Are You Better Than Nothing?

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Whatever business you’re in, you’re selling something. It may be a product, it may be a service, but you’re selling something. And my guess is that you’ve got competitors who are also selling something—probably something identical or very similar to what you’re offering. It’s your job to convince your customer that you—your product, your service—will be the best solution for their needs. But if that’s all you do, you may very well fail. Because it’s no longer enough to convince your customers that you’re better than the competition; you must also convince them that you’re better than doing nothing.

Doing nothing. It’s a real option for your customers. If you’re selling Toyotas, it’s not enough to persuade me that a Toyota is a better option for me than a Ford. You also have to persuade me that buying a Toyota is a better option than doing nothing, i.e., not buying a new car at all. And in our current economy, “doing nothing” may be your biggest competitor.

I’m a professional speaker. And, if my clients are telling me the truth, a damn good one. But I’m not the only one. There are other great speakers out there. They are my competitors; they are my colleagues; they are my friends. It’s my job to persuade my prospective clients that, in their particular situation, I’m the best choice among the competition. (Of course, if I don’t truly believe I am the best choice for their event, I’ll tell them that and recommend somebody who is a better fit.) But in many cases, I also have to persuade the client why investing thousands of dollars to bring me in is a better option than saving that money and “just having Frank from Marketing say a few words.” I have to show them why, even in this economy, bringing in a professional will result in a more successful event: educationally, inspirationally, and financially. (And, by the way, it will. A great opening or closing keynoter can make a conference; a lousy keynoter, or none at all, can break it.)

When the Beatles released a new album, people didn’t ask themselves, “Should I get the Beatles’ album or the Stones’ album?” They didn’t ask, “Should I get the Beatles’ album or no album at all?” They just bought the album. The Beatles had already done the persuading by virtue of their track record. The customer didn’t feel that “doing nothing” was an option.

Do your customers feel that strongly about you and your product or service? Because when you give them your pitch and they say, “We’ll think about it,” they aren’t necessarily running to the competition. They may just be running home. It’s a mistake to assume that “they’re gonna buy from me or the other guy.” Instead, it’s your job to sell your customer twice. First, you have to sell them on your product or service (vs. “doing nothing”), and then you have to sell them on you (vs. your competitors).

Unless you’re the Beatles. Then just go ahead and put out the album.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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