Why Selling “Stuff” Won’t Make You Successful

When asked about the secret to their success, many entrepreneurs and business executives often say “I’m a great salesperson,” “I’m always hustling,” or “I work constantly and don’t take no for an answer.” Others only focus on their unique product features or even price as a competitive advantage.

What these answers miss is that the art of selling and the products you are selling are only part of the equation for success. These are the “how” and the “what.” And only focusing on these two factors can set your business up for failure.

Because you are missing the essential element for customers—the “why.”

Running a successful business is about meeting your customers’ needs and helping them solve a problem. What makes a business thrive is being able to connect with customers by providing a product or service to make their lives easier or better.

The value of the “why” today is stronger than ever. Customers want authentic engagement with the companies they buy from. And in turn, when that genuine connection is made, customers show their loyalty to brands by sharing their favorite products with friends and followers.

Here are three ways today’s entrepreneurs and business leaders can build stronger connections with customers by focusing on the “why.”

Have a pulse on customer needs

There are numerous reasons why some businesses and products are successful while others fail. But one thing is for sure—businesses that listen to their customer’s needs have a better chance of staying in business.

What is a problem your customer is trying to solve? What is something your customer is looking for that they just can’t find anywhere else? How can you help?

With digital and social media there are many ways to connect with customers and keep a pulse on their needs. But connecting with customers doesn’t have to just happen digitally. Having senior executives host focus groups with customers, leveraging your customer service team to ask for feedback, and sending follow-up surveys to gauge satisfaction after a purchase are all ways you can build two-way dialogue with customers to make sure you are meeting a need, and not just selling stuff.

Lead with why

It’s easy to start a sales pitch with the “what” and “how.” But in order to make a true connection with customers, you should start with the “why.” Marketing and leadership consultant Simon Sinek often talks about the importance for business leaders to lead with the “why” to help employees find inspiration and make a connection with their purpose.

The same is true when it comes to customers. People generally understand what your business is and how your products work. But unless they understand why they should be customers (the “what’s in it for me?”), they won’t likely be buying from you anytime soon.

I’m proud of the work we have done at Vivial to create a company that is helping solve unique problems for customers and telling them our “why.” As an advertising technology (ad tech) company, we heard time and again from customers about how the industry was fragmented, and businesses could not find all the services they need in one place. We set out to change that, and we are constantly talking with our customers about why this streamlined approach to ad tech helps them run their businesses better.

So tell a story and paint a picture highlighting your company’s “why” so customers will understand how they will benefit.

Make it about the customer experience

Both B2C and B2B companies need to think beyond just the features of their product or service and take a holistic view of the overall customer experience. How are your customers treated from the time they first make a connection with your team to the point of sale? If your product is a service, how are your customers supported along the way? For companies selling consumer goods, how does using the product make your customer feel? And what kind of experience do your customers have with your brand online and with social media? All of these play a huge role in connecting with customers.
Being a good salesperson and having a great product with unique features are needed, but are only part of the equation. Consumers today are savvier than ever and don’t want to just be sold “stuff.” They want products and services that solve a problem for them. Make sure you are showing them why they should be your customer.

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