Every business exists to sell something and without sales, all businesses would certainly die. That’s why it’s always important to find out the real reasons why customers are not buying your products or services.
Whatever you’re selling, the whole idea of succeeding in business is to find customers who will gladly give you their money in exchange for that thing you’re selling.
Every year, hundreds of businesses close down around the world because they couldn’t make enough sales to keep the business going. Although there are several reasons why businesses fail, this article reveals 5 of the most common reasons why customers are not buying enough of your products or services.
It is my intention that you will find something in this article that will change the way you sell your products and attract more customers to your business.
These 5 reasons you’re about to find out were first revealed by Zig Ziglar, the great American sales and motivation guru. With some common sense, I have adapted them to the context of doing business in Africa. If your business suffers from poor sales, I have no doubt you’ll find this article very useful.
1. No need, no sales
Nobody buys stuff unless they’re hungry for it, or want it just for fun. Bottom line: People usually buy stuff they need.
The biggest mistake most business people make is to sell a product that customers don’t need.
If I have a full tank of petrol in my car and you’re trying to sell me another 30 litres, you’ll be wasting your time. Why do I need extra petrol when I already have a full tank? Even if I could afford the petrol you’re selling, I wouldn’t buy it because I don’t need it!
Let’s look at a practical example:
Fred lives in a Lagos neighbourhood with a large population of young working class people. Many of these people are single and work from 9 to 5 everyday. They come back home tired and spend their weekends catching up on lost sleep.
Fred comes up with a brilliant idea and starts a laundry business within the area. He offers to pick up dirty laundry from peoples’ homes and deliver them clean and fresh in under three days.
What do you think happened? Business boomed! Why? His target customers had a desperate need for the convenience that his laundry service provided.
The problem is often that many entrepreneurs do not target the right customers.
We often go ahead to create an amazing product or start up a business without first establishing that the market has a need for what we’re selling (or about to sell). You may sell a wonderful product or deliver an amazing and professional service but if people don’t need it, they won’t buy it, no matter how hard you try.
Why would customers not need the product or service you’re selling? Here are a couple of reasons:
Competition – If there is a product or business that already provides a solution to your target customers’ needs and problems, they wouldn’t buy from you. Except they’re not satisfied with the product or service they currently use, it would be difficult to buy from you.
However, if your product is more valuable (cheaper, faster, better, safer etc) than the ones they already use, they would, at least, consider yours.
Substitutes – If I have a domestic help at home who does a good job with my dirty laundry, why would I want to pay a laundry business to do the same job? If my car runs on diesel and you’re trying to sell me petrol (gasoline), why should I even listen to you?
Bottom line: If your target customers already have a substitute product or service that already does the same thing as your product, they may likely not need yours.
The lesson here is simple: Any product that doesn’t solve an urgent pain or a pressing problem will be a tough sell to customers anywhere. More than 90 percent of sales happen because a customer needs a product or service to solve their pains and problems.
2. No money, no sales
I’ve always wanted to own an original Rolex watch. I don’t just need it; I want it. I desire it.
I am absolutely qualified to own this product but I don’t have the money for it; I just cannot afford it.
Although I hate to admit it, I am not the type of customer a Rolex watch seller wants to see. No matter how much I love and adore the product, what use am I to a Rolex watch business if I don’t have the money in my pocket to buy one piece?
Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are facing this same problem.
Everybody tells you that your products are beautiful and amazing but nobody is bringing out their wallet to pay for them. Even when there’s a serious need for the product or service, some businesses still find it hard to sell their products to enough customers.
Why would this happen? Here are a couple of reasons.
Too expensive – If your house was infested with rats and I offered to sell you a product that would kill all the rats in an instant, would you buy it? Of course, you would!
However, what if I told you the price of this product is $10,000? What?! To kill rats? I’m sure you’ll take one day out of your busy schedule to ‘manually’ kill all the rats yourself or find much cheaper alternative.
Even when the need is there and the product is right, a high price can spoil a sale. For most people, price is a sensitive issue. If the price is too high, they won’t buy. Period!
Wrong market – If you set up a Rolex watch business in a low-income neighbourhood, what do you expect? Most poor and middle-income people may strongly admire a luxury product but they cannot afford it. That’s why location is a very important factor in setting up any business.
If you’re surrounded by people who cannot afford to buy the products or services you’re selling, then you’re definitely in trouble. As an entrepreneur, you must target not just people who have a need for your product but who also have the money to pay for it.
Bad timing – If you don’t understand the buying habits and patterns of your customers, you may just be selling to them at the wrong time. If you want to sell equipment to a large and established company, you should know that the best time to do this is just before their budget for the year is decided.
Good timing particularly works well as a sales strategy for customers who plan their spending.
Recently, I learned an interesting lesson about timing from my kid sister who sells clothes and shoes to her fellow students at university. She tells me that the best time to sell is just when students return to school after the holidays. At this time they’re still flush with cash and are more likely to buy from her. Of course, as the semester advances, sales drop.
3. No hurry, no sales
Have you ever wondered why you see those adverts that say: “Buy now at 40 percent discount. Offer valid for 30 days only!” ?
Procrastination is one of our oldest habits and a fundamental part of human nature.
Even when people see something they like, they may likely not buy it now and will most likely prefer to wait for later.
The longer they wait, the lesser the likelihood that they’ll still remember or even buy your product at all.
Because people are likely to postpone a buying decision, they often need to be encouraged to take action and buy now.
By creating a sense of urgency to buy your product or service, customers have a reason to make a decision immediately and reach out for their wallets.
When you use hurry as a sales strategy, you also create an impression of scarcity for your products. Nobody likes to miss out on a good offer. Almost everybody likes to take advantage of a discount to enjoy a product or service at a lower and cheaper price.
Nevertheless, there are a few ways to use the ‘hurry’ strategy to achieve the greatest effect. Here are a couple of ideas.
At start up – Hurry is an effective way to create awareness about a new business and start making sales as soon as possible.
A friend of mine who opened a hair and beauty salon in September 2012 successfully used this sales strategy to attract customers to her business. After the shop opened, she offered free hair services, manicure and pedicure for 7 days only. Of course, a lot of people came to enjoy the free stuff. That single offer attracted most of her first clients who still remain loyal until today.
New product launch – If you are already in business but have just introduced a new product or service to the market, the hurry sales strategy would also work well for you.
Offering the product for free or at an attractive discount for a fixed number of days will give your customers an opportunity to try out the product. If they like it, they’ll still keep buying even after the deadline for the ‘promo’ has expired.
A good point you should keep in mind is that you should always use the hurry strategy with a fixed (short) deadline. Why would anyone hurry to buy if the discount is permanent?
You should also make sure that you’re not being too pushy. The aim of using the hurry tactic is to encourage people to make a quick decision to buy from you rather than procrastinate. When you’re pushy, most people become defensive and may just never buy from you again. You just need to be cautious when you use the hurry tactic on customers.
4. No desire, no sales
Most people need to be motivated before they buy a product or service.
One of the best ways to create desire for your product is to sell the benefits and results. People want to know what they’ll get or enjoy by spending their money on your product.
One great example:
Mariam is 30 kilograms overweight. She has been making plans to join a gym or start a weight loss program that will make her lose weight.
The problem is, she’s been planning for five years now and still hasn’t done anything about it. She has a desperate need for a solution but is too busy to do any research to find one that’s right for her. She can afford a gym membership but she’s too lazy to find one that’s close to her house or office.
What do you think would happen if I walked up to Miriam and told her that I have a proven formula that will make her lose her excess weight in just three months?
What if I went ahead to show her ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of my previous clients who reached their target weights using my formula? As long as the price is right for her, Miriam would buy my product immediately! Yes, after five years of delay, she would buy my product because I did something differently. (image credit: picturesof.net)
And what exactly did I do differently? I created a desire for my product. By selling the benefits and results of using my product, I created a desire in Miriam that allowed her to make a quick decision.
Many entrepreneurs don’t do a good job of letting customers know the benefits of using their products and services. People need to know that your product/service is better, cheaper, faster, safer, more effective etc.
Here are two of the best ways I know to use desire to sell more of your products and services:
Always sell the benefits first – Customers are selfish; they’re always thinking about themselves and how your product or service will work for them. They don’t really care about the name of your product or the features that it has, customers are more interested in benefits and results.
As an entrepreneur, you need to get into the habit of selling the benefits of your products and services first before anything else. Rather than telling a potential customer that you run a laundry service, tell them: “I wash dirty laundry and return them in less than 36 hours at a very affordable price.”
Be specific – The more specific you are about the benefits and results your products can deliver, the better. By providing an idea of the value a customer will get from your products, you show that you’re for real and know what you’re talking about.
If your product or service saves time, give an estimate of how much time it saves. If it’s cheaper than other products in the market, it’s a good idea to mention the amount of money the customer could save by using your product. It’s always better to get specific with the benefits and results of your products.
5. No trust, no sale
It’s no longer news that our markets are flooded with inferior goods and products that hardly work. We live in a time where people are more conscious about the health and safety of the food and water they buy and consume.
Everyday, we learn of products and services that were paid for but never delivered. We live in a time of scams and conmen, and most people are increasingly suspicious of anything they buy unless it’s from a brand or business they trust.
Trust and credibility are very essential for success in today’s world of business. If you don’t have them, it could significantly affect sales.
How easy do you think it would be to sell an Apple, Nokia or Samsung mobile phone to a willing buyer? Very easy! Because these are brands that are already very well known and trusted in the market. The lower the trust and credibility that people have for your product or service, the harder it would be to sell it to them.
But building and earning trust can take some time to happen. How can you do this if you’re still a small or young business? Here are a couple of ways you can start to build some trust and credibility among your current and future customers.
Get Legal – You would agree with me that it’s quite difficult to trust any business that isn’t compliant with the laws of the area, state or country where it does business.
Is your business a registered company? Do you have the necessary permits, licenses and approvals required for the type of business you’re running? These are the little things that help to boost the trust and credibility of your business in the eyes of customers.
Join relevant associations – There are several local and international associations that are relevant to your type of business. Memberships for some of these organisations are free and you get to use their logos, seals and membership certificate to boost your reputation and credibility. Joining a relevant association instantly gives the impression that you’re a professional who knows what she’s doing.
Showcase your track record – If you’ve been doing a good job and serving your customers well, it’s a good idea to showcase the testimonials, letters of commendation and endorsements from your happy customers. This creates social proof that your products and services are working and you’re doing a really great job.
Provide guarantees and assurances – Do you know what a ‘100 percent money-back guarantee’ is? It means that if customers don’t get the benefits from the product or service they bought, the business will refund the money they paid for it.
This is one of the easiest ways to create trust and crebility for your product. As long as your product or service performs as promised, experience proves that only a few people ever return to ask for their money back after they buy the product.
Now you know the reasons why customers are not buying, what changes will you make to improve your sales?
Now that you know why your sales have not been growing, what are you going to do about it?
By applying some of the knowledge and tips you have learned from this article, you should start to notice some changes in the volume and satisfaction of your customers. And from time to time, you can always check back to make sure that you’re not breaking any of these important rules of sales success.
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