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All Interest is Self Interest

Posted by Damian Thompson on 2019.08.14
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If you're like most entrepreneurs, you started with a scratch that's looking for an itch.

You've got a service or a product you're really proud of and you'd love to talk your prospect's head off about it.

The problem is: No one cares.

All your client cares about is what they get out of the relationship.

All interest is self-interest, so if you want to make more sales, it's your job to figure out how to best serve your prospects' interests.

If you don’t understand what’s in it for the client, nothing else matters. 

Let’s take a look at how you can better serve your clients’ self-interest and why your approach needs to change depending on who you are selling to.

The Importance of Focusing on a Client’s Self-Interest

These days, it seems like every thought leader in  business is saying “you need to be customer focused.”

And as much as I love thumbing my nose at the kind of stuff, there's no skill where that's more true than sales. 

You have to be customer focused or you aren’t going to win.

The driving force behind a customer’s buying decisions comes down to the “do you understand me factor.”

What’s in it for them?

You can’t expect a customer to hop on a 30 minute call with you if it isn’t clear how you can help them before the call.

We frame this as a “free consulting call”, or “free coaching session”. But everyone knows it’s a sales call. 

30 minutes of uninterrupted time and attention is asking a lot!

You might be awesome at what you do and believe you can deliver value on that call. But at this stage, your customer doesn’t know that yet.

You’re a stranger asking for 30 minutes of someone’s time, and 20 other people are asking for their time too! 

Of course you fall short. 

Luckily, there are ways you can communicate your value well before the call.

Create Messaging Aligned with Your Client’s Self-Interest

The way to speak to people directly and show that you understand them is through your messaging and copywriting.

As the old saying goes, "copywriting is salesmanship in print." 

Before you can communicate effectively to them, you have to understand their needs, fears, and desires.

That is the goal that all conversations with your market should start from. You need to be communicating about your customer and not you.

You can start by looking for red flags in your messaging.

Words like I, us, and we are bad words if they are not connected to the greater need of the client. 

Instead of simply saying ‘I do (insert service)’, change the frame to reflect how you help the customer.

If you just say ‘I do this’, that only references YOU. 

It’s not about what you do. It’s about what that does for them. 

You need to find what’s important to your customer and how you can reframe the conversation around that.

Use messaging to lay out the reasons why they should decide to make a change (hopefully buying from you!)

Point out what's in it for them so they can look at the factors and feel personally compelled to take action.

If you strive to focus on your prospect’s wants and needs from their frame of mind, you will get it right more than you get it wrong.

An Example of Customer Focused Messaging

Here’s my messaging. 

It’s not: I’m a sales coach. 

It’s: I work with small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to close more deals faster or learn how to build a sales team so they don’t have to sell any more

I don’t talk about my program or how I deliver the service.

Instead, I go into how the program came together to solve their problem and how I actually go about solving their problem. 

Instead of saying “I do this” I say “I work with people like you with the goal of X or Y.”

It can take time to figure this out.

You have to work on it to get it right. But once you get it right, it’s magic and will attract the right customers to your business.

Messaging on Your Website

If your website is all about you right now, don’t worry: Everyone’s is.

That’s easy to change. 

Consider this: If I say to you, “what do you do?”, you might say “I’m a Wordpress developer.”

And then if I asked: “Who do you do that for?” You’d probably say: “Anyone with money.”

So generic! 

It doesn’t speak to anyone in particular. Instead, answer the question with what problem you are solving. 

That is how you have to focus your business messaging.

If you can’t clearly articulate what problem you solve for a specific persona, you are going to fail miserably at outbound sales or referrals.

If you're "just a web developer," then you're never going to get a referral. Because no one wants “just a web developer.”

Some people might not be getting the traffic they want. Or their site is slow. Or their current website doesn't represent the business well. 

That's what they really care about. That's what they want to fix, and are willing to spend money on.

These are their problems.

If you don’t know how you solve the problem for them, then you can’t figure out their self-interest.

Who Are You Selling To? 

When selling to smaller companies, you’re more than likely talking with the owner of the business. 

And their self-interest directly aligns with the success of the company.

But if you’re talking to an employee, that person’s interest won’t necessarily be aligned with the owner’s.

Say you’re dealing with a VP or a Senior Manager. 

They’re not interested in fulfilling the sale for themselves because they have different motives such as:

How it makes them look in their job.

How it might help them get that promotion they want.

How it will get them closer to meeting their quotas.

How it will impress their boss.

When selling to these people, you have to get inside their heads and understand what’s motivating them, beyond the best interests of the company. How are you able to help them attain success too? 

Dig deeper. Why do they want to impress the boss?

There is always some self-interest tied into these decisions

The Bigger the Company, the Trickier it is 

Enterprise companies are super diverse when it comes to the self-interests of people you're selling to.

What people care about  within an enterprise work environments depends a lot on how they're being measured. 

Generally, they get tracked in different ways than they would in a small business, which can make it hard to determine how to sell to the individual and figure out what’s in it for them.

When you're not selling to the owner of the business, then you have to really put some thought into what that person’s self-interest is.

You need to factor in:

Win for me (salesperson)

Win for individual (the person in charge of deciding on behalf of the business)

Win for the business 

A lot of sales messaging only focuses on the win for the salesperson and the win for the business they’re pitching to.

But they forget to include the individual in the middle who actually has the power to lock in the sale. 

If you don’t understand what motivates the individual you’re speaking with directly, you won’t have success selling to them. 

That is the key. You have to figure out what’s in it for that specific individual. 

Understanding Self-Interest = Success

Discovering your client’s self-interest is a skill that you can and need to develop.

If you can’t understand a customer’s true needs and desires, you will fail at sales.

Your conversations with clients need to be directed at their concerns, not the particulars of what you do. 

Your clients only care about “what’s in it for them” and it’s your job to articulate this through your messaging and direct communication.

It takes some practice to get good at this, but it’s well worth your time.

Take action now because your success depends on it.


Damian Thompson

Written by Damian Thompson

Sales is the most important skill for an entrepreneur. But the one they least want to learn. ANYBODY who has shown the courage to start a business has the “Ability to Sell” you simply need to learn the systems, methods, and philosophy of sales success. Damian is the Founder & Chief Training Officer of Salesability. He's led sales teams in a dozen countries, coaching business owners and sales professionals to hundreds of million dollars in new sales. He has scaled multiple companies from Low 6-figures to 8-figures in 2 years or less and led the sales growth strategy for businesses large and small. Now he focuses on helping other Founders to achieve their goals. Expanding Software & Service companies Sales Ability for Scalability.

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