Don’t sell to bar owners

Rama wrote in and asked why I mentioned this. What’s so hard about selling advertising to bar owners, and what can we learn from that?

My answer:

1. they’re not eager to buy new stuff (like ads)
2. they don’t come to the phone
3. they don’t come to the front of the bar because they’re not at the bar, they’re somewhere else
4. they’re not really trying to grow the business

The universal lesson is this: every business has customers. In order to grow, you either need to sell more to those customers or find new customers. When thinking about your business, I’d ask:

  • How difficult is it to get permission to talk to our existing customers?
  • How difficult is it to get them to introduce us to their friends, colleagues and competitors?
  • What’s the worldview of this audience? Do they trust us? Are they looking for new solutions?
  • Will this audience go out of their way to avoid us? Will they try to rip us off as a matter of course?
  • How price sensitive are they? Will that change if a truly remarkable or game-changing product or service appears?
  • Is there a problem that they know they have? If not, then we have to not only sell the solution, we need to sell the problem too (Jeremy mentioned that to me today–problems are missing from so many new product launches).

The biggest problem marketers make is misjudging their audience. The see the size of the market, but not its true nature: Their accessibility and eagerness. Their worldview and motivation. All too often, we say, "that’s Sales’ job." And it’s true, a superstar salesperson might very well be able to sell to an audience that doesn’t want to be sold to.

Marketers are guilty of hoping for too much from a typical salesforce. In my experience, 90% of the salespeople out there are below average (because performance is a curve, not a line). The superstars are hard to find, hard to keep and hard to count on scaling. So that means you must create a product that doesn’t require a superstar to sell it. And the only way you’re going to sell an ad to a [insert difficult marketplace here] is to create a product/service/story that sells itself.