Sell me this pen

sell me this pen

[This article was originally published in PBW News in March 2014]

If you haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s latest film, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, yet you should. Mainly because it’s a great film. At first glance you might not think that a film about a corrupt New York stock broker who ends up in jail is going to offer a lot in terms of advice for the pet trade, but the film is about a sales guy and sales (directly or indirectly) is what we all do.

In one scene the main characters who set up the sales company are sitting in a restaurant and Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio’s character) tells them to “sell me this pen”. A similar scene is then repeated at the end of the film in one of Jordan Belfort’s post-prison sales training sessions, when he asks all the people there to “sell him this pen”.

If you haven’t seen the film, how would you respond?

Most people pick up the pen and talk about the features of the pen; it is shiny, it is silver, it is comfortable to write with, it uses great ink etc.

In the film one guy picks up the pen, looks at Jordan and says “you want me to sell you this pen…. Why don’t you do me a favour and write your name down on that napkin for me”.
Jordan replies, “I don’t have a pen”.

The salesman has both created and highlighted the customer’s need.

The genius of this is that the person selling is not talking about the product, he is talking about the why the customer needs the product.

Everyone, at some stage, is guilty of making the mistake of selling the product, not the benefits, especially in small companies, where you don’t have someone whose only job is marketing. We all get involved in creating new products and services and are so proud about what they do that we forget to stop and think about who they do what they do for, and why they do it.

For example, we think that our joint supplement, Mobile Bones, is the best joint supplement that you can buy for a dog with mobility problems; it has more active ingredients than any other joint supplement, it is the only one that also helps bones strength, it is natural, ethically accredited and easy to use. Because we are so proud of the product we want to tell people about what makes it so great, but this is not want people want. People buying Mobile Bones aren’t buying a joint supplement. They are not even buying increased mobility for their dogs. They are effectively buying a happier dog, and more happiness for themselves as they get to walk their dogs without them struggling with mobility issues. That is what we should focus on when we sell Mobile Bones… and we often forget this.

When you are marketing your products, store or service it is key to think about who your customer is and what your products, store or service mean to them. For example if you offer late openings, the sell is not the late openings it is more likely to be “pick your products up on the way home from work”. If you offer grooming the sell could be “If your dog looks good, then you look good!”

One of our best-selling treats is the ‘Fresh Breath’ treat. This doesn’t sell because it is ethical, natural, wheat-free or low calorie (all of which it is). This doesn’t sell because a dog is worried about it’s own breath. It sells either because a dog’s owner can get closer to their beloved pooch when the pooch doesn’t have bad breath, or because it alleviates the embarrassment of their pooch having pongy breath when their pals come around. The need sells, not the product.