Selling the Hole!

Posted by. Disrupt Tech. July 13, 2019

When you say you love something inanimate, what exactly is it that you love? Is it the object itself, or the feelings you associate with it? Let’s say, for instance, that you claim to love your phone. But when you think about it, do you truly love that phone? Is that even possible? Because the phone in itself is merely a bit of plastic and silicone; incapable of engendering any real emotion. What you do love are the intangible things; the feeling of being connected with your friends, the release of dopamine when you see a meme, or even the pride of owning the latest flagship phone in the market. This one concept, once internalized, can work wonders for your sales career.

Too many salespeople labor under the fallacy that it is easier to sell tangible objects rather than intangible ones, merely because the object can be felt and described without any difficulty. During the dawn of my sales career, I too believed just that. However, one of my sales mentors, Tibor Shanto, taught me something very important: sell the hole, not the drilling machine. This one enigmatic statement was what led to the snowball effect that completely revolutionized my sales technique. To elucidate his statement further, we have to realize that if someone wants a perfect quarter-inch hole, we should not be trying to sell a drilling machine, we should be trying to sell the hole itself. The drilling machine is merely how we deliver what they’re looking to buy. The upper management, the key decision-makers, only care about what your product is going to do for them, not so much about how it is going to be done. So, no matter how much you wax eloquent about the machine and its specifications, you will only be connecting with a small fraction of your potential customers.

This concept is doubly important when selling intangible goods. I am engaged in selling digital services, such as website development. My first few weeks on the job were spent in misery. No matter how hard I tried to learn and explain the technical jargon, I was just not connecting with my prospects; they did not seem to care much about fast-loading websites or the benefits of a WYSIWYG Editor. Enter Tibor Shanto, and his emphasis on selling the hole. Once I had internalized his technique, and started selling my service as a means to address my prospect’s pain-points, started selling the hole instead of the drilling machine, I was getting massive results! The technical aspects did not matter at all, as long as I was confident that my service would get them to their desired goal, and could convince them of the same. 

It is therefore absolutely crucial for those who endeavor to sell services to focus on the end goal, the value that it provides, rather than the service itself. Focus on the benefits your clients get. Focus on the underlying problems that are being solved. Focus on the dopamine at the end, instead of the phone itself. And if you are like me, focus on how you are closing more deals than the nay-sayers who had said only tangible goods can be sold effectively.

And the next time you are off to meet a prospect on a sales pitch, ask yourself this: am I selling my drilling machine, or the hole the prospect needs?

Written by: Mahmood Chowdhury, Business Development Executive