There is a great way to express the buying process that I’ve picked up from Anthony Iannarino over at the sales blog. Customers are motivated to buy due their dissatisfaction with something, and its the sales person or the organisations or the brands job to find that dissatisfaction, help the customer identify it or in extreme cases to create it.

Anthony says that people don’t change unless they are dissatisfied with something, or put another way, without dissatisfaction, there is nothing to compel your customer to change.

There are two fundemental motivators in life:

Fear of loss

Desire for gain

Great sales people, and great organisations for that matter, utilise these pressure points to leverage their products. If a client is afraid of losing commercial ground to a competitor for example, or spots an opportunity to grow their market share, then you may well be able to turn that to your organisations advantage.

If these ‘desires and fears’ cause the potential client to become dissatisfied with the ‘status quo’ they will be compelled to make changes. If not, then you will have the hardest job trying to get them to take action.

From out of nowhere

Happy with your mobile phone? Then you are extremely unlikely to buy another brands product.

On the other hand, if a brand, say Apple for instance, can create in your mind, a dissatisfaction with your current mobile phone, even where none previously existed, then they create a desire for gain, a desire for the new product. They are clearly onto a winner – because they also have the solution to your new problem – their product.

Apple are a great example actually. The brilliant Guy Kawasaki says, in this great video, that Steve Jobs taught him that you can’t allow the customer to tell you what they want.


I love this idea as it is so counter intuitive to what marketers believe about research, but it makes so much sense. All the customer is likely to ask you for is bigger faster cheaper ‘status quo’, as Guy puts it.

Someone must disrupt the status quo, in Apples case by creating a new market via an MP3 player or a smart phone. Otherwise all we ever do is make small incremental progress.

Once again quoting Guy from the video, creating dissatisfaction is like jumping to the next curve, as opposed to just taking the status quo forwards in iterative steps.

I keep mentioning Status Quo. Not the band clearly! Wikipedia defines status quo as a Latin term meaning the current state of affairs, and it is an extraordinary powerful force. It can be extremely difficult to ‘move’ a client beyond the status quo without this powerful force of dissatisfaction.

‘That’s the way things have always been’, or ‘It’s too much hassle to change it now, its been like that for ever’, have ruined far more sales pitches than you might think! Imagine it, Your organisation presents its products to the prospective clients and expects them to make significant changes to the way they do things in order to complete the purchase.

How to make your client dissatisfied 

Price is obvious. Make yours cheaper than the current solution and the customer will quickly become dissatisfied with the current vendor. Its a really tricky strategy to implement successfully however. If you are going to win the race to the bottom, you have better already be the cost leader for instance.

Service is another area that comes to mind, and again is becoming increasingly difficult to trade in. These days we are in a curious place as regards service. If you provide absolute top quality service to your clients, they seem to increasingly expect it and almost take it for granted. At the same time we often hear that service levels of many businesses aren’t what they were. I’d add, I think this is often unfair.

More difficult to achieve, and harder to conceptualise in the first place, is the Apple tactic. Providing a service for your customer that they didn’t even realise might be available to them in the first place! This is an extremely powerful technique.

English: Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone...

Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apple can do it, what about me?

A media sales person that can draw a marketing strategy together for a client that’s the same level as one they might pay a specialist agency for. A car dealer having information about competing brands together with their own marketing collateral to allow the customer to make an intelligent and informed decision about their purchase, right there in the dealership.

Anything that really adds value to the organisation or customer you are selling to beyond what they might expect. Most often its this added value that allows for the premium to be included in the price too. That might be a specific brand attribute or a far more esoteric element such as cache or coolness.

What other examples can you think of?

What ways can we help our clients identify that they are dissatisfied with the status quo? The current product they use or the service provider they employ? Consider it carefully, dissatisfaction is a powerful force!

Especially when the customer didnt even know they were dissatisfied in the first place!

Leave me your comments or ideas for creating dissatisfaction below, or email me directly on [email protected], I’d love to hear from you.

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3 replies
  1. Dave Gifford International
    Dave Gifford International says:

    “Fear of loss is a far greater emotion than desire of gain” –Anthony Iannarino or Giff? See, I do read your stuff.

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