Are you selling the 1/4″ drill? Learn how to sell, not tell.

Are you selling the drill or the hole it creates?

There’s a saying in sales, well, there are thousands of sayings in sales, but we’ll save that topic for a later resource. Right now, we’ll be looking at the saying:

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.
Theodore Levitt (1974). Marketing for business growth, p. 71

You need to understand why someone wants to make a hole in order for you to have the opportunity for a sale. There are thousand reasons why someone would want to drill a hole. Maybe to build a treehouse for their child. Make a coat rack. Run an electric line to the unfinished part of a basement. Or to put in a security camera for their front door. It’s up to you to find the value and emotional impact of any of these. Only then will you be able to sell that drill.

The Logic behind this

Logic, which is the default for most people selling (especially technical people). This logic states that if I have a drill and 1/4″ drill bit, you should buy from me. Mine drill bit is faster and more cost effective (about the drill and drill bit). In order to get the sale though, you’ll need to engage the person emotionally. How do you engage someone emotionally about a drill? While have you ever promised to build a treehouse for a child and not delivered? (See the emotion you feel just reading that?) Or needed to put up security cameras because you didn’t feel safe when coming home at 11pm? (again, do you feel the emotion that scenario brings?) More on Logic and Emotion in Sales Stories in a later post.

Back to trying to sell the drill

Almost without exception, inexperienced salespeople will sell features. Most people figure that if it’s newer, faster, stronger, better, cheaper that’s all you need to sell. The thinking goes:

My widget is half the price and twice as fast. This method for selling may work for a short period of time. But like all walks of life, someone else will come along and be better, faster, stronger and half your price. Then what?

There is no, ‘Then what’. That’s it. Next. If you sell a commodity, you may think, well that’s all I have. If you are thinking that, that’s probably all you have. So, think differently! You have to be able to bring value in some other unique way. Maybe it’s that you remember your client’s birthday or you take your client to lunch every quarter. Or you save your client from looking bad when they forgot their regular order. Think and act differently.

You have to sell what your product or service delivers for your clients, not what it does. If it was easy to get people to think and talk this way, everyone would be selling the 1/4″ hole. This approach is much more effective, especially compared with the feature dump sales pitch.

So, why is it so hard to sell this way?

  • don’t fully understand what the real value of your product or service is
  • you are a metoo product/service, with little differentiation
  • your client base has so many use cases, you don’t know what one to pick to pitch
  • you don’t have enough focus on your sales messaging and making it a repeatable process
  • you want people to ‘jump into a demo’ to show them the difference

There are many, many reasons why this is difficult. But all reasons point to one common flaw.

Not taking the time to understand what value you bring to your clients after they agree to sign up with you.

If your company is not supporting you and giving you the fundamental value and differentiation statements, you will need to figure this out yourself. If you don’t, you will be looking for another job before you know it.

How do you find what the real value of your product or service is?

Firstly, you need to look outside in. Most of us look inside out when looking for value and differentiation statements. “I use my platform everyday to make my life easier”. To some, this is a statement of, “If I use it and it makes my life easier, it must make everyone’s life easier.” Though that is not always true and further, who cares if your life is easier? What does it do for me, the customer? How does it make my life easier? How much easier is my life? Do I save time or money or both? Does this make me money?