I once was given six brand new industry websites to sell marketing solutions on. We had no existing customers and no database of leads. The websites covered everything from Hotel Management technology to Cruise Ship solutions.
This was 2005. I needed to call CEOs of businesses and have them part with around $5,000 to advertise their products or services on these sites.
So what was the initial response? “Call us when other people have tried it”, “We aren’t looking for advertising at the moment”, “Nobody would buy our kind of services on the internet”.
We were about to learn an important lesson: up until then, we’d made a huge amount of sales on our already 10 year old, established websites using a fairly basic approach of “tell them how it works” and then “handle objections and close”. So what was up? Why was the team not firing?
The reality was that we had been making sales on the established websites, not because of our approach, but more because of the bias of crowd following, also known as the “bandwagon bias”. Simply put, decision makers bought from us because it felt like everyone else had already done so. The ‘herd-effect’ meant our jobs were more reduced to “let them know we exist”than any form of consultative, solution-oriented sale.
But with unpopulated sites, something fundamental was different and that’s when the penny dropped: people don’t actually want what you’re selling, they want the solution to their problem. With the existing sites, decision makers were emotionally being sold on “I really need to tick the ‘dabble in online advertising’ box”. It was a straightforward sell because the crowd had made the decision for them and the perception was that their problem was being solved.
So to sell a fresh site on “how it worked”, but in actual fact leaning heavily on the “social proof”, that loads of other like-minded businesses had already taken the plunge, was never going to work. Instead, we identified that in working out what problems these decision makers really wanted to solve, we could consultatively align ourselves with being the solution.
Perhaps they wanted measurable results for their advertising so they didn’t look absolutely crazy (in 2005, print advertising was still prevalent and a “newer” medium like digital required real proof that it wasn’t some hairbrained idea) and we could show them that. Or maybe their issue was the pain of spending $10,000 on a new website but nobody was visiting it. We then became the soothing cure to their pain by driving traffic to that investment.
Suddenly it became so obvious; we’d approach calls knowing full well HOW our solutions
worked, but simultaneously appreciating we actually DIDN’T KNOW what their emotional drivers were (based on headaches, challenges and problems) until we went through a process of uncovering them.
Think on this whenever you are producing marketing or engaging in a sale. The nuts and bolts of what you’re selling actually are of very little interest to most buyers. More, it’s the perception that their pain will be solved by buying the results you can offer. In short, how it works is far less important than how they’re going to feel, if they buy your product or service.