Purchasing decisions are not just random acts controlled by what people think they want at a certain point in time. From the houses they buy to the type of pens they like to use, all are governed by a strong sense of meaning. Do you consider meaning when you are selling and make it part of your selling strategy?
Human beings have spent thousands of years searching for meaning. Our brains are hard-wired to construct a liveable reality by attributing meaning to the events that happen in our lives. We then base our values and goals upon this reality, which in turn drives our perception of who we are, what we value, and what we prefer.
So meaning is pretty important when making a sale.
Let’s say you’re trying to sell an expensive vacation to a middle-age couple who are looking for a few weeks away after their daughter goes to college. You tell them what a fantastic adventure they’ll have, but they don’t seem very convinced. You can’t understand it. Who wouldn’t want adventure when they’ve spent the past 18 years tied to school events and PTA meetings? There must be a tiny part of them longing for a bit of fun and adventure, and you’re going to find it.
First stop and consider that perhaps you are selling based on what this vacation means to you rather than what it means to your prospects. You may love the idea of travel and adventure, of taking off into the unknown for a life-changing experience. Adventure is high on your list of values. That’s great, as long as it is also high on your prospect’s list of values. If you want to make the sale, you need to find the clues that unearth the values that provide meaning and structure to your prospects’ lives, not yours.
It’s unfortunate that many salespeople try to sell based on what things mean to them and not to the prospect. If you love adventure, if the thrill of taking risks appeals to you, you’ll believe that deep down everybody really loves an adventure, and those values infiltrate your sales presentations, and you project your values onto the prospect.
But if you’re selling to prospects who value security and are scared by risk-taking and uncertainty, you won’t appeal to the sense of meaning they’ve constructed around their lives, and you won’t make the sale. Your prospects will only be motivated to act if the meaning is congruent with their own core values.
So back to the middle-age couple again. Before you start down the road of selling adventure to them, spend some time asking questions that will shed some light on their values. For example, preparing to send their daughter to college is a big family event, so you might find that family is high on their list of values. Where is the rest of their family? Their parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles? Could they be motivated to take the vacation to reconnect with these relatives because now the financial and time demands of child rearing are no longer an issue?
Meaning is the crux of why strong brands have loyal customers. These brands convey a sense of meaning to their customers and tap into their set of values. When the customers buy these brands, they believe they are reinforcing their values and thereby providing meaning in their lives.
Take Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for example. Customers know what its values are: social consciousness, environmental friendliness, and natural ingredients. People who buy Ben and Jerry’s might buy it over another brand because it provides a meaningful experience that is congruent with their life values. They’re buying community, independence, justice, and authenticity. To them, there’s a heck of a lot of meaning in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.