If you want a better understanding of what truly motivates people who are looking to buy, here’s a great story–backed up by one of my favorite poems.
I was recently working with a group of sales professionals when an interesting moment of truth was brought to light by a discussion that broke out. I was working at convincing this group that they were too caught up in product features when they were selling. I was trying to make them see that these features–these “things”–were not as important as they thought they were.
The members of the group, though, seemed insulted by my remarks. They took great pride in their products, and didn’t appreciate being told they were selling “things.” I tried to clarify that people really don’t want to be sold “things”–they want what these “things” represent. I told them they should emphasize the value of their product, and as I did so they kept coming back with elaborations on product features. When I realized I wasn’t getting through, I reached for my secret weapon.
That secret weapon is a poem given me about 25 years ago. It comes from a 1941 Sears sales publication, and the message of the poem communicated exactly what I was trying to put across to those sales professionals. It beautifully illustrated the difference between a “thing” and the actual benefit of that “thing.” Once you read the poem, you’ll understand what I was attempting to say.
“Don’t Sell Me Things”
from a 1941 Sears sales publication
Don’t sell me clothes. Sell me a neat appearance, style, and attractiveness.
Don’t sell me shoes. Sell me foot comfort and the pleasure of walking in the open air.
Don’t sell me candy. Sell me happiness and pleasure of taste.
Don’t sell me furniture. Sell me a home that has comfort, cleanliness and convenience.
Don’t sell me books. Sell me pleasant hours and the profit of knowledge.
Don’t sell me toys. Sell me playthings to make my children happy.
Don’t sell me tools. Sell me the pleasure and profit of making fine things.
Don’t sell me refrigerators. Sell me the health and better flavor of fresh foods.
Don’t sell me tires. Sell me freedom from worry and low cost per mile.
Don’t sell me plows. Sell me green fields of waving wheat.
Don’t sell me things. Sell me ideas, feelings, self respect, home life, happiness. Please, don’t sell me things.
If you ever come to my office, you’ll see some interesting things on the wall. I’m very proud of the pictures, the book covers, the various mementos, and a few other things I hope will motivate the people who come to visit. What they don’t see are the few things that are taped on the back panel of my desk that only I can see. These are the items that motivate me. I have this trusty poem in a prime location on that back panel, and every time I read it, I appreciate the simple wisdom in those words. I hope you do too.
(If you’d like a copy of this poem, feel free to email me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org)