The 5-Word Question That Drives Success in Marketing

Are Your Lead Generation Efforts Not Working? Sales in a Slump? Ask Yourself This 5-Word Question to Reveal Why

Before I tell you the question, I want to give credit where credit is due. I learned this from the great sales copywriter Gary Bencivenga. This question is one that all entrepreneurs, marketers, and salespeople need to pause and reflect on frequently. If you have a good answer to it — the RIGHT answer — marketing response will dramatically increase, sales will flourish, price sensitivity will disappear, and you’ll be a lot less frustrated in your sales meetings. But if you get it wrong or don’t know the right answer, you’re essentially flying blind, guessing at what will sell, guessing how to sell, and getting beat up on price, ignored, screened, blocked, and lied to. You can learn all of this information from five simple words strung together! So, what is the question?

Drumroll, please: What are we really selling? My observation is that far too many IT firms get sucked into a technical quagmire of what they are promoting, causing them to lose sight of why someone would want to buy it in the first place. To them, the benefits are so obvious that it’s difficult to articulate. (After all, how does one correctly summarize the importance of oxygen?) But because of this, firms cannot concisely explain what they are selling. In fact, they’ve never really thought about it.

To be clear, I’m NOT just talking about benefits, although that is part of this. I’m talking about going a couple layers deep into the emotional reasons and triggers that get someone to buy what you are selling. For example, selling cybersecurity is not just about protection from ransomware and downtime, but that is a benefit. What you are actually selling is peace of mind. You are saving that CEO from embarrassment, frustration, and the fear of loss. Out of the three, embarrassment is the one that will motivate them the most.

You also need to realize that what you’re really selling is prevention. And prevention is one of the most difficult things to sell for a number of reasons. First, nobody likes to spend money on it because there’s no ROI. If I buy a new fire alarm system for my house, I gain a little peace of mind, but nobody is going to “oooh” and “ahhh” over it like they would a new swimming pool or a Tesla. The same goes for IT services and support. Nobody can “see” the investment, and in most cases, you hope there is no ROI. Couple that with the fact that most prospects make poor value judgments, are cheap and grossly negligent, procrastinate like hell, and think they are “fine,” and you start to see just how difficult the sale can be. Add in a misunderstanding of what you’re really selling, and it’s no surprise that so many MSPs struggle with marketing and selling.

Here’s another point: If you attempt to convince a prospect that you are the best managed services/cybersecurity/IT services firm out there — fairly priced, highly competent, trustworthy, etc. — you’re overlooking the fact that they might not be convinced they even want managed services (or whatever you’re selling) in the first place. If you don’t cross that bridge first, everything you’re saying will just annoy the prospect and frustrate you.

Are you selling managed services, or are you selling ease, convenience, and peace of mind? Are you selling cybersecurity or confidence and protection against looking stupid and irresponsible? Many MSPs complain that they can’t sell to companies with IT departments because they see them as a threat. That’s because they are coming at it in the wrong way. Don’t be their replacement; be their scapegoat.

Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee; they sell the “third place,” along with a healthy side of superiority and elitism. Disney isn’t selling vacations; they are selling memories parents can give to their children, often fueled by guilt and definitely out of love. Rolex and Bentley aren’t selling watches and cars; they are selling public proclamations of wealth. Amazon, Uber, and the dozens of “delivered to your home, ready-to-go meal boxes” are selling extreme convenience. I could go on.

So, think for a minute. What are you really selling? Are you sure? What does that ultimately deliver to your client, and why would they want that? Don’t just think about the logical and tangible; think about EMOTIONS. Those are what truly drive our behavior in everything we do: the need to gain positive feelings of joy, comfort, confidence, and superiority and the desire to avoid negative feelings like fear, frustration, guilt, embarrassment, and loss.