There is no such thing as need selling.

For the sales rep, the goal of the sale is for the client to buy his product or service. Before getting there, however, the sale often plays out on other levels: Imagine yourself as a computer reseller who sources from all the large international manufacturers, being pitched by a new, small, unknown manufacturer with no market presence, who is offering computers for resale, no more powerful than those you already distribute, yet more expensive. What would his arguments for their practical and aesthetic value be worth? Probably not much, for one MAJOR reason: You don’t need him. The sales person would therefore have to change the selling level, moving from product selling up to need selling.

It sounds like a great idea, but how?

You don’t sell need, you sell risk or opportunity.

Needs are like eyes: they cannot be transplanted. On the other hand, the sales rep can highlight the opportunity to buy or the risk of not buying. They are both possible, but one is more powerful than the other.

The greater impact of selling risk

risk selling - need selling

It is a fact that in life, people are more aware of what they can lose than what they can gain. This was highlighted by Gerard BAILLARD, currently CEO at Mercuri Business Partners, one of the most brilliant consultants that I have met in my career at Mercuri and a brilliant speaker, one of France’s top guns. One of his seminars includes a compelling demonstration: he throws a bank note into the centre aisle, which belongs to the first person to stand up. Invariably, no-one gets up, and after a few seconds, he picks up the bill and tears it up. Everyone is shocked by this, and he then asks them to analyze what they are feeling: not enough emotion to go and pick up €50, but shock at the idea of losing €50. And yet, it is the same amount!

The fact is that human beings are more aware of what they can lose than what they can gain, which is why need selling works better when you focus on selling the risk of loss, not the opportunity for gain…

Selling opportunity

Steve jobs selling opportunity

Selling opportunity is clearly less effective but easier to achieve, and can still work. One example of someone who does a deft job of this is Steve Jobs. It is what he did, for instance, when selling the rights to develop iPhone applications at MAC WORLD: he quoted eBay CEO John Donahoe as saying that the eBay iPhone application had generated 10 million downloads the first year for a volume of $600 million, with $1.5 to $2 billion forecast for the next year.

Selling Risk

How can you sell risk ? Steve JOBS undoubtedly has the most finesse in this area. The case described in the introduction to this article is not fictitious: let’s go back in time to April 26, 1984. Apple is lagging behind IBM: IBM launched its PC in 1981 and is omnipresent in the market, with a 100% market share, worldwide. IBM has a three-year lead over Macintosh: the first Macintosh computer is less than 100 days old – 92 to be exact, as it was launched three months earlier, on January 24, 1984. At that time, when few people had the “NEED” for a personal computer, no-one needed Apple, no-one needed a Macintosh, and no-one needed Steve JOBS. In his sales meeting with the resellers, JOBS’ goal is to sell their need for Macintosh.Steve Jobs introduces antagonist

This is when he first inaugurates his antagonist technique… using an old trick in a revolutionary way: In every story, from children’s fairy tales to Spielberg movies, there is a good guy and a bad guy. The hero fights the villain. That is the principle that Steve JOBS applies in every one of his presentations: Apple is the good guy, and he invents the bad guy. Here, the antagonist is IBM, and JOBS will highlight the main risk for his audience: the risk of selling a product that doesn’t sell or sells less, the risk the resellers run by not dealing with Macintosh, the risk of dealing with a big bad guy like IBM rather than the little guy who means them no harm, like Apple. A classic example of its type, this can be seen in Module 4 of the course on “How to deliver great sales presentations”.

One thing is sure: by the end of JOBS’ pitch, the clients needed him against mean old IBM!

This selling level is a challenge for any sales rep. It means putting oneself in the client’s shoes, talking about his business, the various options, and the associated risks and opportunities. The paradox of selling risk and opportunity is that it means precisely NEVER talking about your product, service or solution!


See this news in French:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.