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What Are You Really Selling?

What Are You Really Selling?

Here’s something I’ve learned that has completely transformed how I do business: people don’t care about your stuff; they care how your stuff will help them get their stuff.

We think we’re selling a mutual fund, a leadership workshop, dental supplies, or a business strategy— but we’re not.

What we’re really selling is the thing our mutual fund, workshop, dental supplies, or business strategy will give our client.

The truth is—your client doesn’t care about your product, service, or expertise. What you are selling—the product, service or expertise—is the transaction.

This is often where we get stuck. We are so enthralled with our offer that we forget why our client wants the thing we’re offering in the first place.

What our client cares most about is the outcome or result our offer will get them. This is the transformation.

We need to be asking ourselves: what change will my client get as a result of doing business with me? This is what you are actually selling.

Here’s an Example

One of the best illustrations I’ve come across is from Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt where he famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

A customer walks into a hardware store looking to buy a drill. Now, you’re thinking he wants a drill. Indeed, he does, but he doesn’t really want the drill. What he wants is what the drill will give him. You see, he wants to put a shelf on his wall so he can display a few family photos and an award he recently received.

So, he wants to buy the drill to make holes so he can put up a shelf?  He does but it goes deeper than this. He wants the drill to put up the shelf to display his family photos and his award so he can be reminded of the connection and love he feels towards his family and the significance and leadership he’s contributed to his industry.

It’s not the drill he’s really buying. Your client is buying what the drill does. The drill gives him holes for a shelf, which then gives him a way to celebrate and validate who he is and the life he has.

As a professional, you love your transaction, because it’s the special thing you have to help your clients. It’s the offer, the product, service, or expertise you bring to help facilitate the transformation your client wants.

It’s okay to love the transaction but it cannot come at the expense of not acknowledging the transformation. You need to love the transformation even more than the product, service, or expertise you use to help your clients.

Shift from focusing on the transaction to the transformation.

If you’re a workshop leader, you talk less about what will happen in the workshop by describing the content and the exercises you’ll do and focus more on what will happen as a result of the training, things like “Your team will communicate better, improve their relationships and, as a result, deliver their best performance on a current project.”

If you’re a financial adviser, talk less about the product features of the mutual fund, where it’s invested, and the types of stocks and bonds.  Instead, talk more about the peace of mind your clients will get knowing that they have a retirement fund with the appropriate level of risk to support their lifestyle.

If you sell dental supplies, you talk less about the price discounts available when your client buys in bulk or if they bundle their purchase with additional products and say more about the one-of-a-kind experience their patients will get because the tools they use are gentle, non-invasive, and reduce anxiety.

The transactional details such as the product features, process, and price are important, but if you make it centre stage, you will lose your client.

Your client can’t get excited about all the bells and whistles that come with your offer till they know and understand the transformation they’ll receive as a result of it.

Ask yourself this:

What transformation are you facilitating for your clients through your product, service, or expertise?

What benefit or change will happen for them because they chose to do business with you?

Let me know where you get stuck when it comes to selling? Are you focusing on the transaction or transformation? Drop me an email at to tell more.

PS: I talk a lot about moving from transactional to transformational selling in my book: Sell From Love. Get your copy on Amazon today.

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