How Do I Get People to Want What I Sell? Part 1

How do you make people want what you’re selling? I mean, that’s the point of marketing, right?

Let me clarify one thing before we get started. I don’t believe in it’s possible to create desire. Our desires are pre-existing. Your job as entrepreneurs and marketers is to create products and services that there is already some existing desire for, then direct the desire our potential customers feel toward your offer.

Now, I hear what you’re saying. “There are companies making big money selling things people didn’t know they wanted. Just look at Apple. They’ve sold millions of devices nobody even knew they wanted.”

Steve Jobs himself said that “A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Jobs was dead wrong.

What about the auto industry? Henry Ford once said “If I’d asked my customer what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” Nobody wanted cars. But in 2012, global car sales topped 80 million units.

Believe it or not, this apparent discrepancy actually proves that marketing is about selling what people already want. People may not have wanted a car, but they did want to travel faster. So Ford gave his customers what they wanted – it just came in a different package than they expected.

The same is true for Apple. Jobs and company didn’t create a brand new desire; they channeled desires that millions of people already had into a unique new line of products.

Apple didn’t invent music and inject it into the iPod. It just made it easier to access the tunes you love and carry them with you everywhere you go. Apple didn’t have to convince anybody that carrying one multi-capability device was better than hauling a music player, camera, GPS device and a phone.

The iGadgets are products appealing those already-present desires in an attractive new way.

So instead of asking “How do I make people want what I sell,” figure out how to channel your ideal prospects’ desires toward your product and the satisfaction they’ll experience when they buy it.

Vision, The Ne Plus Ultra of Desire Intensification

The real key to directing the desires of your potential customers is to create a vision, an image in their minds. Business gurus spend a lot of time talking about coming up with your own company vision, and that’s important. But until you’re building a vision in other people’s minds, you’ll always struggle to sell your product or service, especially if you’re not the cheapest, closest or only available option. (A precarious position at best.)

Even then, you face the danger of being overtaken by someone who does inspire visions in your customers’ minds.

Feast Your (Mind’s) Eye On This


According to Roy Williams, the 7th Law of the Advertising Universe is this: “Engage the Imagination, then take it where you will. Where the mind has repeatedly journeyed, the body will surely follow. People only go to places they have already been in their minds.

Think about it. When you’re making a big decision, you’ve always imagined scenarios of how it will turn out. You’ve seen yourself enjoying the benefits of action or enduring the pain of indecision. You’ve smelled the salt air and felt the warm waves soaking your feet on Waikiki.

When you keep picturing something you want, that recurring vision heaps up desire that sooner or later you have to act on. Or go crazy.

Eugene Schwartz said this in Breakthrough Advertising:

Above everything else, advertising is the literature of desire…Advertising gives form and content to desire. It provides it with a goal. These desires, as they exist in the mind of your prospect today, are indistinct. They are blurs—hazy, ambiguous, not yet crystallized into words or images. In most cases, they are simply vague emotions, without compulsion or direction. And as such, they have only a fraction of their true potential power.

Your job is to fill out these vague desires with concrete images… your job is to show him in minute detail all the tomorrows that your product makes possible for him.

This is the core of advertising—its fundamental function. To take unformulated desire, and translate it into one vivid scene of fulfillment after another. To add the appeal of concrete satisfaction after satisfaction to the basic drive of that desire. To make sure that your prospect realizes everything that he is getting—everything that he is now leaving behind him—everything that he may possibly be missing. The sharper you can draw your pictures…the more your prospect will demand your product, and the less important will seem your price.

How Do You Score?

Are your marketing materials are delivering in these areas? Are they intensifying and directing the desires of the people you really want to do business with? Are you talking about what interests you or what interests them?

In Part 2 we’ll plunge a little deeper into this topic. In the meantime, make an effort to get to know your prospects and customers better than ever. It’ll be one of the best investments you can make.


Henry Ford: Misunderstood Marketing Genius

Henry Ford is widely regarded as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in history. When you hear his name, you automatically think about how he innovated the use of assembly line techniques to revolutionize the automobile industry.  Listen to what Harvard Business school professor Theodore Levitt wrote about Ford:

We habitually celebrate him for the wrong reason, his production genius. His real genius was marketing. We think he was able to cut his selling price and therefore sell millions of $500 cars because his invention of the assembly line reduced the costs. Actually he invented the assembly line because he had concluded that at $500 he could sell millions of cars. Mass production was the result, not the cause, of his low prices...He was brilliant because he fashioned a production system designed to fit market needs.” (Author’s emphasis)

Ford understood an indispensable key to successful marketing: the needs and desires of your target market must dictate the products and/or services you provide. That should be obvious. Unfortunately, many businesses work hard to sell what they want to sell (their latest invention or a gadget they think is really cool) instead of what the market wants or needs to buy. Those businesses fail.

Now, let’s look at this point from another angle. What did Henry Ford himself say about his market? “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” Doesn’t that negate what we’ve said thus far? Far from it.

Nobody wanted cars, it’s true. But they did want to travel more quickly. So Ford did manufacture and sell what people already wanted; it just came in a different package than they expected.

I think there’s an important lesson here. According to another Harvard professor, Paul R. Lawrence, all the decisions we make are based on 4 basic drives: to 1) acquire/achieve, 2) bond, 3) learn/comprehend and 4) defend. If you think about it, everything you purchase satisfies at least one of these motivations. For example, I may buy a Rolex watch to acquire the admiration of my peers. Or, maybe I’ll get the Timex to defend my bank account.

Of course, these drives are unique for everyone. That’s why you have to dig deep and really get to know your ideal clients. What drives are dominant in their decision-making process? What shape do those drives take? What stimulates those drives?

Creating your ideal customer profile is great, but make sure it’s rooted in reality, not your imagination.

Give ‘Em a Reason

Having a product people want usually isn’t enough to make you successful. We see companies with great products or services fail all the time.

Think about the multimillion dollar ad campaigns we see during major political elections. Candidates don’t settle for “getting their name out there.” They beat up the other guys and present specific “evidence” to demonstrate that they are the best choice. (Whether or not their statements were true is another conversation.)

Remember Paul Lawrence’s 4 Drives theory. Your sales and marketing messages should communicate the specific ways your offer will address these deep-seated drives in your audience. How does your product satisfy their desire to acquire something they badly want? How will they come to learn something they desperately need to know by working with you?

Just being the better choice won’t get a candidate elected; it certainly won’t convince people to buy from you. You have to give them a compelling reason why they should buy. Paint an accurate picture of life as they know it, then paint one showing what their experience will be like after they get their hands on your product. The more vivid the image, the more compelling it will be.

Back up your claims with proof: scientific or clinical evidence, testimonials, case studies, awards, etc. Make it real for them.

Once a prospect sees himself enjoying their new life, making the purchase is the next natural step. This usually takes work (research, writing, rewriting, testing). So does filing bankruptcy.

Oh, and One More Thing

People generally won’t buy from someone they don’t trust. It is of the utmost importance for entrepreneurs, marketers and sales people to gain the trust of their prospects and customers.

Allow me to refer you to an interview I did with a third Harvard man, best-selling author Charlie Green. During our 30-minute interview, Charlie talked about

  • why trust is critical to you success in business
  • specific ways you can build more trust in your relationships
  • mistakes you might be making which can sabotage your efforts to gain the trust of your prospects
  • common myths about trust
  • how long it really takes to start building (or rebuilding) trust
  • and more.

Check out the “30 Minutes to More Trust” interview here. I learned quite a bit and I think you will, too.




Getting More Yeses Without Pressure, Hype or Dishonesty

Live radio is tough.

As an outsider, I don’t know how the professionals move so quickly, transition so smoothly and keep everything fun and interesting.

For those of you who missed it, I had a spot on George Kilpatrick’s show last Tuesday evening. (George is the consummate professional). We talked about how to get more yeses in sales, marketing and other situations where you need to be persuasive. I had 5 points and only 5 minutes to cover them. Needless to say, we weren’t able to discuss any of the concepts in much detail.

I’d like to flesh out the ideas a little more right here.

Here’s the list of ways you can get more yeses without resorting to pressure tactics, hype or any kind of dishonesty.

1) True Empathy
There are few things in the world more powerful than empathy. If you can demonstrate that you truly understand what your prospects is experiencing and how they feel about their experiences, they won’t be able to help feeling a bond with you. Defenses go down, skepticism decreases and trust flows naturally.

John Dewey is quoted as saying “The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.” Show them they’re important to you by asking genuine questions and really listening. Listen in order to understand, not just to figure out the best sales approach.

Henry Ford said ”If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.” When people believe you want to know what they think and how they feel so you can help them, you’ll have less trouble getting your message through (when it’s your turn to talk).

Consider the African concept of Ubuntu. Bishop Desmond Tutu tells us that “A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.” Treat your customers like people, not walking wallets. You’ll get a lot more yeses if you do.

2) Appeal to the built-in motivations of the prospect.
No one can “sell ice to Eskimos”–at least not visiting igloos door-to-door.

You’ve gotta sell stuff people want. I talk about this fairly frequently (in fact, this point made up 1/3rd of my most recent newsletter), so I won’t belabor the point too much.

While you’re empathizing with your target audience, find out what sorts of solutions will help them get what they want or put an end to what they want to stop in their lives. Help them see the transformation it will bring; don’t focus on features, but appeal to their current thoughts, feelings and priorities.

3) Educate
Salespeople sell stuff. Teachers shape the minds of those who shape the world. Which do you want to be?

Every study you see indicates that there’s a shortage of school teachers in America. Classrooms are bulging with students, eager to learn. In private schools and institutes of higher education, people pay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to listen to teachers who will (hopefully) equip them to succeed in life. When sales people greet potential customers, the reply “I’m just browsing” is all too common. Which do you want to be?

Teachers help interpret reality. Then they help their students act accordingly.

Education is an amazingly powerful way to persuade without pressure. Done properly, you’ll never have to pitch anything. The mental pictures you paint are so compelling that people naturally see the need for what you’re selling.

4) Tell (true) stories
This is another subject I address frequently, but know this: stories are rarely seen as sales pitches. Our brains are inherently receptive to narrative. We love them in every form: movies, music, magicians, etc.

Tell stories about past client successes, your own personal journey from doubt to domination or lessons from history that make a clear point.

5) Establish credibility, but don’t toot your own horn
The more you’re recognized as an expert, the more people will trust you and take your advice. But telling people you’re trustworthy usually gives the impression that you’re not. That’s why it’s counterproductive to toot your own proverbial horn.

Credentials, degrees, awards, media appearances and publications all work in your favor. Testimonials, personal recommendations and referrals probably work even better. Don’t forget about celebrity endorsements!

If you’ll allow me to act like a teacher for a moment, I have an assignment for you: Think about specific ways you can utilize these 5 ideas to increase your yes-to-no ratio. Make sure to raise your hand if you have any questions.


Quote of the Week 62

“In a sense Ford was both the most brilliant and the most senseless marketer in American history. He was senseless because he refused to give the customer anything but a black car. He was brilliant because he fashioned a production system designed to fit market needs. We habitually celebrate him for the wrong reason, his production genius. His real genius was marketing. We think he was able to cut his selling price and therefore sell millions of $500 cars because his invention of the assembly line had reduced the costs. Actually he invented the assembly line because he had concluded that at $500 he could sell millions of cars. Mass production was the result, not the cause of his low prices.” – Theodore Levitt, The Marketing Imagination

Need I say more?