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    16 Replies Latest reply on Mar 8, 2008 11:08 AM by Iwrite

    What are you selling?

    Iwrite Pioneer
      "What do you really sell?" I was thinking about this as I sat in my
      barber shop, waiting for a cut and a shave. This place was alive with
      banter and chatter on everything from sports to politics. Perfect
      strangers and some really close friends just expressing their views out
      in the open. No chat rooms, no blogs to hide behind, just good old
      human interaction.

      I sat there, one of the barbers called me out - "what you gonna do
      about our lack of customers, advertising man? The economy is killing
      us. What do you suggest?" I cringed because I knew I was now exposed
      and I had to perform.

      "What are you selling?" I replied.

      "Haircuts! Of course!" He screamed above the laughter.

      I stood up, smiled back and said in a loud voice, "Are you really? If
      all you are selling is haircuts why should I come here?"

      the laughter stopped and I continued, "there are plenty of cheaper
      place with barbers just as good where I can get my hair cut. Why do we
      come here?"

      Turning to the rest of the customers, I asked, "why do you come here?"

      Before anyone could answer, one of the single mom spoke up, "because I want my baby to see good black men interacting."

      You could see the chests just puff up.

      you think you are selling haircuts, we think you are selling something
      else. An experience. I come here to talk and laugh and be myself. I
      come here for home. Before I create any advertising for you - you have
      got to realize why your clients come here. It isn't for just a
      haircut," I said.

      "I come to torture the San Francisco fans," hollered one Cowboy fan, the rest joined in.

      "Don't forget the Steelers fans," another one aimed at me.

      if I do a flyer or a radio spot that talks about this being a hometown
      style barbershop, then we can get some customers that will never go
      anywhere else as long as you don't mess up their hair. I work with
      clients everyday that thing they are selling some widget when they are
      really selling themselves. How many folk in here eat at ABC BBQ?"

      No hands go up.

      "Why? Is the food bad?"

      "No, the service sucks!" someone adds.

      the owner believes that she is selling BBQ but it isn't the food that
      keeps you away. Her BBQ is good, but her staff's attitudes are nasty.
      She is really selling service. You guys are selling an experience that
      comes with a hair cut," I tell the barbers.

      So, what are you selling?

      are exceptions but for many of us in this forum need to be sure of what
      we are selling - consultants sell trust or knowledge or expertise;
      retailers sell quality or value.

      I'm selling insight or at least I hope I am. So, what are you selling?
        • Re: What are you selling?
          Bemore Adventurer
          I love your story! We often are not on target as to what we sell!

          I used to think I sold signs. But I sell "more customers", "more business", "more profits". We want to get your "phone to ring".
          • Re: What are you selling?
            Lighthouse24 Ranger
            Good essay . . . thanks for sharing it!
              • Re: What are you selling?
                Iwrite Pioneer
                Thank you both.

                I was bored. I am trying to wrap my arms around what I want my website to say, and I realized I'm struggling because I'm not talking about what I'm really selling. This is a huge problem for most advertising agencies - our websites and self promotional pieces are always bad. Advertising agencies make the worse clients.

                I am really curious as to what others think they are selling.
              • Re: What are you selling?
                Y Golf Wayfarer
                Hello IWrite,
                This is a great observation and just like you I view the barbershop as a true weekly live chat room.

                We at Yooto'pea Golf do not sell golf clothing we sell the experience of being part of the team. We work to make sure each person we touch feels as if they are part of Team Yooto'pea. Not every person is an immediate buyer but we work to make sure their experience feels as relaxed and enjoyable as a coach purchasing uniforms for the team. Service is priority one!
                Y Golf

                I see that you are in Texas and we are looking to reach some new consumers down south. Do you have any insite on who we could contact?
                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                  • Re: What are you selling?
                    puzzleman Tracker

                    You have struck one of my favorite topics. I make an unusual product and get top dollar for it. What I make is personalized wooden puzzle step stools. My delima is that the people that use my products (babies and children) have no money and the ones with money (grandparents) don't use my product. In fact, whoever buys one of my products turns around and gives it away as a gift.

                    So what do I sell? Here it is: I sell the nostalgic feeling that someone had or wished they had.
                    The people who buy my products remember back when they had wooden puzzles and the fun they had. they want the new little ones to have the same memories. If they don't have those memories, they project what it would have been like and want the little one to have that feeling that they didn't have.

                    Nobody sells products. We sell feelings, needs or whatever. Remember that when you are selling.
                    We are not selling products.

                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                  • Re: What are you selling?
                    MnlyTechnlgy Adventurer
                    Iwrite - WOW! Pretty powerful "food for thought" post. It truly does get to the heart of why we do what we do. You're right, if you can't explain what it is you do, sell or provide, how can you expect others (your customers) to understand why they need it.

                    That said, you got me thinking about our own company and how I would describe what it is that we "sell". Mainely Technology is a website development company specializing in small business web development. That's WHO we are. Great! Got that down. Now, WHAT we do is provide knowledge and understanding of services which will help our customers, the small business owner, draw in more business through a professionally developed website. Okay, this sounds pretty good ... or does it. Why did we choose the name "technology" as part of our business name if all we do is develop/design websites? Because every business, big or small, commercial or home-based needs to have a presence on the web in this era of growing technology.

                    Thanks for making me think more in depth about our business and create (or at least think about) our key selling point.
                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • Re: What are you selling?
                        Iwrite Pioneer

                        Thanks, but this post is really me trying to talk to myself.

                        I struggle with this everyday. I get so focused on creating an ad of some type that I loss track of the fact that I am really providiing solutions and knowledge. I am trying to figure out how to keep that front of mind as I am caught up in the daily grind.

                        It helps to say it out loud sometimes.
                      • Re: What are you selling?
                        You are so right about this one. A business development friend of mine who has been in the working world 20 years longer than me and is very wise helped me out with a couple of tips the other day which are related to this topic.

                        Firstly (and ok this is obvious but for those who havent ever done sales before it helps), never feel like you are trying to sell something to anyone - always educate them about what you are offering (applies to everything), think of it as giving some useful info.

                        Secondly, when someone asks you what you do, dont just say (in my case) 'I run my own marketing, branding, pr and online services company' (apparently that is very dull and not overly engaging) but instead say (as I do now) 'I help my clients succeed and grow their companies with amazing marketing strategies' and funnily enough more people are asking me exactly how I do that and I am only too happy to consult them.

                        Thanks for sharing such a beneficial experience.
                          • Re: What are you selling?
                            Lighthouse24 Ranger

                            Very valuable second tip! To reinforce your point: I do a session geared toward engineers, accountants, programmers, and self-proclaimed geeks (folks who are stereotypically not thought of as being especially gregarious or people-oriented, but who want to start their own businesses) to teach them the essential rapport-building skills for entrepreneurs (skills that come "naturally" to most individuals in your profession). One of the things I discuss is the importance of "How . . .?" questions.

                            Ask a typical engineer what a product does and you'll get a five word answer (probably in a tone that suggests anyone with half a brain would already know that). Ask him how a product does something and you'll get a mind-numbing 15 minute abstract. Neither builds rapport. The key (as you pointed out) is to answer questions concisely, yet in a way that entices the other person to keep asking "How . . .?" so a conversation and relationship can develop.

                            Likewise, entrepreneurs have to learn to recognize their opportunities to ask "How . . .?" ("How are you doing that now? How did you hear about it? How is it working for you? How can I help you?") I see web developers blow it daily because their first conversation with a potential client is "Your site stinks and you should hire me to fix it," instead of asking "How . . .?" questions that allow them and their prospective clients to get to know one another and discover together where improvements might be made.

                            Again, excellent tip! Thanks.
                              • Re: What are you selling?
                                Iwrite Pioneer
                                Yes, all the suggestions are great.

                                The more we understand what we are really offering to customers the more clearly we can communicate how we can meet their needs. First, we need to listen to the client.

                                Lighthouse, too your point, too many people are trying to close the sale without understanding the customer. I hope this thread help someone.

                                Thanks all.
                              • Re: What are you selling?
                                Bemore Adventurer
                                A very interesting exercise I have done at networking events is to have each participant explain what they do or what their business is as if they were talking to a 5 year old. Try it some time, it is not as easy as most of us think!

                                I certainly agree with your comments. For the first few years I was in business I thought I sold SIGNS. I have now learned that I sell increased business, more profits, information, more traffic into your business. We tend to approach most calls as problem solving adventures.
                              • Re: What are you selling?
                                qbooks Newbie
                                Thanks Iwrite. Your post was very insightful. I am the owner of a children's e-bookstore called Qutessy
                                Books ( and until now, I was under the impression that I was selling children's short stories when in reality I have been selling 'quality family time' as well as 'moral lessons' and 'encouragement for enthusiastic young readers.' Whether its parents reading our stories to younger readers during bed time or children reading our stories during playtime, the experience is about more than just reading a story. Reading our books increases family time and creates stronger bonds through discussing the lessons in our stories. The things I always thought were just advantages of buying our books are so much more than that. In reality these are our products, so thank you for helping me recognize that we sell more than just 'books.'
                                • Re: What are you selling?
                                  Peter63 Wayfarer
                                  It surely boils down to one thing; the Unique Selling Point (USP), does it not...? What's better about my product than my competitors'

                                    • Re: What are you selling?
                                      Iwrite Pioneer
                                      Yes and no.

                                      It starts with the USP but expands beyond that when you start understanding how the customer perceives what you are offering. It is about establishing a two way communication with customers you can tell them what your USP is, and they tell you what it means to them.

                                      If we listen to them, we realized that there is a message or story that speaks to customers and not at them. This message makes selling easier, and more profitable - you can better target your marketing, increase response (sells), and reduce waste of budget. I have seen the conversation become so informative that the customers have helped to improve the product.