How to Define Your Sales Message

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Human beings have two basic motivations:-

1) To gain reward.

2) To avoid loss.

We choose to go out to eat to gain reward; we buy insurance solely to avoid loss.  These two basic motivations are not mutually exclusive and so there are actions we carry out where, to a greater or lesser extent, both are at play.

The greater of these two motivations, however, is avoiding loss.

For example, most people would say they go to work to gain benefit; their salary. However, if they won the lottery tomorrow they would give up work or at least cut down their hours significantly.  Yet their reward for going to work would still be the same.  This is because the motivation for going to work is to avoid loss.  For without going to work and getting their salary, they would not be able to pay their bills and live the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.  Therefore, the motivation for going to work is to avoid losing their standard of living.

If human beings were really always motivated by gaining reward then as soon as people were fed up with their job, where they live, their marriage etc., they would do something to improve the situation.  Yet we all know the courage it takes to change any of these things.  We all know people who are stuck in bad marriages and dead end jobs.  People normally only act when they really can't take the situation any longer, and that can take months and often years to happen.  In other words, the situation has to be so bad that it seems worse staying where they are, rather than changing.  Or, to put it another way, they stand to lose more remaining with the status quo than with the change.  Thus, the motivation for change is ironically still; avoiding loss.

This is because, as human beings, we are naturally averse to risk.

We are habitual and generally don't like change.  We, therefore, get into comfort zones and like to stay there.  Think of the difference between two headlines in an advert in a local paper.  "Save Money Now" or "Are You Losing Money?"  Which one has more impact?  The second one is more likely to grab people's attention because we are much more motivated to keep what we have, than to go out to get more.

People do have to understand the benefits a product or service can bring.  These, though, should be framed as solutions to the problems a potential customer has.  However, most people have been taught to sell the benefits of their product or service, as the starting point of a sale, and quite frankly, this is wrong.

In order to have an effective sales message you have to start from the opposite end.  Think about four problems your product or service can solve and write them down.  Then think of all the resulting problems caused by the initial four.  What you then have is a Problem Map® listing all the ‘pain' that you can prevent.  It is this ‘pain' that will draw people into buying your solution.

In order to get clarity into your sales message you have to understand what problems you can solve for your customers.  The cost of solving the problem must then be less than the cost of not solving it.  Demonstrating that the pain is greater than the risk of fixing that pain is what we call ‘value'.

By talking about ‘problems', rather than ‘benefits', you will find it much easier to draw your customers in and sell.  This is because you are aligning your sales process much closer to how human beings buy.

Grant Leboff is Principal of The Intelligent Sales Club. For more information on their in-house sales and marketing strategy days visit  or call 0844 478 0044. 

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