The Business of Selling

This is my third post about a “soup to nuts” business concept. The concept is basically using ideas (assuming you get them)  to start doing stuff that gets people excited and active, that adds value and creates an agenda. You can make money at any and all of these steps if you know what you are doing. These posts are to start cluing you in to figure that stuff out. My last post was about assessing value. And it was a killer!

So let’s say that you have an idea that would add value to a given target group if it were adopted. What next? You are not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or any other of the zillionaires who can just call in an army to blunder about creating something like Google glass. In fact, more than likely you are on your own. Solo. So what is next?

The conventional answer is “nothing”. Most of us stop because we do not have the ready and waiting connections that are needed to get beyond ideation and assessment to some sort of actiion. Can we do better? Maybe. Here is how.

The first step is to give up the notion that your idea — no matter how great it is or how cool it is or how unique it is — has any real value. It does not. It has only potential value. And if you attempt to foist your idea on folks who are busy with other stuff that they think is important, like having a beer after work, your idea has negative value. It is a distraction from the main event. You just have to get used to this. In other words, your beautiful idea will not be beautiful to everyone.

BTW, we already know (from the prior post) that we are only interested in connecting to a given target group. What I am saying here is that you will get the bum’s rush even when you approach folks in that target group unless they can see the immediate value of your pitch for them.

So the secret of selling is to learn how to help people see that value at that moment. We might start with a more general comment. People “see” a lot less than they think they do. In other words, as humans — you are human, right? — our capacity to take in data is very restricted. So when you are trying to sell something new, even to a person who desperately needs it, you are at a disadvantage. That person doesn’t want to see “new”. He or she wants to see that fits into their experience of now .

So what is this “experience of now”? It is emotional – either pain or pleasure.Let’s look at both.

When people feel pain or even a bit of discomfort, they look for relief. So it is easy to sell umbrellas in a rain storm.  So if you want to connect with people in your target group, ask what pain are they talking about? If you can identify that pain, talk about it too. BTW, knowing this, you might become more sensitive to how clever marketers attempt to persuade you that are not as happy or comfortable as you think. Whether you know it or not, you are in pain! Perhaps it is just because someone else is richer than you are! If so, you might start seeing stuff that makes you feel richer …. even if that Rolex watch or Ralph Lauren shirt or Armani suit exceeds your budget by a mile. When you are in pain, you think of relieving the pain.

The experience of pleasure offers a slightly different dynamic. When we feel pleasure in a given moment, we open the door to folks who are also feeling that same pleasure. We bond with them. We like being in that club. So sales in the club start with “I share your pleasure. You have good taste! ”  So buying an Apple product does not necessarily end your infatuation with Apple products. You are having pleasure being in the club. You want to do more with your membership. So you might ask, is my target group a club of hedonistic sharing goofballs? If so, share pleasure with them!

Knowing how to connect via pain and pleasure gives you an opening to get into the experience of now of folks in your target group. But getting into that experience is just the first step. You need to leverage that step to get to a transaction. You want to get them to do something. That might be to invest, buy, listen, give information. Whatever. But if you don’t use the experience to get your target group to do something after you open the door, the opportunity is wasted.

So how to do that? Keep in mind that in this framework (the experience of now) people WANT to do something. They will be disappointed if they cannot. So don’t be shy. Make an offer.

I call this “doing the ask”. The “ask” has to be clear and it has to be complete. A short note on clarity. People don’t want to be asked to do something that they do not understand.  They are happy to do something that is easy and painless. They are even happy to do something painful if it alleviates pain or shares pleasure. But they will balk if it seems difficult to figure out what to do in that moment. That is what I mean by achieving clarity.

And the ask has to be complete. They need to be able to complete the act within a reasonable time frame. That implies that what you ask should not be impossible or involve high risk of failure. Those things are a much harder sell, so the pain or pleasure factors must be way off the charts. It also implies that doing what you ask makes sense. It should not appear to be just a meaningless gesture, even if it is one in reality. So asking for a donation to save the world is tougher than asking for a donation to help Annie buy a winter coat in January.

Again — when you are in the experience of now, people want to do stuff. Your challenge is to make an ask that is clear and complete. And then what? There is one more thing to know. When the other side does what you ask, you must respect the expectations that you created. In the above example, it is important that Annie actually gets the coat. Or if someone buys a car from you, they need to be able to enjoy it. So, with all of this in mind, you are now ready to learn how Elmer Letterman sold life insurance.

Very good. We now know a little bit about selling our valuable idea to get some action. We have some hope to get people to “buy in”. But what if we don’t have a product to sell yet? What if the buy in is just to buy into an unfinished project? Is that different`? The answer is “yes” and we will talk about project buy in next.

Stay tuned!


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