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Sell What's Valuable to Your Customers

Originally published
Originally published: 8/1/2014

Peter Drucker, the inventor of modern management, once said, "The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him."

That concept resonated with me early in my career as an advertising salesperson. It changed me from being a describer of product advantages, to a catalyst in helping my customers achieve goals and objectives.

I understood they weren’t simply buying advertising space; they were investing in the outcome advertising delivers — increase in brand awareness, generation of sales leads and, ultimately, acquisition of  new customers. 

That change in thinking made me much more valuable to my customers, as it helped me focus on the issues they really cared about. 

Here’s a specific story that demonstrates Dr. Drucker’s wisdom well:

One Saturday afternoon, as I was cutting the front lawn of our home, I was approached by a teenage boy with a small can of paint and a brush in his hand.

"Good afternoon, sir," he said cordially.

"Hi," I replied, glad to take a quick break. "What can I do for you?"

"Well," he countered, "I’m here to do something important for you today. You see, this paint I have in my hand has all the right properties to be the best option for painting your address on your curb."

For about two more minutes I listened to him describe the special features of his Reflect-O-Lite paint(durability, night visibility, color selection, etc.), not because I was interested, but because I was enjoying my bottle of cold water.

"So," he concluded, launching into the anticipated close, "would you like your address painted on your curb today for the special price of $12?"

I pointed to the new address sign we’d just hung by our front door.

No thanks. We’re all set. I really don’t need our address painted on my front curb,"I said, feeling slightly guilty for not supporting this young entrepreneur. "Have a great day, and good luck. Hope you paint a lot today."

Fast forward to Monday ... After work, I picked up the mail from our mailbox and noticed a flyer in the pile, carrying a bold headline.

78% of all houses DO NOT have any visible address for emergency access (911) Police, Fire Department or Ambulances

I read on, now very concerned and disturbed.

"Tomorrow morning, with your permission only, REFLECT-O-LITE addresses will be painted on curbs for $15. Simply sign this flyer and leave it in your mailbox."

That young salesperson had now made me aware of a need I didn’t know I had, and by noon on Tuesday, I had a Reflect-O-Lite address painted on my front curb.

I really didn’t want to buy the painting of my address on the front curb, but I did want to protect my family in the case of an emergency. That young entrepreneur may have thought he was selling me an address painted on my front curb in Reflect-O-Lite paint, but in reality I was buying peace of mind.

Today’s manufacturers have myriad products you can offer your customers. But, are your customers simply looking to buy HVACR products from you, or are they looking to buy the result of what those products deliver?


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