Are you buying drills?

An old adage came up in conversation the other day,

“People don’t buy drills, they buy holes”

If you are in sales you may have heard this — it is a reminder that people purchase what they need and you work to satisfy that need. With this pity adage it is the hole the person paying for and the drill is just the way they get what they paid for.

  • Selling “drills” is product and not customer focused — people prefer you are focused on them.

  • Selling “drills” is a good indicator that you are inwardly focused — everything that you can’t control (and which impacts you) is happening out in the “big bad world”; it’s good to know what’s happening out there.

  • Selling “drills” is a good indicator you are not solution driven — people prefer solutions and not just to buy something. They really don’t like when they buy something that doesn’t satisfy their need.

  • Selling a “drill” is a feature, whereas a hole is a benefit — people buy benefits.

  • Selling “drills” is a transaction and not partnership oriented — people prefer to deal with trusted partners.

  • You are engaging with (and understanding) the customer when you ask why they need a hole — when you really know customer you can help focus in on what they need.

This literally applies to anyone trying to convince someone to purchase a drill, and if you consider it figuratively, it applies to almost everything else — the features of a fitness club, what are the benefits? The features of a political parties promises, what are the benefits? The skills of a person, what are the benefits?

And with benefits, comes value.

Getting into the weeds a little there is extrinsic value and there is intrinsic value. Extrinsic value is the generally accepted value that comes from the benefit, whereas intrinsic value reflects the benefits specific to the person. If we go back to the drill example, the benefit of making a hole is the extrinsic value, but unless a person needs a hole, he or she doesn’t care — it is only when a person needs a hole does it offer intrinsic value and the likelihood they would be interested in buying a drill.

It becomes an alignment of features to benefits to intrinsic value — and with it, an understanding of what is intrinsically of value to you.

And if you know that, you will never buy a drill you don’t need (figuratively speaking).


And in knowing that you know nothing...

The Internet has attributed the following quote to Socrates —

"In knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all"


The Chinese whispers of 2400 years offers up a fair reason to suspect if Socrates actually said this, and if he did, is this actually what he said — something to be discussed over cocktails if you are so inclined. What we do know is that on the Internet (and in motivational quotes) Socrates owns these words.

It is not my intent to try to validate Socrates true ownership of this quote or really interpret the meaning(s) behind the quote. I did however want to offer a recent epiphany of recognition that this quote is a grand reminder of how to understand situations more holistically, and where applicable, solve problems more effectively (or take advantage of opportunities for that matter).

I am working under the premise that when you truly understand a situation you are able to more effectively deal with it — and to truly understand a situation you need to look at it from different perspectives ensuring a holistic understanding. I'm also working under the premise that this can be a difficult thing to do because we are built on a foundation of knowledge, experiences, culture, and philosophies, and this has shaped who we are and how we look at things. All impacting how we do what we do.

We become limited by our own knowledge.

There are two considerations with the Socrates quote —

  1. The quote reminds us that that no matter how knowledgeable, smart or successful we are, we shouldn't transfer it into believing we know everything. Because we don't. 
  2. In reminding ourselves that we know nothing, we push back all our preconceptions and are more open to understanding situations differently — we open ourselves up to considering different perspectives and other points of view. It's easier to ask more questions when we know nothing.

We are who we are and bring it all with us... these thirteen words definitely can help us do it a little better. But what do I know?



The messaging of an idea... solutions and problems — PART 3

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As Renée Cormier and I continue to dig deeper into "The messaging of an idea" (which I might add Jerry Fletcher called an arduous task), we have been spending a fair bit of time discussing and debating how to approach it — because as Jerry suggested it's a big and meaty topic. I'm of the mind set that we build our efforts organically using our original posts, incorporating our ongoing discussions, people's thoughts and insights, as well as any comments that come our way. I think the jury is still out as far as Renée is concerned. 

In a recent discussion, the point about not letting an idea be a "solution looking for a problem" came up — and somewhere in the discussion Renée asked, "What do you do when your solution has problems?". She then reached for a blue sticky note in her bag, wrote on it, and stuck it on my computer. Triumphantly she said, "There... there is your next blog topic". 


"What to do when your solution has problems?"

I am almost certain someone, somewhere, is thinking that it can't be much of a solution if it has problems right out of the gate. Although that may be true in a perfect world, in the real world there are two truisms that you need to consider — there is no such thing as perfection and there will always be problems (some big and some small). 

Recognizing this, there are two considerations that come with this question... one has to do with messaging and the other does not; although it does influence the messaging of your solution (aka idea).

Understand the problems that are associated with your solution —

Although this is not directly associated with the art and science of messaging your solution, it does influence what you have you say, as well as how you are going to say it. It is extremely important to understand the problems that will impact how you will make your solution a reality — and I will say it is much easier said than done. It's crucial to look at your solution as objectively as possible, understand its strengths and opportunities, and understand its weaknesses and PROBLEMS. There are two outcomes in doing this: 

  • An understanding if your solution can really solve the problem.
  • A prioritized list of the problems your solution has to work through (from biggest to smallest).

In doing this you will — 1) determine if your solution is viable and 2) identify (and understand) the problems you need to work through for the best solution.

As I say, this can be very difficult to accomplish when you look at your solution in the cold, stark, light of reality — we humans are notoriously optimistic and sadly this has given birth to the saying, "He's living in a fantasyland".

Messaging a solution that inherently has problems (and they all do) —

"Be honest and transparent — full stop".

I suppose I should elaborate a little. It is always best to lead with the strengths and opportunities associated with your solution, and of course minimize your weaknesses and problems — that's just good "selling". This is not to suggest that you should ever misrepresent yourself, but rather acknowledge this is an aspect of managing how you present the problems that come with your solution.

It is important to do two things here : 

  • Without apologizes, be clear what the problems of your solution are.
  • More importantly, have a plan to overcome any major problems (and if you can't, see above).

Oh, and something else...

When you are actually presenting your idea (and solution) make sure you listen to what people are saying, the questions they have, and the challenges they make. Your audience is not just trying to understand what you are saying, but experience has shown, also try to help solve the problems your solution may have.

And one last point since I'm on a roll, and it's a very important one — if you ever find yourself saying "they don't know what they're talking about" after your presentation, then there is a very high probability you are living in a fantasyland.*

Just sayin'.


* I know this to be true because I've heard it said before.

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