50 Shades of Sales

My girlfriend Ana has not been much of a reader since we’ve been dating. She’ll browse a magazine here and there, but she just hasn’t been that into books.

And since she’s not into books, she wonders why I’m always reading them. My response was simply, “You just haven’t found the right books yet.”
 
Just as I regularly recommend my favorite books to Leads4Insurance readers, I gave her a few of my favorites to try.

As you might have guessed, Ana wasn’t very interested in marketing, financial and performance books like I am. She tried a few of them but ended putting them down before ever needing a bookmark.

She then sought book advice from her friends, who recommended “The Help” and “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” She liked those, and she read them fairly quickly.

This past week, she started reading “Fifty Shades of Gray.” Three days later, she finished it.

She’s now halfway through the second book of the series, “Fifty Shades Darker.”

This is someone who – prior to reading these books – barely read one book a year. And now’s she’s on pace to tear through two in one week.
 
So what does any of this have to do with your business? Am I about to recommend another book to you? Not this time.

The point of this story cuts to the heart what unsuccessful business owners get wrong and successful business owners do right.

The former cook up a product they think customers need and try to sell it to them. That’s completely backwards.

For nostalgia’s sake, let’s run down a list of terrible ideas immediately rejected by the public: Crystal Pepsi, purple and green ketchup from Heinz, New Coke, and Colgate Kitchen Entrees (frozen dinners made by the makers of toothpaste).

My favorite though is the XFL, which was Vince McMahon’s idea of combining professional wrestling with NFL football.

My general rule of thumb is to greet any thought of “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” with skepticism. And you know that some of these terrible product ideas started with someone in a suit saying “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”

On the contrary, successful business owners find out what customers want before selling it to them – and they are hands down more successful because of it.

This is why Apple is so huge. This is why HDTVs are the only TVs on the market. This is why McDonald’s hauls out the McRib to geek-like fanfare every year.

It’s why every successful product is driven by a consumer base that wants it. It sounds simplistic. It is.

But the lesson is often forgotten in our quest to impress consumers, outsell competition, and stand out from the pack.
 
I thought that my girlfriend would think that books about sales, marketing and finance are interesting.

What I should have done is find out what kind of things she is interested in reading about then suggested some books to her.

People buy what they want. Plain and simple.
 
Amateur sales professionals sell needs. Professionals sell wants.
 
Never forget this fact.
 
Be valuable.
 
John McCarthy
Managing Editor, Leads4Insurance.com

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