Why Doesn't My Software Sell?
Why Buyers Buy and Why They Lie
Kraner, was asked on another Web site "why doesn't my software sell?" I
thought his answer was so great that I have quoted it several times, and
finally I asked him if he would write a version that I could use here. Here
is what Steve wrote.
I have often been
asked, “Why doesn’t my product or service sell?”
more often, “Why don’t these people buy? Are they dumb?”
business to a chain with two links. One is your product/service and the
other is selling skill. One is the weak link that fails.
WHAT YOU SELL
The problem could
be WHAT YOU SELL. Solutions in search of problems will fail. People need to
have a personal and compelling reason to change. I get a lot of FREE
SOFTWARE in the mail. Do I rush to put the disk in the computer and load it?
NO. I have better things to do than crash my computer. Even if it's free and
in my mailbox - I have to have a REASON before I will try it. I use those
CD's as coasters in my office, and used a couple to scrap ice off my car.
The most powerful
A. Pain -
Something I currently experience and want to get away from.
B. Fear - A
future pain I want to avoid.
C. Gain - A
future state that I see as better and that I personally want to attain. For
example, I want washboard abdominal muscles, like those guys in the
magazines. I do crunches and sit ups like mad. I finally got frustrated and
sought advice from guy who owns my gym. He said, “Steve, I’ve seen you work
out. You work hard and I’ll bet you have washboard abs. You just have a
little laundry on the washboard!” (Like most consultants - he was not very
helpful – was he?)
Of the three,
pain is by far the most compelling. However, entire industries are based on
the idea that people will make changes and investments to avoid fear
(insurance, Y2K, disaster recovery and off-site backup). People will also
make personal sacrifices and spend money to attain a gain. Look at all the
money spent on memberships at gyms, abdominal machines, liposuction, miracle
bras - etc.
figure out what pain you can fix with your solution. Then figure out who
might have that pain. If you cannot clearly state the pain, fear or gain
that your product/service addresses, and who might have it, then the product
is the problem. You are a solution in search of a problem and that's not
Steve’s Rule of
The size of
markets depends, not on the elegance of the solutions that are available,
but on the pain, fear or gain that is their basis.
don't really work - but people do really want washboard abs – therefore it’s
a billion dollar industry. Become a PAIN SEEKING MISSILE.
HOW YOU SELL
If you know who
might have the pain, fear or gain, then HOW YOU SELL might be the problem.
To sell it, you have to:
#1) GET TO the
people who have the pain, fear or gain.
#2) GET THEM
THINKING ABOUT about the PAIN - NOT your solution.
#3) Then get them
to OPEN UP AND TALK TO YOU about the pain. Like a Doctor, seek first to
understand and diagnose - then to properly prescribe a solution where it's
#4) Finally you
have to HELP THEM COME TO BELIEVE THAT THE COST OF THE PROBLEM, TO THEM
PERSONALLY, EXCEEDS THE COST OF CHANGE, TO THEM PERSONALLY.
If you can do all
that, you'd clearly be selling the product.
Easy to say. Hard
to do. The reason good sales people make a TON of money is that a free
market rewards contribution. It's a hard job and most people can't do it.
As you approach
people, style is important. For example, what’s the difference between
‘unsolicited advice’ and ‘help?’
Don’t just keep
reading. Stop, think, and answer that question before you read on.
If you have
trouble understanding the difference, think of your mother-in-law. If that
doesn’t work, you can borrow mine for a week.
You can be
correct and, at the same time, not be helpful.
technique I suggest, if you haven't already tried it, is to start the
conversation with a third party story. Gently suggest that, "Sometimes your
colleagues tell me that they have a problem with XYZ - do you ever see
There are three
rules of pain (fear or gain).
Rule #1 Everyone
Rule #2 Everyone
wants to get rid of pain.
Rule #3 No-one
wants to admit to their pain.
We can and often
do lie to ourselves.
It’s not just
buyers – it’s basic human nature to hide pain. First we hide it from
ourselves. Then we, by default, hide it from other people. All living
creatures seek pleasure and avoid pain. Humans have at their disposal
tactics that other creatures don’t. We can avoid pain through exercise of
our intellect and imagination. Denial, avoidance and suppression keep pain
from entering our consciousness, so we can avoid feeling it.
White lies and
other things buyers do.
walk around broadcasting their problems and fears. On the contrary, they do
everything they can to hide them from view. They wrap their pain in
protective layers of denial and rationalization. If you’ve been in sales
long, you’ve heard these tactics in action.
Generalizing – “I
might be interested.”
White lies – “I’m
your product or service – “How does your product scale?”
“We’ve done it this way for years, I’m sure we can live without it.”
smoke screen – “We’re conducting a thorough review of our options before we
decide if we will move forward.”
The end result is
that buyers aren’t open and honest about their pains, fears and gains with
the very people who are most able to help them. In disguising their pain
from sales people, they hurt themselves.
professionals can help (and get to the bank along the way).
As a salesperson
you must be a master of carefully penetrating the buyer’s defenses, so you
can help them discover their hidden pain and take action to fix it. The
challenge for the salesperson is to keep the buyer feeling O.K. throughout
A surgeon uses a
scalpel to get to the problem. A psychiatrist uses carefully selected
questions to do the same for patients. The salesperson’s tools are the same.
Ask the right questions in the right way and you’ll help your prospect
reveal the problems you can fix.
Rules for finding
1) Ask questions,
with sincere interest and caring curiosity.
2) Keep them
focused on the problem. They may try to divert the conversation by bringing
up unrelated topics, changing the focus to price, skirting the issue, etc.
3) Don’t stop
until they have convinced you (not the other way around) that the pain, fear
or gain is important to them – protecting their self-esteem along the way.
If you like what you have read, you might want to check
out Steve's company's Web site.