Subscribe to Inc. magazine
HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

Sales Secret No. 1: Sell Aspirin, not Vitamins

You'll never get rich merely by selling your product's great benefits. Instead, find out where your customers hurt and show how you can fix the pain.

There are three basic ways to sell anything. There’s the unenlightened way, which an awful lot of entrepreneurs adopt instinctively. It’s almost always wrong.

There’s a semi-enlightened way, which I estimate will boost your success rate by a factor of 10. But there’s an even more enlightened strategy, which could boost your conversion rate another ten times over. If I’m doing my math right, that’s a potential hundred-fold increase in your sales efficiency--all from connecting with customers and recognizing what motivates them most.

The rookie error: Sell product features

Most salespeople instinctively talk about product attributes and all the bells and whistles their awesome product affords. Emotional connection? Who needs that? Well, you do: If you can’t connect to your customers heartstrings, your sales pitch is about as exciting as technical spec sheet.  To see what I mean, let’s consider product-feature sales pitches for three different hypothetical businesses (all named after yours truly):

  1. “Here at Hair by Josh, you can get 18 different types of conditioning treatments, a cut and blow dry by our 12 different stylists. We can do weddings or other special events too.”
  2.  “Here at @JoshApp, our revolutionary new tool will allow your team members to tap into a terabyte of storage with only 4 clicks, and with PCP encryption security.”
  3.  “Josh’s tee shirts are 300 thread-count, made from 100% Egyptian cotton and sewn by hand.”

 Step one of enlightenment: Sell benefits. 

 Stop talking about yourself and the attributes of your product. Instead, get inside your customers’ head and figure out why they would want a product or service like yours. Then describe how what you have to offer will deliver that, and more. See how much more persuasive this is:

  1. “Here at Hair by Josh, our conditioning treatments will leave your hair as soft as silk every day, and our special event styles will leave you turning heads as the talk of your next party.”
  2.  “The tool we’ve built at @JoshApp will give your employees more storage while they can keep working on their other projects.”
  3. “You’ll look terrific and feel great every time you wear one of Josh’s Tees.”

The enlightened way: Sell pain relief. 

Benefits are a great sales hook, but your customers can, if necessary, live without them. (They have so far, after all.) But when you present yourself as a cure for the pain they face in their lives, you’re addressing what matters most. Show clients how you can solve their pain, and they’ll be lining up to buy.

For example, think about the last time you had a throbbing headache in the middle of the night.  You’d do just about anything to stop the pain.  You’d get in your car, head to the nearest pharmacy and pay top dollar for some high-powered aspirin.  Selling benefits, by contrast, is like selling vitamins:. They’d nice to have but you’re not going to get up at 3am to run out and buy some. So ask yourself: Is your company selling aspirin or vitamins?

 Let’s try this approach with those same three hypothetical businesses:

  1. “In the summer your hair always looks terrible because of the heat and humidity. And, uh, are you going to your best friend’s wedding with your hair looking like that? Here at Hair by Josh, we’ll make sure that your hair never embarrasses you no matter what.”
  2.  “On any given day, your employees are wasting precious time working on file storage and transfer. You’re paying them not to do their jobs! @JoshApp will end that frustrating waste of money..”
  3. “Sure, you can buy cheaper undershirts than Josh’s Tees, but shy would you? They get yellow and rough after only a few washes. Josh’s high-quality tees stay soft and white for years. Why feel uncomfortable and face embarrassment when you could feel confident and clean with Josh’s Tees?”

Listen closely to your customers to find out what really causes them pain. Then, make sure you connect emotionally to that pain and link your product to removing those bad feelings. In other words, find people with headaches, and sell them aspirin. Maybe you won't literally improve your results a hundred fold over the base rate of selling product features. But the improvement will be great enough that you won't really care.

More:
Last updated: Jul 2, 2013

JOSH LINKNER | Columnist | CEO, Detroit Venture Partners

Josh Linkner is a five-time entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and professor and the New York Times best-selling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity. You can read more at JoshLinkner.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: