What are you actually selling when you sell?

At the core, all successful businesses sell some combination of money, status, power, love, knowledge, protection, pleasure, and excitement. The more clearly you articulate how your product satisfies one or more of these drives, the more attractive your offer will become.

Josh Kaufman absolutely nailed it with the quote above taken from his excellent book The Personal MBA. It’s so important to understand between the lines the needs of your customers and explicitly show them how buying what you’re selling will meet a need or solve a problem in one of these areas.

People don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems.

That last sentence is so fundamental, I’m gonna let it sit there in a paragraph of its own! Nobody buys anything just for the sake of having it – they’re looking for some sort of physical or metaphysical return on their investment.

For a single product there may be quite different needs/desires to meet between different customers – that’s great – now you know that your pitch needs to be different for each of them! Look at the quintessential salesperson, the used car dealer – to them the same car could be any number of things – “safe and reliable”, “top of the range”, “lovely colour”, “nippy in the corners”, “roomy in the back” – depending on their assessment of who the customer is. It may even be all of the above when selling to mum, dad and the kids!

So work it out, know which of these underlying things your selling when you’re selling and make sure your potential customer knows why your product offers them more in these areas than someone else’s.

Here are a few examples of where different sectors fit into this model. Try to identify which fit with your own business.

Money – financial services, advertising, coupons
Status – fashion, luxury goods
Power – headhunters, political fundraising!
Love – dating, deodorants, cars, gyms, trashy magazines!
Knowledge – consultancy,
Protection – insurance, safety features
Pleasure – games, hobbies, ice cream
Excitement – theme parks, gadgets, dating

The {.co} Top Four Books for New Businesses / Start-Ups

I’ve read a lot of books about new business processes and start-ups in the past year or two. Here are four that bring insights every few pages rather than the ones that stretch out a single insight into a whole book (you know who you are!).

The Personal MBA
Josh Kaufman’s “The Personal MBA” is dense with useful information for whichever aspect of business you’re currently concerned with – finances, product development, sales & marketing, all of the above! – it’s all in here with lots of concise single-topic chapters rather than long general groupings making it an ideal reference book to return to as your business develops or fresh problems arrive on your desk.

Do Purpose
I’ve believed for a while now that humans are narrative-driven beings. David Hieatt is a man who knows how to tell a good story. He started his career at Saatchi (advertising is just story-telling!) and went on to create the successful outdoor clothing brand Howies and subsequently luxury jeans brand Hiut Denim. Do Purpose is his condensed manifesto for creating meaningful businesses – businesses that serve their customers and make the world better (and, sure, hopefully make a profit). An easy-read that only takes a couple of hours. One that I turn to when my enthusiasm needs a shot in the arm.

The Lean Startup
One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed playing with Angular is the power it gives you to rapidly take an idea from paper to a working (or semi-working) prototype. Taking and applying the concepts of “Minimum Viable Product”, iterative design, continuous deployment and measuring the impact of your changes on your early customers, this book opened my eyes to a new way of turning around innovation quickly and efficiently.

The Idea in You
A book full of case-studies of people who’ve taken a spark of inspiration and carried it through to a successful business – some small lifestyle businesses, others much larger – as well as plenty of practical exercises and encouragement to help you take your big idea, evaluate its pros and cons and work out how to stop dreaming and start doing.

Bonus book: If those last two sound good to you, it might also be worth checking out Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days by Jake Knapp who developed this five day process for developing and testing ideas in his work at Google and Google Ventures.

I Want My ABC

Mindful Leadership

I’ve spent this week on a Mindful Leadership training course in the Netherlands. I’ve been working long enough to have been on quite a few training courses by now but, at a full 5 days, this one was certainly the longest and the one in which the participants (18 of us) bonded the most. The goodbyes and “keep in touches” we said earlier today to our colleagues from around the world were much more genuine than they sometimes are at these things.

As with any training course, there are many things I wrote down that I feel I must remember and use. It’s always much harder to keep that feeling a month later but I shall try.

Anyway, one of the things that I kept coming back to during the course was a structure around people’s motivations and psychological needs which is literally as easy as ABC. It goes like this:

People fundamentally want to feel three things……click here to read the rest…