Once upon a time, a man named Pat became the world’s first salesperson. He didn’t mean to become a salesperson, he thought he was raising food for his family. But then he had a bumper crop of let’s say… kale.
Pat loaded up his extra kale and drove his cart to where a couple of goat paths crossed. Whenever someone would come along, Pat would ask them “You don’t want to buy some kale do you?” A few people, despite his less than compelling sales pitch, bought Pat’s kale. Pat kept bringing his extra kale to the goat path crossing, and over time, he carefully honed his sales pitch to “Kale, get your kale here!” Pat ended up selling all of his extra kale.
Pat had a bumper crop of kale the next growing season too and he was surprised to find that some of the people who’d bought from him the previous season were waiting for him to bring his kale to sell.
And there was another surprise: Fred. Fred showed up the next day with a cart full of kale ready to sell too and he parked his cart diagonally across the goat paths from Pat.
Fred turned out to be a tough competitor: Fred’s pitch was “Kale, get your kale, buy three bundles, get one free!” Pat was taken aback, particularly when he did the math and realized that Fred’s price was higher than his and the free bundle of kale just brought the total price down to just a tiny bit below where his was. But people were lined up at Fred’s cart anyway and many of them bought four bundles of kale while they were there.
So Pat countered with “4 out of 5 wives surveyed prefer our kale, make your wife happy!” And some of the line moved back over to his cart.
Fred countered with “Kale-ier kale, organic, no middle men, straight from the farm!”
Pat countered with “The freshest kale, picked just this morning, more fresh kale flavor and more nutritious too!”
Fred countered with “The world’s best kale - free gourmet kale recipes included!”
Whoa! Pat was stunned — Fred had changed the game — he wasn’t just selling kale anymore, he was teaching his customers how to cook it too. How could Pat compete with that? Pat took a couple of days off to think things over. While he was sitting in his kitchen, he watched his wife preparing dinner (there was no ESPN Sports Center back then.) And suddenly, right then and there, Pat had an epiphany: What his customer’s wanted was kale for dinner; that didn’t mean they always had to be the ones to cook it!
Pat put together a plan, made a deal with his wife, and found some extra pots with lids. The next day he showed up with a cart only half full of kale, the other half was pots. And he put up a sign: “Home cooked kale, just like mom’s. Take some home tonight.”
A few curious folks wandered over from Fred’s cart. Pat had samples of steaming hot cooked kale waiting for them. His wife had even added a bit of bacon that morning. Pat’s pitch was easy - take a pot of cooked kale home, bring the pot back the next morning for a pot refund or refill. And he had subscription plans ready too — for either cooked kale two nights a week or fresh kale, guaranteed ready for pickup, any of three days each week. And unbeknownst to Fred, Pat even had a home delivery plan ready to launch whenever he decided his market was ready, or if Fred tried to counter his last move.
Pat ended up selling more subscriptions than he had kale, so after the goat paths emptied for the day, he walked over to talk with Fred. They ended up striking a deal where Fred would sell Pat enough kale for Pat to meet his orders, and where Pat would keep his raw kale price a little higher than Fred’s so that Fred’s revenues would actually increase.
As the seasons progressed, Fred became Pat’s VP of Operations, other farmers became suppliers, and Pat became rich and widely known as the “King of Kale™.”
Pat’s epiphany has broad implications which we’re still exploring today: At some point, meeting a market’s unknown and unmet needs presents a far bigger opportunity than playing a game of marketing pitch ping-pong to win a transactional sale.
Here’s the big question: Besides sitting in Pat’s kitchen, are there reliable ways of identifying, meeting, or even anticipating your customer’s needs?
The simple answer is “Yes there is.” I use and teach a step-by-step process that is very customer-back in its design, and which taps into the deep market knowledge that is spread across the various parts of a company. It produces a detailed market attack plan, includes several "quality checks", and also includes a template for the sales presentation for the new products or services.
This ideation and planning process is the subject of my second book, Create that Sale!! My goal is to help a bunch of Pats and insure more people will be taking cooked kale home for dinner. Let me know if you’d like me to email you when Create that Sale! is ready or if you’d like to discuss the Create that Sale! class that I’m now offering.