Here’s a riddle: all good product sales are not about the product, they’re about the story about the product, right? (Method soap tells a story about the kind of hip, environmentally conscious, non-ostentatious but still a little bit fancy consumer you are; there’s a whole ethos and culture and world outlook story that surrounds each iPhone (and, soon, iTouch) ; JetBlue sells an attitude about flying along with free TV.)
What about selling something that has no product? That seems hard to do. In fact, it seems so hard to do that if you could find someone who knew how to do that, you’d know that they were pretty darn good at their job – probably better at selling that someone who has a product AND a story to sell, right?
Selling philanthropy seems to me to be a product-free sale. It’s the pure sale of an idea, of an ethos, of who you can be.
So the riddle is: if philanthropy is a product-free sale, why aren’t the people selling philanthropy the best salespeople around?
2 thoughts on “The toughest sale”
Amen. Great post Sasha. I just want to build on this by adding a bit from the ever-quotable Gary Vaynerchuck from his keynote at SXSWi:
“Experience and interaction have enormous value right now. People are not buying things for content; there’s a lot of good quality content for free…People want experience, and that’s going to be incredibly powerful for a long time. People who give that different level of interaction are the ones who are going to win.”
I think that regardless of whether or not there’s a product, the critical factor in selling “the story” is engaging people in it, so that their interaction and contribution become part of the story.
Theodore Levitt wrote that we don’t buy things. We buy experiences. Michael Schrage argues that there really aren’t pure “products” or “services.” He coined “provices” (products wrapped in services) and “serducts” (services packaged as product) to capture what he believes really exist.
You pose an engaging riddle. If it’s true that at our purest level we only buy experiences, then isn’t marketing/sales about wrapping human experiences and emotions in material and non-material clothing?
I really like the writing I’m reading around the idea of social objects (material and non material things around which people socialize). Hugh Macleod and Mark Earls cover this topic brilliantly.
I’m really enjoying your posts, Sasha!