“Nobody cares about your products (Except You)” ― David Meerman Scott
Don’t sell your product or service.
Yes, you heard me right. Nobody cares about what you sell. They don’t care about your proprietary methodology. They don’t care about your agile development practices and how many scrum masters you have. They don’t care if you’re a CMMI Level 5. They couldn’t care less what languages, platforms, and technologies your people are experts in.
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Does what I’m saying sound sacrilegious or stupid? I know you’ve spent a lot of time hiring the best developers, expert java programmers, UX/UI gurus. Your customers demand it. Right?
Don’t get me wrong. Yes, this stuff is important – but not right now. Not when you’re trying to attract prospects.
The problem with most outsourcing providers today is that they make their expertise, their certifications and their qualifications the first thing they sell to customers. They believe that’s what people are really buying.
But all that is a commodity. Expertise, certifications, technology, methodologies: they’re all commodities. They’re a dime a dozen. Everybody in your space sells this. So, what?
As I mentioned in the introduction, American executives – and most executives in the world – are overwhelmed by people selling to them. Their inboxes are full of sales pitches. Their executive assistants are shielding them from dozens of cold calls a day from people trying to sell the same stuff as you.
When vendors talk non-stop about methodologies, technologies, processes, certifications, years of experience, and awards, it just turns into a wall of noise.
Here’s a statement I copied from the website of a Latin American software development outsourcing company:
“We offer world-class services through agile or traditional methodologies by relying on the most talented pool of engineers in the region.”
Let me provide the translated text; the one the U.S.-based executive sees:
“We offer blah blah blah blah blah blah blah . . . ”
There’s a good chance your message is getting lost in translation. The message you’re pitching to U.S. prospects probably sounds a lot like the “blah blah blah” translation I provided above. Although I was being facetious, that really is how the majority of messages come across.
When you start with explaining your products and services, your prospect’s eyes start to glaze over. They’re clicking the browser back button, deleting the email, hanging up on your phone call, and walking away from the trade-show booth that your country’s ministry of external commerce spent so much money to sponsor.
I know this might rub a lot of people the wrong way, but it needs to be said. Let me repeat it: Nobody cares about your methodology, your certifications, your ‘same time-zone, same culture’ proximity.
Not yet anyway.
Your Customers Want Transformation
The key to getting through the impenetrable Great Wall of China your prospects have erected, the way to unscramble the voice scrambler that turns your beautiful product and service pitch into just garbled noise, is to sell a transformation.
To illustrate my point, let’s turn to the most successful Super Bowl ad ever: The 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial.
You can watch the ad here: https://youtu.be/VtvjbmoDx-I
In this ad, in which Apple introduces the first ever Macintosh computer, we see a dystopian future with a dictator speaking from a screen to a zombie-like mass of people. Suddenly a lone, athletic woman, the only person in color in a black and white scene, runs down the passageway and throws a mallet at the screen, disrupting the rally and shattering the hypnotic hold the dictator has on the crowd.
The message is one of transformation. Apple, represented by the athletic woman, is freeing the masses from the corporate conformity that existed at the time (a subtle jab at IBM). The woman (Apple) represents freedom of expression, the freedom to be creative, the freedom to be yourself.
Conspicuously absent from the commercial was any mention of CPU speed, memory, and hard drive capacity, software features, or anything technical. And that was the brilliance of the commercial: it purposefully avoided any talk of technology, choosing to focus instead on transformation.
This sounds well and good for consumer goods, but how can serious B2B companies sell transformation?
We must first realize that B2B is still P2P – people-to-people. People make decisions to buy your products, and each person is his or her own universe. Each director of development, chief technology officer, chief operations officer, director of engineering, or IT manager is a human being with desires, dreams, issues, and challenges.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
To identify how to sell transformation, you need to realize that most decisions are made emotionally, and then justified through logic. Even when it comes to enterprise consulting or BPM services, there is always a core emotional element. These emotional elements are the most powerful levers you can pull to influence who buys your products or services.
A tool to help you identify the transformation you need to sell is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
In his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” published in Psychological Review, Abraham Maslow described a pyramid of needs that progresses from the most basic needs to the most sophisticated. First are physiological and safety needs, which include food, water, shelter, safety from danger, and so on. These are the needs the earliest human cave dwellers struggled to satisfy.
We still seek to satisfy them today, except today we’re not battling sabre tooth tigers – we’re battling crime, financial security, disease, and our own demons.
Then we get into social belonging, such as friendships, intimacy, and family. Maslow realized humans need to belong to social groups, whether through clubs, families, organizations, sports teams, or gangs. We also need to experience love, such as familial love and sexual love.
After we’ve satisfied our belonging and friendship needs, our next level of needs are self-esteem and self-confidence. This includes status, the respect of others, recognition, fame, prestige, competence, mastery, independence, and freedom.
Next is self-actualization. This level of need refers to a person’s full potential and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. The U.S. Army used this very effectively during the 1990s to recruit people during a time of relative peace and security in the world. “Be All You Can Be” became the U.S. Army’s most recognized slogan, even to this day.
All of us humans are in a struggle to reach a destination that was previously unreachable, whether in our personal lives or in our careers. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the best tool I’ve seen to describe where we are in that struggle to achieve something, to transform ourselves, to go from here to there.
To sell transformation then, you need to identify the gap between your customer’s “before” and “after” state, and identify their core needs and emotions related to the gap between their “before” and “after” state.
Your service, whether it’s software development, captive data centers, outsourced accounting, customer support, or whatever it is you deliver, is just a vehicle to bridge the gap for your customers between their “before” state to their “after” state.
How do you identify your customer’s gap?
Where They Are Now
Identify where your customers are now. What do they lack in their world, in their work, in their personal and professional lives? What do their companies lack? What is bothering them? What constraints are keeping them from reaching their goals?
For example, your customers might be financial services providers, like insurance companies, who don’t yet have a way for their customers to interact with their insurance policies and pay their bills via an online app. The company receives complaint after complaint that their website is difficult to use on their mobile phones, and that it’s inconvenient to pay their bills and print out new insurance identification cards because they can only use a computer or laptop, not their mobile phones.
The director of customer service’s inbox is inundated with angry emails from customers complaining about how user-unfriendly their website is, and how they wish the company provided them with an easy-to-use app to manage their accounts from their phones.
The above scenario causes a lot of emotions for our embattled customer service director. How do you think she’s feeling? She might be experiencing a combination of emotions, such as feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, scared. She’s scared that her boss might fire her for all the complaints. She’s frustrated at the workload her people have and by how many issues get escalated to her. She’s overwhelmed at the amount of work awaiting her every day when she comes into the office.
A Day in the Life
Next, what is the day-in-the-life of our customer service director? She’s harried, running to put out one fire after another. She doesn’t have enough time to work on the strategic stuff she needs to do to design a perfect customer service journey since her staff is handling complaints all day long.
She’s probably working long hours, staying late four out of five days of the week, and maybe working some weekends.
Here’s where we’re getting into heavy Maslow territory. Is our customer service director getting a lot of respect right now? Probably not from her staff and customers. Is she self-actualized? Probably not. She never imagined she would be putting out fires instead of working at her dream job designing ideal customer experiences and becoming the company’s hero.
Yes, there is an enemy and each person battles that enemy every day.
For our customer service director at the insurance company, her enemy is the support queue. The support queue should be non-existent if she had the right technology in place – a modern mobile app that works on iPhones as well as Android phones. An app that’s fully integrated with their back-end ERP systems. Instead, because her customers are interacting with her company’s website through their phone’s browsers – and the experience is not optimized for mobile – her day is filled with the evil empire called “The Support Queue.”
Once you’re able to identify where your customers are now, as well as all the emotions, daily activities, status, and the enemies they battle, you can very clearly see how you can help your customers experience transformation.
Where They Want to Go
Each of the previous points has an opposite. From where they are now, to where they want to go. Marketer Russell Brunson says to be cautious, however.
People don’t want improvement, they want a complete change.
When I mentioned transformation at the beginning of this chapter, I wasn’t referring to incremental improvement. I was referring to a new place, a new destination, a renewal, a reinvention.
Improvement is hard. It takes effort and it doesn’t yield much. Transformation is a complete change. It’s the fantasy that you can leave it all behind and enter a new world.
People buy transformation. They don’t buy improvement. They secretly desire throwing away their old lives and adopting new ones. That’s exciting. The problem is that getting better where they are right now is slow, tedious, and just more of the same.
They want to be like a caterpillar that enters a chrysalis and emerges two weeks later as a beautiful monarch butterfly.
Offer them the chrysalis.
What types of transformation are companies looking for today?
- They want to become internet companies
- They want to become software-powered companies
- They want to be the dominant companies in their industry
- They want to grow 10X faster than they have been
- They want to sell their companies for billions of dollars
- They want to become the “Uber” of their industry
- They want to become the “Amazon” of their industry
We’re always being told that companies buy things for four reasons: 1. They want to increase revenues; 2. They want to decrease costs; 3. They want to increase market share; 4. They want to decrease risk.
Those are the four logical reasons companies will use to justify their purchases, but, what really sells is emotion, and to get somebody emotionally sold on your product you need to sell the transformation.
So, where do they want to go? Let’s look at the insurance company example I mentioned earlier. They don’t have a way for customers to use an app to pay their bills, consult their policies, and make changes.
What are they looking to do? Well . . . yes, they want an app. That’s what you might be able to build for them. But what do they really want?
They want to become an internet company.
A software powered company.
The dominant company in their industry.
What does the decision-maker you’re trying sell to really want? If she’s the customer service director, she might want to achieve something so breakthrough that she would be considered as the next VP of Operations or maybe the next COO.
Or she might be positioning herself to be hired by a competitor or a company in a different industry as one of their top executives. Think Marissa Mayer, who was a rising star at Google, and then became CEO of Yahoo in 2012.
What emotions would your target prospect experience after achieving the transformation? How about feeling exhilarated, triumphant, free, powerful? Really identify the emotions your prospect will feel when achieving the transformation they are seeking. It’s the key to making the sale.
A Day in the Life
What would the day in the life of our hero be? Busy, but relaxed? Her day completely organized by an executive assistant, with time for a few meetings, time for creative work, and time for busy work, but not chaotic like before? Maybe her days would be spent evangelizing her company’s message through speaking engagements, interviews, blogging, and meeting with VIPs every day?
How would her status change after getting the transformation she’s looking for? Would she become the hero of her company? The poster-child for innovative thinking? The model employee, manager, or director?
The enemy has been defeated. The support queue has been tamed by a powerful, innovative methodology provided by her outsourcing provider (that’s you!). It runs like a well-oiled machine, and there are no emergencies. The support queue yields valuable information about issues that can help her help the company with product planning, process optimization, and new market opportunities.
The enemy has been transformed into an ally, and is no longer an enemy.