What Are We Really Selling?

201: What Do Auction Buyers Really Want From Us?

Have you ever seen or heard something you felt totally encapsulated your thoughts—maybe even a part of who you are? You’re probably now thinking of that song or album. Maybe it was a poem, a book, a movie. At times for me, it’s even been a tee shirt graphic, a photo from a vacation, or a moment in a conversation.

Recently for me, it was two sentences in a seminar.

My wife, a friend, and I were attending a multidisciplinary conference with scores of breakout sessions available between the ten big-stage talks. Topics ranged from self-care and emotional intelligence to organizing adventure sports communities and leading gender-specific subcultures. I hit several of the social media marketing presentations from passionate experts from the West Coast and Canada.

I’ll never forget the insight from one brand strategist. Amidst a bevy of slides appeared the now-indelible white words on a black screen. It was as if my last twelve years of blogging and thirteen years of teaching had been reduced to a single slide. It resonated so deeply in me that I wanted to shout, “Yes!” in the standing-room-only crowd. At the same time, it shocked me by how many words I’ve written and spoken around this truth without landing on such succinct summary.

“People don’t buy your product or service.
They buy a future version of themselves.”

Mic. Drop.

How Does This Make Me Feel?

We don’t buy houses.
We buy the tranquility that will accompany sunrises and Sunday mimosas on the back deck or the school system where our kids will get better opportunities.
We pay for dinner parties where our friends feel either at home or impressed.

We don’t buy vacations.
We buy escapes from reality or new tokens for the Keeping Up with the Jones’ game.
We pay to find a part of ourselves we knew was just previously out of reach.

We don’t buy antiques.
We buy nostalgia or fodder for conversations.
We pay for the reminders of grandma’s cookies, grandpa’s garage, or the summers of gathering hay.

We don’t buy sports hats or jerseys.
We buy belonging to a tribe, a connection with strangers.
We pay for a connection to greatness we don’t feel we’ve achieved in our personal arenas.

We don’t spend money for college.
We buy access to careers, time to figure out who we are, and/or a refuge from our parents.
We pay for a bigger potential list of future choices, a larger pool of potential spouses, and/or a sense of accomplishment.

We don’t write checks for a lawn mowing service.
We buy one fewer shower, one more hour on the golf course, one less load of laundry.
We pay for an enviable yard or more room in the garage.

We don’t pay for accounting services.
We buy confidence that the government didn’t take more money than it should.
We pay for a less-stressful weekend spent somewhere far from paperwork.

We don’t pay for gym memberships.
We buy flatter stomachs, firmer fannies, and/or bigger muscles.
We pay for the capability to complete a goal like a race, a climb, or an adventure.

What Do Consumers Want?

All of this is why my clients’ Facebook ads don’t read like newspaper ads or sale bills. People don’t buy auctions. They might not even buy things. People buy how those things make them feel, how those things solve a problem, how they assume those things will make their life better.

Those “people” includes your potential buyers, too—even the farmers and mid-level managers and commercial real estate brokers.

If you want to write headlines and subject lines that get more people to your website for less money, ask yourself the next time you spend money, “What am I hoping this purchase does for me?” Then, next time you have to sell something, ask yourself, “What is the potential buyer hoping this purchase does for them?” Then, adapt your advertising text to reflect those answers.

It’s okay if you don’t think this works. Well, maybe not okay for you—but for other auctioneers. My clients who’ve tried this approach have seen their commissions explode and don’t mind you passing on their secret.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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