Are you selling to a need or a want?

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect. “
W Clement Stone

Do you know why your clients buy from you?

People and companies buy products and services either because they need them or because they want them. If you can understand what is motivating your potential customers you will be able to tailor your sales pitch to better suit your clients, thus making it easier for them to make the decision to buy.

For example people buy electricity because they need it rather than because they want it. On the other hand people tend to buy house plants because they want them, rather than need them. Every purchase made will have a need or a want behind it, and understanding what the driver is,  is key to making successful sales. This is the case if someone buys a bar of chocolate at the train station or if they decide to buy a house, the difference lies in the amount of thought that goes into the decision and the amount of information required to enable the decision to be made.

Do your customers buy because they need your products or because they want them?Based on the strength of the need and/or the want the type of sale you make breaks down into one of three categories:


1) Hostage Sales: This is where the need for the product or service is the over riding driver in the decision making process. A company’s printing requirements might be an example of this. They need brochures and business cards to send out to potential clients, the need here is far greater than the want.

In these instances the client is making a choice as to which company to use rather than whether they should have the product or not. From a sales point of view it is therefore important to sell the benefits of using your company, so you may want to focus on the reliability and speed of service in addition to the quality of the finished products.

The danger with these types of purchases is that the client can feel resentful of the company they are buying from, as they need to have it and feel as though there is no choice in the matter. This can lead to them “bad mouthing” you to friends and colleagues. Companies in a near monopoly position can often suffer from this and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest this happens with the likes of BT, Sky, British Gas and so on. This is why excellence in customer service is such a critical factor for companies in this position, because if you don’t look after your clients they will happily jump ship as soon as they find an alternative supplier.


2) Emotional sales:  Here the want for the product or service is greater than the need for it. The individual or company can do without the product and it can often be an impulse purchase. A magazine or newspaper subscription can be an example of this. It’s a nice to have but you can live without it. When times are tough, if the client doesn’t feel there is any huge value in the subscription then it will soon be cancelled.

Customer service is still important, but the key criteria here is the quality of the product. If the articles in the magazine are of interest to the reader and they derive real value from them then the client is likely to view the subscription as more of a need to have than an impulse purchase.  From a sales point of view it is important to focus on how the product or service will enhance the lifestyle of the individual or company, perhaps the product will be a status symbol for them or provide a feel good factor.

The potential danger with Emotional Sales is that the client does not perceive any lasting value in repeating the purchase, so you find yourself in a position of constantly having to find new customers as you are not building regular repeat business. Building brand and company loyalty is a major factor in achieving success in this area of sales.


3) Sustainable sales: The ideal scenario for a company, as the clients have both a strong need and a strong want for the product or service. They like the product, they like the service and they understand how it benefits them to have the product and to buy it from you. This could be something as simple as a solicitor’s office having a regular contract to have flower displays in their reception. The general manager of the practice who bought the contract believes that the flowers are a symbol of the success and friendliness of the practise and as such send out a strong message to potential clients. To stop the contract would be a sign to clients that the practice has started to struggle.

The potential danger is that the client could decide to cut back on such expenses, but the bigger danger is that the client could decide to change suppliers. They still view the flowers contract as important, but believe they might get a better deal/service from one of your competitors.  Having landed the contract it is important to look after your clients and maintain the level of quality, in both product and service, that intitially persuaded them to buy from you. That’s why it’s always a little puzzling to see the huge offers open to new customers of Sky, BT  etc that are not available to their existing customer base. Yes they need to entice new customers, but what message are they sending out to existing ones?


If you arre operating in the 4th zone, where the perceived need and want are low you won’t be making many sales! This happens when the sales person spends all their time talking about the features of the product or service rather than linking these to the benefits that they bring to the clients. Having the latest digital print facilities to produce company brochures will mean nothing to your clients.

However if you can demonstrate how this means you can produce smaller print runs, reduce turnround times and improve quality, which in turn will result in you being able to provide 250 new brochures by the end of the week in time for the exhibition your client has on Saturday; increases the need and want of the client for your services.

Think about your clients, do they buy because they need your services or because they want them?


How can you increase the desire to buy?


“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.” Not only will you succeed in
sales, you will succeed in life.”

Mary Kay Ash

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