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May 07

Selling What People Want

Posted by: Steve Marr

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I like to visit the annual Spring Boating and Outdoor Show in my area. Climbing in and out of RVs, new boats and checking out the latest fishing equipment makes for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. For the most part, I am more of a looker than buyer. 

I also like to watch the interaction between customers and salespeople. I don't want this to sound judgmental, but few people need a new boat even though many may want a new boat. If one can afford a boat without going into debt and boating is a family recreational activity, I see no problem with buying a boat. However, the boat is still want, not a need. 


For those who want to fish on a lake near me, you could buy a $3,000 used fishing boat which will get you around the lake and work well. You could also spend over $50,000 for a top of the line fishing boat. Even if someone needs a fishing boat, anything over $3,000 instantly becomes a want. 

Suppose I spend time looking over several fishing boats and a salesman walks up to me to say: “Are you interested in buying our home gym system? Our program will get you in great shape.” While I may need a better exercise program and might benefit from their gym system to help me shed a few pounds, today I want a boat. Which salesman would be more successful with me, the person selling the boat that I want or the one selling the exercise equipment I may need?

Again, I don't want to come across as judgmental.  There's nothing wrong with boating, golfing, going on vacations or enjoying other hobbies as long as each hobby is kept in balance and doesn't drive a family into debt.

A fundamental rule of direct response marketing is sell what your customer wants, not just what somebody needs. Nobody has enough advertising money to change people's minds or to persuade people that they ought to pay for what they need. It is difficult enough to persuade people to buy what they want from you rather than a competitor.

We see an example in Scripture, “So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’" (Matthew 27:17, NIV)  People needed Jesus but they wanted Barabbas. In this situation, the people tragically wanted the wrong choice. 

Review your marketing strategy and sales pitch. Highlight what customers want and see if sales follow. 

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