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Here’s a question I bet many people would struggle and debate with, even though it sounds pretty easy when asked:

What has Apple been selling since Day 1?

Here are some of the answers you tend to get:

  • “Tech” (pretty generic)
  • “Intuitive products” (not wrong, and ties in with the Steve Jobs/Sean Lennon story)
  • “Well-priced tech” (LOL, it’s some of the most expensive individual tech out there)
  • “A good digital strategy” (generic)
  • “Health care” (only recent)

The actual answer is much easier:

Apple sells transformations.

They sell your movement from office drone / cubicle jockey / nerd to cool person that dances in technicolor. That’s even how their ads are set up.

And that’s how it goes with sales — we often think a company is selling one thing, or one product/service, but everyone is really selling the same thing: The Transformation from “A-State” to “B-State.”

What does that look like in execution? It starts with loss and destruction, actually.

Loss and destruction? Huh?

Yes. There are two situations in any sale:

  • Situation A: The customer does nothing, so basically stays with their current option
  • Situation B: The customer buys from you

The only way to get to Situation B — better for you — is to destroy Situation A and facilitate the change to Situation B. The customer needs to lose the status quo. Much of this is discussed in Challenger Customer.

They need to embrace the transformation. This works at the individual level (where you see it with Apple) and the B2B/corporate level (where you see it with companies needing to pivot their business model and processes to stay ahead of competitors).

So why is this hard?

It’s hard for a lot of reasons. First, there’s loss aversion. People (your prospects) are usually much more scared of losing than of getting something positive (winning).

So even if your prospect knows that your solution is their best option, they may stick with Situation A — the status quo — just because of this loss aversion idea. Many prospects could love your offer, but need to be able to see a 200-percent ROI to even consider it.

There’s also “latitude of acceptance.” Here’s the visual:

Latitude of Acceptance

This example above is “eating at Burger King” (somewhat dumb), but it works in sales too. Any time you are messaging/selling, there are a few “degrees” that the prospect can be walked.

Some prospects have narrower latitudes, meaning they believe certain things about their business and won’t budge from that; these people can be hard to smash the status quo. Other people are willing to listen to many ideas/options and be receptive to them; that’s a wider latitude of acceptance. These people are, usually, easier to sell to.

How do you move from Situation A to Situation B, then?

That’s how you sell. You enable the change. You facilitate the change. You destroy the status quo. The prospect absolutely has to believe that Situation A is hurting them, and Situation B is essential. When you enable that change, you sell — and you sell a lot. Everyone has different approaches to enabling this change, but here’s the most important thing.

As was also discussed in The Challenger Customer, most sales guys try this route:

  • Discuss how great Situation B is
  • Extol the virtues of Situation B
  • Show the ROI of Situation B
  • Explain how Situation B is absolutely the greatest thing in human history

But because of those issues above, sometimes Situation B is looking amazing — often too amazing — and the prospect still does nothing. The change seems too radical. They stay with their current solution.

Research has consistently shown that the more effective approach is actually to destroy Situation A. A concept like fear of missing out (FOMO) is huge; it drives a lot of why social media is popular, for example. (And why social media depresses people.) The prospect has to believe that their current state (Situation A) just isn’t getting it done, and they’re totally 100 percent missing out by not using Situation B. You have to destroy any remnants of Situation A being appealing to them. That’s where you sell. You have to “lead to B” and not “lead with B”.

The before and after state of sales

Defeat the status quo and show your customers what their “Before” (current) and “After” (with your solution) looks like.

But this is the crucial point: you don’t do this based on ROI product sheets or certifications or even relationships (relationship selling doesn’t scale).  

You do it based on presenting the flaws of the “Before” (Situation A), making them understand why the “Before” (A) is no longer viable, and moving them to the “After” (Situation B), which is now the only place they can logically reside personally and professionally.

That’s what the best salespeople do. They sell the transformation. They just speak to their known needs to the the desired end results.

People buy things for emotional and not rational reasons. Once sold, they satisfy an emotional decision with logic. More in our B2B Sales Essentials.

 

Ted Bauer
About the author

I help companies to market their content in the most effective way.