The very formulation of the question is wrong
Many years ago, I was the CEO of a relatively small but bold company. We had to fight with giants — large enterprises that tried to squeeze us out of the market with their discounts, wide assortment of products, and big brands.
The only way for us to thrive was to be creative. As we couldn’t outcompete these monsters on their field, we had to outsmart them.
So, we started looking for a Big Creative Idea to help us pave the road to customers’ hearts and bypass our hidebound opponents. We studied their products. I spent weeks visiting international industrial fairs and conferences, searching for fresh ideas. And then, finally, we found it. We modified and improved some products that were popular on the market. We built up a new distribution channel, an online store, a groundbreaking idea at the time. We launched our Big Thing in April. We loved our solution. It was perfect.
It had only one flaw — nobody wanted to buy it.
This experience taught me that a sale is only the final point in a long chain of events, and showing your customers that you have a good product for them isn’t the beginning of the story either.
Any business earns profit by creating value for customers. And value becomes the one only if it satisfies customer needs.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
I know from experience that we often forget about clients when we start selling our products, and our attention shifts from building value for customers (product features) to creating value for us (sales). Our thoughts revolve around figures: the number of new free trials, the number of paid subscribers, and the number of products sold. We ask ourselves, “Why don’t they buy our beautiful solution?”
What makes people buy some products and ignore others?
Customers have their needs and are constantly seeking a way to satisfy them. Unfortunately, they look at our product from the other side of the “counter,” while we see it from our perspective. We see our product. They see their wishes.
So, first of all, we need to ask ourselves — does our product meet their requirements?
I use a theory by American psychologist Steven Reiss to answer this question. He and his team conducted a massive study and found out that all people, regardless of their age, sex, income, religion, and any other factors, share the same set of basic needs.
If you are interested, you may read more about this theory here.
But the list of these needs is below:
- Social Contact
- Physical Activity
If a person buys wall paint, they don’t need the paint itself. They satisfy their needs for Order and Tranquility by making their home cute, cozy, and good-looking.
When a person purchases software for a company they work with, they fulfill their needs to be Accepted by their colleagues and superiors and to maintain their Status.
We need to remember that saving (need #6 on the list) isn’t only about money or other material resources. We all have a need to save time and energy, and this need is universal and very intense. It’s worth noting that safety isn’t a psychological need; it’s a crucial necessity, so Steven Reisse didn’t include it in the list. But safety is a powerful motivator.
These basic needs are not just our whims. They drive our behavior and stay behind our choices. Whatever you buy, watch, read, or love, you follow your basic needs.
So do your customers.
Hence, if clients don’t buy your wall paint or SaaS solution, they don’t see (or feel or believe) that your product will help them fulfill their needs.
Question #1 — what are your customers’ needs? Does your product match them? If you want to know what your customers want, you can read an article on the topic and download some samples here.
But if your product can satisfy your customers’ needs, it doesn’t mean they will pay. This is a necessary condition but not sufficient. The same happens in interpersonal relationships. If a person likes you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll live happily together till death do you part.
If you’re hungry, there are dozens of ways to solve this problem. Which one do you prefer? Whatever your choice is, it indicates that this particular way is of more value for you than others. That’s how your customers make their purchasing decisions.
Chances are, your product is not the only one in the market. Does it provide more customer value than other solutions? We usually love our products and believe they are excellent. But customers don’t care.
In 1991 behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman, Jack Knetsch, and Richard Thaler conducted an experiment. They gave participants a mug and then offered to sell it or trade it for an equally valued alternative (pens). They found that the amount participants required as compensation for the mug once they owned it (“willingness to accept”) was approximately twice as high as the amount they were willing to pay to acquire the mug (“willingness to pay”).
Simply put, we tend to value what we already have much more than we could hypothetically get. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The scientists called it “the endowment effect.” And if a customer stubbornly refuses to exchange their slow and archaic software for your excellent, fast, and multifunctional cloud masterpiece, don’t be hard on them.
Whatever you offer your customers, they have already had a solution for the issue. Maybe this solution isn’t excellent. Maybe it’s too expensive and not user-friendly. Your product may be much better. But they value what they have or use highly, and you need to propose to them much more than that.
And you need to prove somehow that your product will keep the promises you make.
Whenever we make a decision, we conduct a so-called cost-benefit analysis. In most cases, it happens quickly and subconsciously. When customers contemplate buying a product, they also conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Unfortunately, even in the B2B world, people make most decisions intuitively. They don’t compare pros and cons for hours; they often trust their gut instinct.
So, your proposal must convey a crisp and clear message about its value to your prospects.
Question #2 — does your product provide much more value than the current solution clients have?
I love to test new software products that can help me work efficiently. But when I click an ad link and visit a website, I don’t give it much time to tell me what it offers. If I don’t understand it in a wink, I close the browser window.
And I am not the only one.
According to the study by Neilson Norman Group, you have not more than 10 seconds to communicate your value proposition and keep customer attention. If you don’t meet this deadline, your customers will get bored and switch their precious attention to something else.
So, your value proposition should be:
The only way to inform prospects about your product in 10 seconds is to talk about the consumers, not the product. Talk to them about their needs and not about your product’s features. Then, if you catch their attention, they will start listening to you, and you’ll buy yourself some time to make a detailed presentation.
Question #3 — is your offer crisp and clear?