There is an old marketing adage – don’t sell drills, sell holes. Focusing not on your product, but on what your product does given this is what your client purchases.
But is this right? Does it go far enough?
If you’re in retail and a customer comes in to your store, selects a drill and walks to your counter, pays and leaves – you’ve made a sale, but have you sold anything?
If, instead, that same customer engages with one of your staff members and asks about which is the best to drill through 1” ply – you would hope your staff member has the product knowledge to guide them to the correct drill (and bits!). Again, you’ve made a sale and, in this instance, your customer this time leaves with some knowledge the drill and bits will work properly. You also have the comfort in knowing what you’ve sold is ‘fit for purpose’ don’t you?
Is the advice you gave fit for purpose? Sure, it will drill the hole in 1” ply – but what was your customer’s real purpose?
Now – what if you staff member approaches your customer in the aisle and asks ‘What is your project?’ Your customer may then tell them they’re building a Wendy house for their daughter.
This is the reason that customer is standing in your business. Not because they want a drill. Not because they want to drill a hole. Not simply because they want to build a Wendy House. But because they want to see the joy on their daughters face once it’s complete.
Your staff member can now really help your customer. They will ask if they have plans. They will advise them they may not need that drill as you can pre-cut and pre-drill all the timber off the plans so it will fit perfectly . Have they thought about weather protection as they will want it to last and be safe? What about the foundations so it’s stable? All manner of advice can be given to improve the outcome for your customer and, importantly, their daughter.
The adage of ‘don’t sell drills, sell holes’ is correct though only goes part of the way to the truth. In today’s era of readily available information on our products and services – clients can quickly assess what ‘drill’ they need to make their ‘hole’. Where sales people need to focus is not just the hole rather than the drill, but the reason they need the hole in the first place. Your clients purpose.
The first example where the customer walks in and walks out is an example of a sale – but not selling. That sale happens by accident. You’re open, you have drills, they need a drill and just happened to come in to your store for one. You don’t know why that customer was in your store and, other than having the product on the shelf at an acceptable price, the sale wasn’t controlled by your business.
Success could easily be seen in the first example as the client has purchased a drill from you – you made a sale. But, extrapolate this out. Let’s assume that drill wasn’t fit for purpose, that it didn’t have enough torque to drill the hole they needed.
Now, you could assume it isn’t your fault because the client made their own decision and purchased without your consultation. They had all the product information from the web. But is this fair? You had the opportunity to help them when they walked in to your store. You even hire staff to be on the floor to help clients. Ask yourself whether you had the obligation to help them. That customer buying the wrong drill was your fault, not theirs.
Even if the drill was perfect for the task – do you have any enduring relationship with the customer? Do they feel better for having purchased the drill from you? Do they feel you and your staff contributed to the successful outcome of their project simply because you sold them a drill.
Your clients will always have a purpose behind their interactions with you. However, they won’t always freely tell you what these are. It isn’t your client’s responsibility to tell you – you are the professional sales person. It is your purpose to find out theirs and help them achieve it. This is the simple rule of selling.
In this example, the purpose was to build a Wendy house, not to drill holes or buy a drill. Knowing this, you can radically change your clients experience with you and your store. By not taking the time to understand this, you simply sell a drill.
Success is about conscious selling. About selling with purpose, on purpose.
With Purpose being selling with the aim of helping your client. Not about selling to meet quota’s, earn commission or other selfish reasons – but about helping your clients meet their goals.
On Purpose being to sell in a considered manner. Not about clients buying, but about intentionally selling to those that need it. It is about being an advisor, not a transactor. Not someone standing at the till waiting for clients to walk up, but about proactively seeking them out to help them.
Selling isn’t about drills or holes. It is about Wendy House’s. It is about daughter’s smiling.