Are you selling drill bits or are you selling holes?

By Renata Mathewson, Maple Marketing

Want to sell more of your product or service? Then you need to understand what people are buying. Sound simple? It is. But it’s not merely a case of looking at sales reports and seeing what the big sellers are.

As business owners we get told by business coaches and business development self-help guides that we need to be more customer-centric. Our approach needs to revolve around the customer. We need to meet and exceed the needs of our customers. In order to grow sales, however, you need to start earlier and actually anticipate their needs.

A good way to do this is to think of everything that you sell as a solution to a problem. Looking at it from the customer’s point of view, how is buying your product or service going to resolve an issue for them, get something done, or just make them feel better?

Back to basics – features vs. benefits

All entry level marketing courses and reference books have a section on the differences between features and benefits. It’s basic stuff and yet incredibly useful if you want to have a more customer-centric approach to revenue generation. So let’s recap.

My neighbour’s lawnmower is electric powered, quiet, and runs on a 24 volt rechargeable battery (features). It can be used over any type of grass, doesn’t disturb the young baby who lives next door, and is easy to start (benefits).

What happens when you start talking about your wares this way is that you start thinking about the problems you can solve for your customer, how you can make their life better, easier, happier. You anticipate your customer’s needs and sell them “solutions”. It is another cliché and overused word businesses (usually service providers) often use. But it’s true.

You might sell glasses. The customer, however, is actually buying 20/20 vision. You might sell picture frames. The customer is actually buying a way to preserve and display their memories. You might sell proofreading or photography. The customer is actually buying a better professional image. You might sell flowers. The customer is actually buying an apology. You might sell face cream. The customer is actually buying beautiful skin. You might sell 13 mm drill bits. The customer is actually buying 13 mm holes.

So what they’re buying is quite different from what you’re selling. Get it?

Just try to avoid using the word “solutions” in your sales and marketing copy because it’s vague. The less ambiguous approach is to identify what problem you’re providing a solution for, and talk about that. You’re also more likely to connect with your prospect than if you just spew out a list of product specifications.

The reason many clever business owners outsource their sales and marketing work is because they are too close to the business themselves and need someone objective to work on their materials for them. They benefit from having someone with a fresh perspective look at their business from the customer’s side of the till.

5-step surefire way to get the business: 

  1. Ask your prospect what problem(s) they need solved.
  2. Help them identify why they still have the problem.
  3. Help them imagine how life would be different if the problem was solved.
  4. Offer your solution.
  5. Tell them what to do next (provide a call to action).

So the next time you’re talking to a prospect or a potential new client, don’t ask them what they’re looking for. Ask them what problem keeps them up at night. Listen to their complaints. If you focus on that, and provide a cost-effective solution, chances are you’ll get the sale.

Back