(Time to read this article is about 90 seconds)

You could fill a large room with all the books ever written on the subject of why people buy and why they don’t buy and, mostly, they over-confuse the issue.  The simple truth is that people buy ‘stuff’ (including whatever you sell), in every part of their business and their personal lives for one reason only…to make some of their stress go away.

That’s it!  Whatever product, service or experience you sell, people buy your ‘stuff’ to reduce some physical or emotional stress in their lives. Therefore, your real job and, in fact, your only value is to be a stress remover. People give us money and we make some of their stress go away. That’s the deal.

Here’s a quick reality check from your own life experience. When’s the last time, when you were being a customer, that the business to whom you gave some of your hard-earned money actually gave you more stress than you had before you gave them your money?  Did you think that this was compelling value at the time?  Could you, in fact, hardly wait to give them more of your money so that they could give you more of their stress?  No, this is ‘goofy’…and ‘goofy is a technical word for ‘stupid’!

So, what is ‘stress’ anyway?  ‘Stress’ is any physical or emotional factor that causes that causes tension, pressure or pain.  Examples of physical stress are disease, injury, hunger, exhaustion and pain.  Emotional stresses include confusion, fear or anxiety about money, technology, security, time, appearance, failure or relationships.  In our western society, generally, people have less physical stress than ever before…but more emotional stress.

When it comes to buying what you sell, stress is a ‘pull – push’ phenomenon. There are stresses in people’s lives that pull or attract them to buying what you sell…and then there are also stresses that prevent them from buying what you sell, or from buying it specifically from you. 

To understand your customers and your business in a whole new way, here’s a valuable little exercise that’s well worth doing.  Sit down for one hour with a small group of your brightest and most caring people. Think and feel like a customer and answer these three questions…

  1. What are the physical and emotional stresses in our target customers’ lives that attract them to buy what we sell?
  2. What physical or emotional stresses might be preventing them from buying what we sell, or from buying it specifically from us?
  3. What physical or emotional stresses do we create for our customers when they do business with us that could prevent them from doing business with us again?

Essentially, this is an exercise in understanding what life is really like for your customers. Once you understand what stresses are ‘attracting’ and ‘preventing’ your target customers, get creative.  How can you rethink your business to dramatically emphasize the stresses that attract people to what you sell and how can you boldly eliminate the “preventors” that could be keeping them from buying what you sell…or buying specifically from you?  Think ‘extraordinary, think simple acts of kindness, be gutsy, think of what has never been done before.  

Here’s a real-life example of insightful and ‘gutsy’ to show you how powerful this process can be.  One of our clients, a very successful travel agency, addressed the three questions above and came up with dozens of insights, one of which was that “fear of flying” could be a stress that’s preventing some people from becoming customers. 

One of his staff came up with the idea of offering an evening seminar on, ‘How to overcome your fear of flying’ with the help of a local psychologist.  They promoted the event with the help of local radio, TV and newspapers.  It attracted many new clients; they now offer the course twice each year…and the media coverage has helped make them ‘famous’!

How can you use this simple insight about why people buy…and why they don’t buy to better understand your target customers?  And then how can use that understanding to remove stress, deliver compelling value and clearly differentiate your business?

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