In the past I've written about "The 10 Things Every Customer Wants" but I'm now convinced that there is ONE THING customers want and need more than anything on that list, indeed more than anything else.

They want to believe...before they buy.

As author Tom Asacker points out in his excellent new book The Business of Belief, beliefs give us certainty in an uncertain world. They create stories that explain why we do the things we do. They truly "move mountains" by motivating human hands and minds.

Great brands are memorable because people believe; otherwise nobody would care.  Great leaders are powerful because people believe; otherwise nobody would follow.  Great salespeople are successful because people believe; otherwise they'd buy elsewhere.

Because customers want to--no, need to--believe before they buy, your real challenge, as an entrepreneur or as a salesperson, is to create that belief.  Here's how:

1. Believe in yourself, your company and your products. How can you possibly ask a customer to believe in these things, if you don't believe in them yourself?  

When you believe in yourself, you don't apologize for calling on a customer; you're confident you're adding value.

When you believe in your company, you don't spout hype; you simply tell the truth.

When you believe in your products, you don't give a sales pitch; you listen carefully and respond appropriately. 

2. Provide less information. Information does not create belief. When people truly believe something, they find facts that reinforce the belief and ignore those that don't.  Belief always comes first.  

Belief emerges from experience, either personal or shared. That's why car buyers test drive; that's why trial periods work; that's why people will buy on a friend's recommendation.

Information is the enemy of belief.  The more choices customers have, the more information they must absorb, the harder it is for them to believe that they're making the right decision.

So stop lobbing feature/function/information grenades at your customers.  Instead, provide the single fact about your offering that best reinforces the customer's deeply-held beliefs.

3. Let your customers be your evangelists. You may passionately believe in yourself, your products and your company, but blathering on and on about that belief will not win you new customers.  Far from it.

Just as people avoid screaming street-corner preachers, prospective customers mistrust salespeople and sales materials that spout and SPAM with evangelical fervor.  (E.g. "We're the best!!!")

Communicate your beliefs--in yourself, your company and your products--by your actions and attitude, not by your words.  Keep your beliefs close to your heart; don't wear them on your shirt sleeve.

If and when your customers become true-believers, they'll supply the superlatives and the one-on-one, word-of-mouth buzz that brings others into the fold.

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