J.P. Morgan once requested a pearl scar pin from a renowned jeweler. After finding a magnificent pearl and mounting it on the appropriate setting, the craftsman sent it to Morgan with a bill for $5,000. On the next day, the package returned with a note that read:“I like the pin, but I don’t like the price. Please accept the enclosed check of $4,000 and sent the box back with the seal unbroken.”
Outraged, the first thing the jeweler did was open the box. To his surprise, there was no pin–but a check of $5,000. Considered one of the country’s shrewdest businessmen, J.P. Morgan was first and foremost a sharp observer of the people him. One of his guiding thoughts was
“A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.”
Your prospects also have two reason for buying your product
And they always only tell you the good reason. Take hardware store, for example. A customer walks in to buy a shovel. If you ask him why he wants the shovel he says: “Duh, I want to dig hole!”.
But the shovel and the hole are just a means to an end really. The real reason of the customer might be to decorate his back yard with some trees (or he might be digging for gold). Whatever the reason, the shovel and the hole don’t matter. If he could have his tree just like that, you’d be out of the shovel-selling business in a jiffy. The following 3 points will help you get to the real reason of your prospects.
- What’s in it for me?
- The means-to-an-end ladder
- Your prospect’s final reason
It always starts with the most important question for your customer:
1. What’s In It For Me?
As illustrated in the shovel example, your prospect doesn’t care about your product or its features. As long as it gets the job done, it doesn’t matter if the shovel has a special grip, or step or the blade was made of steel. Features matter the least. Of course, it makes sense to mention them, but always in combination with their benefits:
- the grip is treated to prevent blisters
- power step makes slipping off almost impossible
- the tempered steel doesn’t bend when digging in the hardest ground
But even these benefits have deeper purpose. Let’s keep traveling up the means-to-an-end ladder.
2. The means-to-an-end ladder
The features are the first rung on the ladder and the benefits the second, but there are more:
a) Features: the attributes of the product (i.e. grip, step and blade)
b) Benefits: the purpose of the features (i.e. blister-free and anti-slip)
c) Drivers: the psychological consequences (i.e. feeling proud when neighbors admire the well-cared back yard)
d) Values: the product reinforces who we are (i.e. provider of the family by creating a green oasis, valuable member of the neighborhood by taking care of it)
It’s the values at the end of the ladder that are the real drivers for any purchase decision. They are your prospect’s final reason.
3. Your prospect’s final reason
The final reason of your prospect often is the most personal one. That’s why they don’t usually come up in conversations. Who would admit publicly that he wants to be seen as a good provider for his family. Not only are we taught since childhood to not give in to selfish motives but they would also reveal weakness as humans: they reveal our insecurities, show our vanity and expose us to criticism.
And yet, they are real reasons that keep us up at night (“Am I being a good father/husband?”). They form the root of our motivations. Without them, benefits and features would be useless.
In the next article, we will have a closer look at these values–they are universal among us–, and we will also see how to apply this powerful force to your business and products. But first, we address a common objection:
I close sales without this Hocus Pocus
It’s a valid argument. Thousands of business have survived despite never having to think about the reasons customers buy. But today, we are facing a tougher competition in a more saturated marketplace. More businesses than ever fight for the same clients. Knowing them better than your rivals can give you an edge. And to thrive, you also have to look at the prospects that didn’t buy from you. How many could you have won over if you only knew their true reasoning?
Your prospect’s two reasons: the good one and the real one
Nobody buys products for their features. Nobody buys products for their benefits either. Both are just means to a deeper end. It’s what your products do for them that get your prospects interested. And how they reinforce how your prospects see themselves–and how they want to be seen–is what turns a prospect into a customer.
But don’t reveal these true reasons easily. If you want to understand the people around you like J.P. Morgan did, and apply this in favor of your own business, read the next article.