Entrepreneurship and ambition — they go hand in hand. Whether you’ve got a great idea for a product or a desire to work for yourself, you quickly develop a passion for your business.
That’s the easy part. Going to market … not so much. Suddenly, you’re facing the prospect of building a brand and, even scarier, making sales.
Sadly, many entrepreneurs struggle to make their businesses a reality. Even if the product is great, you must position yourself in front of the right people, in the right way. And as many of us are idea-makers rather than sales reps, that’s a huge hurdle to overcome.
Trust me when I say that you can learn and refine your selling and marketing skills. The key is to shift your perspective from your desires to what your ideal customers truly want.
Selling A Promise, Not a Product
We’ve all seen ads with a laundry list of features and generic sales language:
“The Industry’s #1 Product”
“100% Pure and Natural!”
That sort of language becomes noise after a while. Especially when you’re breaking into your industry, you must speak directly to your target audience.
What do they truly want? Perhaps it’s something “pure and natural,” but those are meaningless buzzwords.
What problem do you solve for them? Guaranteeing satisfaction isn’t a solution. (Not to mention, virtually every company offers that.)
Why are you their best choice? It’s not because you’re #1 in the industry. People want to do business with brands that share their values and suit their interests.
In my 5Ps to entrepreneurial freedom, the first P stands for Promise. As an entrepreneur, your successful idea should come with a promise that you’ll serve your ideal customers’ needs and desires
People don’t want to buy a product per se … they want to buy a better life. Your business’s promise is that you’ll help them get that (whatever it is).
Let’s take a page out of the copywriters’ playbook. When writing a product description, good copywriters don’t just list all the technological doodads and fancy features. They emphasize the benefits.
When someone’s buying a computer, they don’t necessarily care what RAM stands for, what kind of processor chip that is, etc. They want to know: “Will this be powerful enough for video editing?” “Can I store all my photos on here?”
As part of your promise, those are the questions you must answer. Will your product make your customers’ lives better, and if so, how?
Moving from Features to Benefits
The reason so many businesses focus on features is that those decisions were important to them. It’s okay to be proud of your manufacturing efficiency or innovative materials. But to make those features matter to your audience, you must translate them into benefits.
When you decided to launch your enterprise, you likely had several personal goals, e.g. greater wealth, more freedom, and the chance to be your own boss. As you develop your product, your desires and values guide its features.
Perhaps it’s important to you to use only Italian-sourced fabric or local Pittsburgh steel. But you must explain how those choices benefit your customers.
Try to get out of your head and walk in your audience’s shoes. Shift your perspective from your goals and interests to your customers’. That will help you express the benefits of your offering and how you solve their problems.
As you may know if you’ve been following me, I also own several shoe stores. We have shoes that come in with all sorts of anti-fatigue technology, premium materials, etc. And I can honestly tell you that most of my customers don’t care about those features.
They want to know two things: “Will these shoes make me look good? Will they make me feel good?” As a business owner, it’s my job to sell them something that answers those questions.
The best part is that when you take this approach, selling becomes much easier. Salespeople who focus on the features have to waste time explaining what Feature X is and why it matters. Or worse, they start persuading customers to buy something they don’t need.
In a previous blog, I shared the story of a car buyer who wanted a compact sedan. He had specific reasons for this: he had a long commute, he didn’t want to spend a lot on gas or pollute the planet, and so on. The car salesman kept pushing him to buy a huge pickup truck.
The truck certainly had features: power steering, rain-resistant windows, and a turbo-four engine with enough horsepower to pull a boat. Naturally, none of that mattered to the customer. The salesman couldn’t understand why these features weren’t winning him over.
The answer is that they had no benefit to this buyer. Someone who wanted a vehicle to drive through the wilderness? Sure. An eco-conscious commuter who wanted better gas mileage? Not at all.
Remember, when promoting your business, position your offering where it will be most appreciated. That way, you can fulfill your promise… and your success follows from that.
A Business That Sells Itself
Selling is uncomfortable for many entrepreneurs, precisely because we don’t want to be like that pushy car salesman. But when you know the promise you’re making and how your product serves that promise, it’s much easier to entice your ideal customers.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to link their values and goals with those of their customers. That mismatch is one of the top reasons that enterprises fail. They believe that, as in Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.”
That is sadly not the case. But if you can step into your customers’ position and take their perspective, you’ll know exactly how to bridge the gap between your big idea and their desires.
And from there, your product or service can essentially sell itself.
Consider yourself the guide who connects your customers with their best solution. Once they see the opportunity, it doesn’t take much more persuasion!
So, if you’re nervous about selling, try this benefits-centric approach. This can also help if all your promotions seem to be entering the void. You may simply need to shift your position.
Coming up with a great idea is the (relatively) easy part of entrepreneurship. Perhaps going to market was easy, too. Where most business owners struggle is in aligning their own values and goals with their brand promise — and of course, the product itself!
Whether you’re averse to selling or worried about market-fit, keep the focus on that promise and the benefits it entails. You can best achieve your goals by helping your customers achieve theirs.
They may not come when you build it. But if you can demonstrate the amazing time they’ll have, it’s much easier to get them there.
This blog is inspired by an episode of the Simplifying Entrepreneurship podcast in which I chat with Keith Rozelle, Chief Sales Trainer at Sales Marvel.