sly : marketing

What you’re selling is not what people are buying

A few days ago, I was speaking to an audience of 34 people. I was talking about purple cow, and how they, this specific company, should stand out and be remarkable.

I wanted to tell them that they’re lucky. I didn’t use the word luck, because I know that the owners didn’t feel lucky when they started the business, and it’s been hard work for many years. I was thinking it to myself. They’re in a niche that every single person from the age of 15 are more or less interested in. They have more than 3000 customers. And, most likely, it’ll continue to grow.

What are you selling?

I asked the crowd. What are you selling? Nobody answered at first. Then, a young woman raised her hand. Health, she said. Then, another woman raised her hand. Fitness, she said. Then, a man raised his hand. Muscles, he said. I stopped them.

You are all right, I said. But, let’s turn the question to, what are your customers buying?

This time the crowd started talking fast and loud. Let me see some hands, I said. Our products, a man in the back said. Weight loss another one said.

Once again, you’re all right, I continued. But, I want you to think differently. Don’t focus on the facts, or the specifics.

What your customers are buying from you are three things, and only three things, no matter what your products and services are. Yes, no matter what your products and services are.

What people are buying?

I was giving a speach to a group of florists a few weeks ago, and I told them the exact same thing. What you’re really selling, and what your customers are really buying from you are three things:

The crowd stopped talking. I couldn’t hear any sounds at all. I was waiting for someone to whisper, but nothing. Let me explain, I continued, after a pause that probably didn’t last for more than 10 seconds, but it felt like 10 minutes.

Every single customer is unique. Remember that. You have more than 3000 customers today, but every single one of them are unique, and they deserve to be treated that way. I know it’s hard. It might seem like an impossible task. But, start with just one person, and go from there.

What you’ll discover is that the reason why they decided to buy from you, and the reason they are buying one of your products or services, is either because of the way you make them feel. Remember when I told you about focusing on making people smile. That’s it. People forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. If you continue to make them feel good, they’ll never leave you. That’s the first.

The second is, most of the time they have a result in mind. It might be to run faster, to gain muscles, to lose weight, or to get fit for a wedding dress. They want help to reach that result.

At the same time, the reason they’re contacting you, is that they want a solution to their problem. I’m using the word problem, I know that it might not be an actual problem, but they have something they want to change, and you’re the change – the solution to the problems.

Let me use the iPhone as an example. How many people are using an iPhone? Let me see your hands. I was counting, 28 hands. Why did you buy it? Another moment of complete silence.

Are you with me? I could hear someone whisper yes, from the back.



One response to “What you’re selling is not what people are buying”

  1. Cararta says:

    Hi Jens,

    After rereading an old post (2012) about a weekend job he did and how he was inspired to do it by Sergio Felix on his blog MarketingwithSergio .com, I decided to see how many of the people who commented were still blogging or on the internet using the link from their comment.

    Since you are the first, can’t give you any facts and figures, but have a deep appreciation for this post.

    Asking the right questions can provide the answers many of us are seeking and you have this one in the bag.

    Teaching is a gift to others of your time which means you are giving them a slice of your life.

    You may not consider posting an article on your blog as teaching.

    However, reading your shared thoughts on the art of recognizing what you are selling touched a receptive spot for me.

    Having spent some time in defining the difference between Marketing and Selling for myself, your simple answer breaks it down into what selling sells:

    Emotions
    Results
    Solution to problems

    Without belaboring a long list of a “products values”, just recognize what you are selling.

    Thank you.

    ~Cararta
    owner and CEO at
    Facebook’s Internet Money Store

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