It’s not often I ask you to think smaller. Today is one of those days.

You have read everywhere, and rightly so, that one of the chief ways get traction for your brand is to sell people on your purpose, your larger vision. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I don’t even like breaking out this axiom of enlightened business anymore because it’s become cliche and misused.

Yes, your vision & purpose is key to the success of your brand, but it is not a substitute for clear statements of value. You don’t get off the hook for being clear about what your product does, how it is used, and what the expected outcomes of use are because your purpose is so grand.

A particular area in which I see this plaguing business owners is in what I will call the “transformational service sector.” Think coaches of almost every kind and consultants of every ilk. That includes many of you reading.

And even if it doesn’t, keep reading. Winky face.

Sharing your vision for your customers and the purpose of your work is directional. It helps to catch them up in the flow of your work. But it doesn’t trigger their desire to buy.

People buy when they’re ready. They need to be both ready to buy into your vision and actively looking for a solution to a stumbling block on the path to that vision.

Your job isn’t to provide a straight, newly paved highway to dream life. It’s to anticipate the happy detours and not-so-happy ice storms they’ll have along the way and guide them through. When they’re ready for a happy detour, metaphorically speaking, they’ll be looking for museums to visit, places to eat, and spots to explore. When they run into the not-so-happy ice storms, they’ll be looking for shelter, tire chains, or a tow truck.

If you’re especially observant of your customers, you know exactly when the detours come and when the ice storms will hit. You can then show up when they stop and say…

“Hey! I know you and I know where you’re going. Let me help you with this.”

This” is what you’re actually selling. And it’s what people actually buy.

Here’s a more concrete example. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve been doing some “research” on online dating strategy. One of the books I’m reading is by the founder of a company called eFlirt Expert. They offer services to help people looking for love online be more efficient and effective.

What they don’t do is try to sell anyone on the idea that buying from them will result in the perfect match or finding a soul mate. Instead, they’ve identified tasks that online daters need help with on the path to doing just that, such as picking which sites to use, building your profile for you, replying to the messages you get, or giving your profile a makeover.

Here’s what that looks like for the customer. He decides he’s had enough of bad blind dates and the bar scene. He’s ready to give the online world a go. First, he has to decide which site to use. Panic (hopefully mild!) ensues. He uses eFlirt Expert’s free dating site evaluation service. Bingo, he signs up for the recommended sites.

Then he starts building his profile and starts searching the site. He doesn’t the get the response he wants immediately. So he remembers that online dating company and goes to see what they have to offer (of course, he’s probably getting an email right about this time to remind him of what they can do for him). Profile building! Yes, that’s what he needs.

With a shiny new profile, he’s getting lots of messages from great potential matches. He wants to make sure he’s answering them properly. So he goes back to that company and signs up for email reply services. If all goes well, he’ll be dating away in no time and, hopefully, finding a relationship.

You tell me. Which is more compelling?

An offer to coach you through the dating process to find your one true love? or
3 distinct offers that deliver 3 specific outcomes?

Boom, as they say.

Before you give me a million and one excuses about why this isn’t a good model for your business, let me give you three questions you will be able to answer that prove otherwise:

  • What questions do your clients commonly come to you with in the process of serving them?
  • What tasks do your clients commonly need to complete in the process of achieving their goals?
  • What frustrations do your clients commonly feel during the process of making progress?

Within the answers to those questions are the seeds of specific service offerings, leveraged programs or products, lead generation tools, blog posts, emails, even Facebook updates or tweets. They’re sign posts on the journey from the moment of readiness to the fulfillment of your shared vision.

Each answer is a potential place to enter the market.

One of the reasons my book, The Art of Earning, has sold so well is that it answers a question that all of my clients have had at one point or another. The Art of Growth is positioned to do the same thing by answering the question, “How can I create a bigger impact with my business but put less energy into it?” Our bestselling products at Kick Start Labs, Website Kick Start and Sales Page Kick Start, address two tasks every entrepreneur in the digital space need to complete: building a website and writing a sales page.

The more specific a task I can help my customers complete, the more likely they are to know that they want it. Not only that, the more likely they are to want it on their own terms, meaning I need to do less to push the product. They will search it out.

That’s not to say that an all-inclusive package can’t be a great product. But it’s not likely to be an easy sell. The thing is, most customers simply don’t believe your 12-week course or your VIP day will put them on the fast-track to achieving your shared vision. Let’s be honest: I don’t care how good you are at what you do and how ready your customers are for change, transformational services–from the technical to the metaphysical–simply take time, growth, and natural progression.

Any one product or service is one step in the right direction. Not a teleporter.

You can build a solid business model on breaking that journey into its natural pieces. Or you can struggle to sell something so grand it’s literally unbelievable.

Hold onto your vision. Sell the steps to it.


Want a framework for breaking your big ideas into smaller ones that really sell & get better results?

The Customer Perspective Process - Customer Journey

The Customer Perspective Process walks you through exactly that. You’ll learn how to breakdown the many tasks, milestones, and questions your customers will have on their way to reaching your shared vision.

Click here to learn more about The Customer Perspective Process virtual boot camp from Kick Start Labs.