Helen Ross 31 May 2017 2 min read

Don't sell a product, solve a problem

Today, I cordially invite you to step back in time with me for a moment….


~cue wavy dream sequence transition~


It’s 8pm on Wednesday night, I’m home from the first day of the Retail Global Gold Coast conference, and I’m loving it so far. I got home, kicked off the shoes, threw leftover pizza in the microwave for dinner (I know, it’s really a wonder I’m not single), and immediately grabbed my laptop to write this post because… how could I not want to share with you what I’ve already learnt and seen?


All of the speakers from this afternoon were amazing, but George Lawrence from MerchantWords… I want to give that man a high five!


George is not only an incredibly engaging speaker (I highly recommend you see him speak if you ever get the chance), but he also absolutely speaks my language when it comes to how to position your company’s offering to customers.


To quote him from today’s talk: “You’re not actually selling a thing, you’re selling an experience”.


To illustrate this point, he shared a Mario analogy that is fantastically simple (source).




Let me turn that into something a little less nerdy. If your customer has a problem that can be solved by a product, the product is not what you’re selling. You are selling the solution to their problem.


Ben Franzi, GM of eCommerce and International at Australia Post, held a talk earlier that day, during which a question was raised about why a particular user had chosen Amazon Prime. The answer was simple:

  1. Speed
  2. Convenience

The buying decision is, in a lot of cases, more about the problem the product solves for the individual user than about the product itself.


So how does this tie in to what we’ve been talking about previously?


Last week I mentioned the concept of transactional relationships and wanted to start a dialogue about how the sales landscape is changing as the saturation of ecommerce climbs to new heights (hello to the 800lb Amazon gorilla standing at the back).


I firmly believe that the mentality of solution as product is what will set you apart from the pack. But it’s not something that will necessarily happen overnight. Some customers are afraid of change, and most humans need time to adjust to new things, so it might take your reps awhile to really get a handle on a new way of talking to people.


For a lot of reps, those transactions are an important first step in getting ‘a foot in the door’ toward building a relationship, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But don’t let that be all there is to your relationship with your customer. Let that be a stepping stone to you being the first person they think of when they have a new problem they need a solution for.


I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from George so far: “If you put your customer first, you will succeed in the eCommerce space”.




For those who were wondering, I later found George… and yes, we did high five!


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