Sales: It’s About Them, Not You

SalesmanSo you have a product or service that you think is the greatest thing yet. You believe that people should really want it. And they will as long as you do a good job of explaining why. You think that sales is persuading and convincing.

Sales is really about matching your product or service with someone else’s needs. It’s not about trying to fit your product or service into their world, or about convincing them that they should have your product or service.

I see too many salespeople and small business owners who have this backwards. They think they are supposed to ‘sell’ their product/service.

That can be a costly mistake. If you aren’t paying attention to what your target market really needs or wants, you run the risk of putting something out there that they won’t buy. Consider the example set by Earvin “Magic” Johnson. After leaving the NBA, he bought an NBA store franchise that lost $200,000 before it closed. He had picked merchandise that he preferred, not that his customers wanted. He learned a valuable lesson that you can read more about in a CNNMoney.com article from June 16, 2009.

Because of that lesson, when he decided to partner with Starbucks and offer inner-city franchises to local entrepreneurs, they sell sweet potato pie instead of scones. As Dominique Hanssen, chair of the marketing department at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, puts it in the article, selling sweet potato pie instead of scones “shows customers that you’re trying to figure out how to serve them in new ways.”

You see, it’s not about what you find interesting or valuable. It’s about what your prospect base thinks is valuable. You have to know your target market well.  They aren’t going to buy what they don’t want. As “Magic” Johnson says, ‘the key is paying attention to customers.’

So, when you decide to hang your shingle, or go to work as a salesperson for someone, consider what your target market needs and wants. This understanding will not only help you determine your marketing message, but it will help you define WHO you should be targeting. When you get that figured out you will be able to find those people who need or want what you have to sell. The process will be relatively easy because you WON’T have to convince or persuade.

Remember that no one likes to be sold, but people do like to buy. So, educate them on what you have and why it is valuable. The people who should be buying your product or service will understand what you are telling them and they will see the fit. They will want what you have. That’s a good match.

Providing a service or product that others need or want will keep them coming back time after time. No matter what the economic conditions are, you can continue to succeed in business if you remember to consider your customers – what they really need and want; not what you want to sell them.

When you only focus on what you want to sell you will discover that it is harder to find people who want to buy it. If you, on the other hand, consider what your clients and prospects want and need, you can develop a message that speaks to how your product or service meets that need. It truly is about them, not you.

* * * * *

Diane HelbigAbout the Author: Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Sales Experts Panel at Top Sales Experts.

30 Comments ▼

Diane Helbig


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

30 Reactions

  1. Diane, this is so true. I’ve read about this so many times. Now this is another confirmation from you.

  2. Timely post Diane, especially as we head into the second half of the year.

    Drawng up a simple customer profile of your current and potential customers can help you determine their needs, wants and desires. You can quickly see the similarities of the key customers and it makes life easier than trying to keep the information in your head.

  3. Great article !

    This is very true:
    “Remember that no one likes to be sold, but people do like to buy. So, educate them on what you have and why it is valuable.”

    The next challenge is to actually explain this “in plain English” to people :-)

  4. Diane,
    This was a great post… It should be required reading for sales and marketing folks!

    Thanks for sharing the info,
    Jason

  5. Some of the most successful independent retailers founded their business around a passion they shared with a community of others. By already being part of that community, they understood both the needs and the wants of this core customer base. Building a business around your passion not only means you’ll bring extra energy to the mission, but that you’ll have an intuitive understanding of what your customers will respond to.

  6. Diane,

    The principle you bring out is vital to success, but most business owners struggle anyway. What would you recommend a small business owner do to understand what their customers need/want?

    My experience is that even when a business owner tries to listen they are just waiting for a confirmation of their own thoughts and may miss a common them that a majority of their customers are trying to tell them. Your thoughts?

  7. Having just started my first B2B sales job I find this article to be completely true. I thought I had a product that would sell itself. Boy was I wrong. Good thing it only took me a few weeks and bad sales calls to figure that out.

    Thank you Diane for the great post, hopefully others will find it beneficial

  8. So true! When I started making and selling my handmade candles I was picking scents that appealed to me. I hate florals, too stinky, and vanilla is just too bland. But once I started gaining customers and really selling well, I would get requests for scents I wasn’t carrying. I was forced to realize that my preferences aren’t the same as everyone elses. If I wanted to make sales, I would need to appeal to my customers. Even though I hated that my house would be permeated with the floral scents when I poured them, I sucked it up and made what customers preferred.

  9. Excellent post! It’s so important to look at what the customer wants & see how the features & benefits of the product(s) you have can match their needs. So many times, marketing messages are total turn-off. This post was a great reminder to be customer-focused. ;-)

  10. Good article. It got me thinking about those I consider the ‘best’ sales people and those that I consider the ‘worst’. The best are always thinking about the customer. The worst are always thinking about themselves – and often in a very obvious way. Thanks.

  11. The best are always thinking about the customer. The worst are always thinking about themselves — Yes, true Kris and most of the time, they unnoticeably were able to send those signals to their potential customers.

  12. Diane,

    As an experienced purchaser I could very much resonate with your statement:

    “Remember that no one likes to be sold, but people do like to buy. So, educate them on what you have and why it is valuable. The people who should be buying your product or service will understand what you are telling them and they will see the fit. They will want what you have. That’s a good match.”

    I think it is time for individuals involved in the supply chain are speaking out, so the sales people and purchaser are starting to talk with each other in the same “language” and on the same level. I will write a short “thesis” (e-pamphlet) on the trader principle sometime in the future. Be prepared that the purchasers and end consumers will get more “power” in the future due to overall increase usage of socia media. But, we have to point out that it all starts with the inventor, business owner, capitalist etc., producing a service or product. Without the creators there is nada…

  13. So true! On another forum, a web developer was struggling with her client (a relative) who wanted to put a cartoon-like frog on their engineering Web site. The frog meant something to the client, but looked lost and out-of-place surrounded by measuring and scientific instruments. They were completely focused on what they wanted – rather than what would mean something to potential customers.

  14. Find a Need and once you’re found the need or demand, act and provide Knock and the door shall open, Seek and ye shall find.. Consumers look for value, differentiation and utility, if the need you has found fit into any one of those category’s you are very likely to become very successful, that is why Franchises are a perfect Business to start and continue to do very well despite the economic crisis. Most have a proven and established track-record of success and this takes away a lot of risk that gives you a headstart on owning a Business. Visit http://www.redhotfranchises.com to see many opportunities available from nearly every industry.

  15. Very well done article Diane. Great reminder when working with others and promoting/selling your services/product. Thanks for the post.

  16. In the age of declining sales & revenues, the hardest thing you can do is fire a customer.
    Old sales adage: harder the sale, the lousier the customer.

  17. Dear Diane, I guess that “matching your product or service with someone else’s needs” is more about marketing, then about sales. At least that’s exactly how I would explain word “marketing”. Anyway the ideas in your article are 100% right and entrepreneurs should really pay much more attention to those things.

  18. Great piece, Diane. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget that products are merely proposed solutions to needs. I bristle when I hear things like, “The purpose of marketing is to sell people things they don’t need.” On the contrary, if producers didn’t research their target markets, we’d all be forced to buy junk from Magic Johnson’s store.

    Best,
    Stephen Rosenberg
    http://www.TheEntrepreneurSchool.com
    @EntrprnrSchool

  19. Great, simplified article explaining there a need for two-way communication during any stage of a sales engagement: customer needs to tell us what they want + we need to explain what we have fits their needs = mutual success!

  20. Sales is like a matching game. As long as your product / services match your prospect’s needs, it’s very easy for the prospect to buy your product or to avail of your service

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