Why People Don’t Buy Your Products or Services
There’s a story about the comedian Jerry Lewis that when he was touring the country doing gigs, he kept a diary. On any night where the show went well, he would write some variation on “I killed it tonight!” On a night where the show went badly, he would write “The audience sucked”.
This is reflective of a pattern I see in many of the entre/solopreneurs, business owners, and salespeople I’ve worked with. When things are going well, it’s because of the brilliance of their product, service, or salesmanship; when things are going badly, it’s because of the state of the economy, their industry, or “stubbornly resistant customers”.
Rather than try to teach them better coping strategies or “clever tricks to overcome resistance”, I often guide them in an exploration of the nature of buying. Given that no one has to buy anything from you (ever), the more you understand how people make buying decisions, the more effortless and graceful your selling will become.
Here’s the question in a nutshell:
Why do people buy when they buy, and why don’t they buy when they don’t?
In exploring that question over the past 30 years or so, I’ve come to see that while there are any number of reasons people give for pulling the trigger and buying something, there are essentially only three reasons why they don’t. Getting clear on these reasons helps you focus in on more effective sales strategies and waste less time trying to close sales when people aren’t yet in a position to buy.
Reason number one:
They don’t really know what’s on offer (or they don’t believe that what you say is on offer is really on offer).
I have worked for the past thirty years in the coaching industry. Since for most people the word “coach” still evokes images of their high school gym teacher, whistle around the neck and slightly frightening, a large part of my enrollment process is educational. What they assume is on offer is that in some way I’ll bully them into doing something they don’t really want or feel capable of doing on their own. When I show them what’s actually on offer — more wellbeing and enjoyment, higher levels of performance and results, and less stress and pressure than ever before — they are at least intrigued by the possibility.
But my job as a salesperson doesn’t stop there. It’s one thing to say those things and quite another to demonstrate their credibility. When I was first starting out, I would do that by offering free “sample sessions” so people could experience the impact for themselves. Now, I have a wealth of books, articles, video, and audio resources available to them where they can get a taste of what’s on offer, and a track record of happy clients they can speak with to get a sense that it really is possible.
There is a company in the UK called Ronseal whose longtime advertising slogan is “Does exactly what it says on the tin”. Their interior varnish varnishes interiors; their waterproof deck and wood stain stains wood and proofs your deck against water. While I’ve never had the opportunity to put their products to the test, there’s a clarity and simplicity to their offerings we can all learn from.
Do your offers pass “the Ronseal test”?
That is, if I were to interview your potential customers or clients, could they tell me exactly what’s on offer?
· Will it save them time and/or money?
· Will it help them to do something they really want to do or make their life easier or more enjoyable?
· On a scale from 1–10, how sure would they be that your product or service “does exactly what it says on the tin”?
If you want to increase sales, you must first increase the clarity of your offering. And as long as it’s really on offer, anything you can do to make that experientially obvious to your customer/client is probably worth any amount of time, money, and attention you put into it.
So if people really get what’s on offer and get that it’s the real deal, will they always buy?
Of course not. And here’s the main reason why…
Reason number two:
They know what’s on offer and believe it’s true, but it’s doesn’t seem worth it to them at “the price”.
One of the reasons that salespeople are so quick to want to offer discounts to close sales is they believe their potential customers when they tell them that “it’s too expensive”. But the truth is, “the price” of any product or service isn’t just to do with the financial cost in isolation. The real price of any purchase includes the relative value of money to each party, but also the investment of time to learn how to put it to use and the potential hassle of having to deal with you and/or your company.
Chances are you’ve got plenty of real-life examples where trying to save yourself a few bucks (or a few thousand) cost you so much more than you bargained for when the product turned out to be shoddy, the service turned out to be terrible, and the whole experience wound up being pretty miserable.
In order to increase sales, especially on higher end items, coming down on the financial price is a poor second to finding out what your potential customer or client really values and demonstrating how what’s on offer will help them get more of it. If they can see that what you’re offering is worth more to them in the moment than what you’re asking for in exchange, they’ll usually buy it.
The exception to that rule of thumb is explained by reason number three…
Reason number three:
They know what’s on offer and believe it’s on offer, but just don’t want it.
Years ago, I was talking to a very persistent salesman who had clearly been well-trained in the art of overcoming objections. Every one of my politely stated reasons for declining was quickly “handled” until I literally could not come up with a single reason to say “no”. To the salesman’s complete surprise, I still didn’t buy at the end of our exchange. Somewhat humbled and confused by the experience, he asked my why I didn’t buy, this time as a genuine question instead of as a sales tactic.
“No reason,” I explained. “I just don’t want it”.
One of the easiest ways to increase sales over time is to spend less of your time and attention trying to convince people who fundamentally aren’t interested in what’s on offer and more of your time finding people who are. While how to do that will be the subject of a future article, here are a few things that will help you to do just that:
1. Get really, really clear on what’s on offer for your customer or client in general terms. This is essentially your “elevator pitch” — how you would explain the value of your product or service over the course of a 30 second elevator ride.
2. Take the time to get to know what matters to the specific person or company you’re offering it to. The more you get why they’re willing to even talk with you about your product or service, the more you’ll be able to see what would be a “no-brainer” offer to them, where the relative value of what you’re offering is blatantly worth more to them than the money you’re asking them to exchange for it.
3. Stop assuming your product or service is for everyone. It may well be perfect for the right person, but chances are that it would be a poor fit for many, many others. In this sense, the easiest way to find your ideal customers and clients is to stop spending all your time and attention trying to convince people who clearly aren’t.
Michael Neill is an international thought leader and master coach, challenging the cultural mythology that stress and struggle are a prerequisite to creativity, happiness, and success. As the founder and CEO of Genius Catalyst Inc., Michael’s mission is to unleash the human potential with intelligence, humor, and heart.
To learn more about Michael and his work, visit www.michaelneill.org or join the nearly two million people who have enjoyed his TEDx talks Why Aren’t We Awesomer? and Can a TEDx Talk Really Change the World?