When I talk to professionals around the country I often will ask them to explain to me what they do for a living. What product or service they provide to the public. I am surprised at how often they don’t understand what they are really offering their customers/clients. Too often we think that we are simply providing a “widget” to people, when in reality it is what the widget does for them that we are really selling.

A doctor does not sell shots or medicine that tastes bad. When a person goes to the doctor and pays to be poked, prodded, stuck with a needle and swallow terrible tasting medicine it is not out of some masochistic desire, it is because they seek to feel better. They are there to become free from the pain or discomfort they are experiencing at that time. The doctor is selling relief from discomfort.
When a client goes in to see their financial advisor they are not coming in to buy an investment, they are coming in to buy their dreams for the future. They aren’t looking for stocks or mutual funds, they are not excited about CD’s or annuities they are looking for their vision of how they want things to be. Maybe it is as simple as having their home paid for and being able to live out a comfortable retirement. It might be a second home in an exotic location, college for children or grandchildren, travel, a boat, etc. The key is to indentify what they want the investments to do and then work toward that goal.
I was recently talking with the CEO of a specialty gift company. They make licensed memorabilia of things like Superman, Dr. Seuss, and Lucille Ball. She was explaining that the company was growing and how their products are in high demand. As I looked at the cookie jars, clocks, pictures and coffee mugs I tried to see what others saw in these products. They are not great works of art nor do they have any real monetary value as collectibles, so why are the products so successful?
The answer lies not in what the product is but in what it represents. Their customers aren’t buying a ceramic plate with I Love Lucy, they are buying the memories of how they laughed and enjoyed those shows. How they felt about Lucille Ball and the enjoyment she brought into their lives. When they look at the Dr. Seuss cookie jar they remember sitting with a parent or grand parent as they read to them the whimsical tales of the Cat in the Hat. The Superman clock reminds them of the times they (or a child) ran around with a towel tied around their neck pretending they could fly. These products touch their hearts and revive fond memories. They provide a break from the concerns of their lives.
It is important that we have a vision of what our customers/clients see. In the Bible in Proverbs it says “where there is no vision, the people perish…” Having a vision of what we want in our lives in crucial to being able to find meaning and satisfaction in what we do. Vision is the culmination of our dreams and goals, our hopes and desires. It is why we do what we do. Why we are willing to pay the price, whether literal or figurative. It is literally what gives meaning to our lives. That’s why people perish when their hope and purpose are gone. They no longer have a vision of why they do what they do each day of their lives.
I am not suggesting that you should try and manipulate people, just understand what they are trying to achieve. What is their real motivation? What is their vision? Anytime you can help someone to achieve their vision you no longer are seen as selling them anything, instead you are helping to reach their goals and dreams. You are working with them for the same purpose. You become an advocate, helping them to accomplish what they want, instead of someone pushing what you want on them.
So look at what you do in life and find the vision of what you are really providing to people. Once you can see the vision clearly, then you can more easily address the hopes, dreams, and goals of those you serve.