prospects in your marketing and sales efforts. Tell them the results they can expect. Better yet, show them. Because that’s what they’re really buying.

How to Write a Bad Sales Letter

February 6th, 2009

I just received this note in my e-mail (the names have been changed to protect the guilty):

My name is Edward Stanton and I am owner of Compu Tech here in Denver. We supply needed equipment to businesses in the Denver area at prices that beat CDW. I was just wondering who I needed to get in contact with there to introduce myself. I want to do anything that I can to be your go-to guy for computer and printer equipment and supplies. If our prices on our website are beat in any way, please call me directly and we will get right on it. Anyway, have a great day and I hope for a chance to serve you all soon.

What’s wrong with this sales letter? OK, granted, several things. But the most egregious? It’s all about him!

There are 13 first-person pronouns (I, me, my, our) in this letter. Add in his own name and his company name and that’s a total of 15 self-references in this 104-word missive. Meanwhile, there are only two second-person pronouns (you, your). He doesn’t address my needs, concerns, desires or issues.

Prospects don’t care about us. They care about themselves. Which means, when you’re writing a sales letter, you need to focus on them, not you. What you want is irrelevant. What they want is paramount.

Want a good rule of thumb? When you’re crafting a piece of sales literature, whether it’s a brochure, a letter or a web site, shoot for a ratio of 2 to 3 second-person pronouns for every first-person pronoun you use.

Want another resource to help you create persuasive sales letters and presentations? Whatever you do, don’t click here.

Kids, Courage and Selling

February 4th, 2009

Yesterday I judged a speech contest at the Tennyson Center for Children, a treatment center for abused and neglected children. Thirteen kids, ages 8 to 14, delivered speeches on topics ranging from how to interpret dreams to the dangers of alcohol to the importance of volunteering. To say the experience was moving is like saying the Sears Tower is tall.

After the kids all finished, I congratulated them on their research, their preparation and most importantly, their courage. From their voices and body language, it was obvious that—standing up there and speaking to a room full of adults—they were scared. But they did it anyway.

It reminded me how important courage is in sales as well. Prospecting, delivering presentations, closing, asking for referrals all can be scary. We fear rejection, failure and being perceived negatively. But the salespeople and professionals who succeed do those things anyway.

How do you overcome those fears? By learning all you can about sales. By figuring out where those fears stem from. And by doing what scares you, again and again.

Hey, if a kid with a history of abuse that would break your heart can do it, what’s our excuse?

To learn more about the Tennyson Center for Children and support the amazing work they do, click either link to visit their web site.

Selling Vegetables with Sex

February 3rd, 2009

Over the years, The Super Bowl has become as much about the advertisements as the game itself. With a viewing audience of 100 million people in the U.S., it’s the premier marketing event of the year. This year, 32 companies ponied up 2.4 to 3 million dollars per 30-second spot to display their most creative efforts.

But the best Super Bowl ad may have been one that didn’t air during the Super Bowl at all.

NBC rejected a commercial by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) because of it’s highly sexual content. The ad, promoting vegetarianism, features scantily-clad women cavorting with vegetables, with the tag line, “Studies show vegetarians have better sex.”

This isn’t the first time a PETA commercial has been banned from the Super Bowl for being overly sexual. Which makes me wonder if this might actually be PETA’s strategy. If so, it’s brilliant.

Think about it. By creating a commercial they know won’t really be aired, PETA saves a huge chunk of change and gets tons of free publicity. This story has been all over the media lately, driving millions of people to YouTube and PETA’s web site to watch the commercial for themselves.

Now, I’m not a big fan of PETA. I certainly oppose animal cruelty, but my idea of a vegetarian meal is a bacon cheeseburger with extra pickles. And I think a lot of their efforts are just plain silly, like their current campaign to get people to think of fish as “sea kittens.”

However, they are selling their beliefs and ideals, and toward that end, they have historically been very savvy. With this commercial, PETA has tapped into two powerful marketing principles: “sex sells” and “controversy generates publicity.”

Whether your organization can utilize either or both of these principles depends on your brand, your target market and your ability to effectively execute such a strategy, not to mention your tolerance for risk. Then again, risk is a factor in everything, whether you’re playing the game or advertising during it.

To watch the rejected PETA commercial, go to WARNING: This ad is very sexually suggestive. (Of course, for some of you that’s more of an incentive than a dissuasion.)