Don't Sell The Product—Meet The Demand
In economic terms, demand is "the amount of a particular economic good or service that a consumer or group of consumers will want to purchase at a given price…Demand for a good or service is determined by many different factors other than price." Product is simply that economic good or service you want to sell. You supply the product for which there is a consumer demand, and we all get along beautifully.
This isn't a discussion about the relationship between supply and demand; rather, it's a reminder that selling is a lot easier when you don't try to sell.
Stop pushing product
Think about it. When was the last time you got a sales call or spam e-mail and received it with utter delight, or, really, with anything short of contempt? No one wants to be sold to, or sold at, but that's how many of us operate. We focus on moving the product, whether or not the product is really a good match for the potential buyer.
Social media, and its growing popularity as a marketing tool, has changed the approach a little bit, but not completely. We take time to research the target market (usually) so we know we're targeting the right kind of people. And then we focus, at least for a while, on connecting, communicating, content marketing, providing value, being a resource, being an expert: all the buzz words of social media marketing. At some point, however, the need to sell becomes more important and we make a shift from building relationships to selling products.
It's disruptive. We need to shift our whole approach, not just for the initial "relationship-building" part of the marketing process, but for the entire process.
Start with demand
We need to speak the language of demand, not the language of sales. We need to focus on meeting the demand that's already there, not on selling the product that we happen to have. This is a basic tenet of copywriting, as explained by Robert W. Bly in his classic book on the subject, The Copywriter's Handbook. You don't just talk about what you want to sell and how great it is. Instead, you:
- Get attention
- Show a need/demand
- Satisfy the need/demand and position product as the solution
- Prove your product can do what you say it can do
- Ask for action
This method of selling focuses more on the demand as it exists in the mind of your potential consumers than on the product. That's key.
If you use the wrong language, you can talk all day long about the demand these consumers have, and how your product satisfies it, but you'll get nowhere. You have to understand how they talk about the demand. What are their keywords and phrases? Use the wrong language and they won't get it, because you don't get it.
From the beginning, base your relationship-building on how you can meet the demand. Doing so means that you don't have to suddenly shift into selling mode. From the first interaction, you're able to build a transparent relationship: "Hey, I'm here to provide what you need. I'm here to meet the demand."
If the demand is real (i.e., you've successfully identified both the demand and the people who have the demand), and your product provides the solution, then the selling and buying will be a simple and natural part of this demand-driven relationship.
You don't have to start selling. All you have to do is keep providing the answer to the question, the solution to the problem, the supply for the demand.
Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget startups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.