Selling to Needs Versus Wants

Published on November 11th, 2020

On Black Friday, people will sleep in tents in order to be the 1st in line to save 10-20% off a new TV.

If an addict is out of money, they will go to extreme lengths to borrow, cheat, and steal (from strangers, friends, even family) in order to get their next fix.

These are just a few examples of how powerful our wants can be.

Selling to a want is not hard. There are hundreds of thousands of people that want the latest iPhone. Or the magic pill that will immediately reduce their cravings so they can lose wait. Selling to a want takes little effort and usually boils down to price and distribution. If you can get it into their hands at a price they can afford, it’s a done deal.

Selling to a need can be significantly harder. Unfortunately, most people confuse wants and needs on several levels.

Let’s pick this apart on the topic of body weight.

I may WANT to lose weight (to look prettier or sexier). Hell, I may even NEED to lose weight (because of a medical prognosis). But if you tell me I then NEED to do it in ways that I don’t WANT to, then I’m not going to do it.

“To lose weight, you’re going to need to go vegan and cut your daily intake by half.” I DON’T WANT TO!

“To lose weight, you’re going to need to work out five times a week, specifically hours of cardio on the treadmill.” NOPE!

When our needs conflict with our wants, our wants almost always win.

Tell a heroin addict that they need to stay sober, and you’ll see how quickly their wants override their needs that in a hot minute.

Yet, you will see companies focus their marketing and sales strategies around selling to a need versus selling to a want.

You will even hear it in their discussions. “Our customers NEED this. Why are they not buying?” And yet, the answers are many. They may need the outcome, but they don’t want to do it the way you’re suggesting. There may be fear or resistance, or disbelief. Worse, sometimes, your customer may not even agree on the need. You may be 100% certain they need to drop 50 pounds, but they may be equally convinced that they are just fine.

A better strategy is to paint a picture of a want.

They may disagree with you that they need to lose weight, but they may want to look sexy. They may want to feel energetic. They may want to live long enough to see the grandkids grow up.

In my opinion, selling to needs can be an uphill battle unless you can understand the drivers and desires of the customer. Only then can you get them what they need by simultaneously helping them get one of their wants.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.