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There are only two types of sales

Don’t you feel lost sometimes when you are trying to convince someone to do something? It can be stressful because you put a lot of pressure on yourself. But, once you realize everyone is selling something and that you are either selling something that somebody knows they need or you’re selling something that somebody doesn’t know they need, you can be better focused on strategy.

It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, an enterprise sales person, a parent or an artist, you are all selling and there are only two types of sales.

If you are selling something that solves a problem your prospect is aware they suffer from, there are most likely three elements present. First, they suffer pain frequently, that’s how they know they have the problem. Second, they have either already budgeted to spend money to solve the problem or are willing to take money away from something else to solve it. Third, there are plenty of other people like you trying to sell the solution. Some examples: swimming lessons, an all purpose bathroom cleaner, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, airlines, couriers, internet service providers (ISPs), cloud photo storage, a book to help you become a better sales person.

If you are selling something that solves a problem people don’t know they suffer from, there are also three likely elements present. They get by everyday without really feeling much more than a tinge of discomfort and they don’t dream of a day in the future without the problem you are claiming to solve. Perhaps, they don’t really understand the side effects of their problem. Second, they have not allotted money to solve the problem so there is no line item in their budget to address the issue and they are unlikely to move money from elsewhere to attack the nuisance. Finally, there is less competition because there is little to no demand, yet. A few examples: consumer cloud accounting, real time shopping analytics for retailers, energy efficient windows, gutter cleaning, organic tea, sexual harassment training in the workplace 20 years ago.

So, on one hand, in the first example, you have a big market where the buyer admits they need a solution but there is a lot of competition. And on the other hand, possibly a big market, but unidentified, with little to no competition. Do you want to sell something that people know they need but where you will face formidable competition? Or do you want to sell something with very little competition but the customer is not sure they have a problem that needs a solution?

In the first case you are going to need to spend a lot on creating a clear differentiator, most likely something to do with service. You will also need to spend a lot on communicating through the noise that you are different and better. In the second case you are going to need to spend money on convincing a buyer that they have a problem, not a nuisance.

There’s room for both models. One is not necessarily going to produce better results than the other, but you better know which market you’re in, otherwise failure is imminent.