Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Make Sales Messages Meet Needs

July 8, 2013

Maybe you know who you want to reach and where you can find them, but are you focusing on customers’ needs?

I’ve talked before about the importance of determining whether you can meet your customers’ needs. That’s really your primary goal in all of this relationship-building you’re doing on social media. As you’re discovering who your potential customers are, you’re also learning whether what you’re selling will improve their lives in one or more ways.

Todd Martin 062213 image 1As a salesperson, you’re one part product expert, one part communication pro, one part detective and one part social scientist/psychologist. It’s this last that I want to explore with you here. Whether you realize it or not, you’re constantly psychoanalyzing people, encouraging them to confide in you, to share thoughts and feelings and needs. In the meantime, you’re always gauging their reaction to what you’re saying and drawing them out more when it’s necessary.

Yes, you’re trying to sell them something to solve a problem they have or simply to make them happier. This may sound like a hokey pitch, but I’m being straight with you here: Sometimes your prospects don’t know that they want or need your product until you point out its benefits – specific needs that it fulfills.

Some Commonalities

We all have our own unique combination of needs, but they all fit rather neatly into the hierarchy of needs that Abraham Maslow identified in a 1943 scholarly article (later, a book, “Motivation and Personality”). This theory is often visualized as a pyramid, with the most dominant needs, physiological (things you need in order to survive physically) at the bottom and the least critical, self-actualization (realizing your potential), at the top.

In between were safety (health, financial security, etc.), love and belonging (family, friendship, etc.) and esteem (self-respect).

If that theory makes sense to you, you can understand why it’s easier to sell cheeseburgers than self-help seminars.

What Customers Need

A well-known British copywriter put it in more commercial terms. He called out nine basic human needs, saying that in order to sell something, you would have to meet one or more of them. Your customers might need to (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Todd Martin 060713 image 1-1

  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Save time and/or effort
  • Do something that benefits their family
  • Feel a sense of security
  • Be impressive to other people
  • Get pleasure
  • Be a better person, and/or,
  • Feel kinship with some kind of group.

Selling Benefits

If you keep both this list and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in mind as you’re crafting your messaging, you may discover that your mission is a little clearer and your task a bit easier. While you’ll undoubtedly be discussing features, be sure that you emphasize benefits. Not, “This car has six air bags and a grab bar,” but, “Your college student will be much safer in a collision because of our state-of-the-art safety features.”

Your message is communicated in many ways. It’s not just the language you use. It’s your tone of voice, your body language and your facial expressions. Make all of them work toward discovering and meeting needs – without fawning over your customers – and you may learn something about human nature, as well as improving your sales.

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