Not Thirsty

In which we are reminded that, even if we provide the best possible water, horses won’t drink if they’re not already thirsty or if we can’t show them that really bad things will happen if they don’t drink now.

“We are looking for a consultant to do some product training for us.”

“Sure, happy to talk about that. Thank you for considering us. What’s happening?”

“Our clients buy their products and services from us and several other companies. We want them to consolidate – to buy more or all of their products from us.”

“Sounds great! … Why will they do that?”, I asked.

“Our products are much better than our competitors’ products.”

“Well done!” I said.

“Yes,” he said, smiling. “We’ve worked very hard on them. So we want to hire someone to make sure that our team members are able to convey the value and benefits of our products to these clients so that they will see there is much more value here and bring more of their business to us.”

“Great, I said, “thank you, I understand, and sorry if I’m repeating: Why would your clients want to do that – to change purchase patterns they’ve established based on who knows what – social relationships, daily routines, unarticulated perceptions of you or your competitors, concerns about spending all of their money in one place? Why will they change those decisions and bring all of their business to you?”

“Because we are a great company, for one thing. We have many convenient locations. We have great values and integrity, our people are terrific, we have a spotless reputation, we take great care of our clients. And, as I mentioned before, our products.”

“You have a very strong offer. [Pause] I’m thinking that I, myself, would bring more of my business to you in a heartbeat if I had decided to change the way I buy now….But, what if I haven’t made that decision yet? What then?”

“Well, I suppose I would have to convince you to change now rather than stay where you are,” he replied.

“Ok, let’s play with that idea. How would you do that?”

“By telling you about all the great value that you will have and the great service and support you will get if you come here as a client. And offering you some financial incentive to buy more from us now, like an introductory offer.”

“In other words, cut your prices to attract more volume?”


“So what are you suggesting?”, he asked with just hints of impatience.

“Well, here’s a possible approach: It turns out that people are more likely to change their current behaviors to avoid an impending loss than they are to realize a potential gain. Since your products are strong and since you’re not really a price discounter, how about we begin working with your team members’ conversation so they can, first, explore the reasons that your clients have established their current preferences and, second, help your clients see that something important has changed and that they’ll experience some significant misfortune if they don’t change. Then… your sales people can position the value of your offer.”

“Well, that’s a nice idea and we prefer product training. We have a long history of doing it this way.”

I love irony.

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