August 21, 2006

"How Much Does It Cost?" Is The Worst Question You Can Ask

Have you ever bought a three-handled credenza? Me either. But when most people walk into the three-handled credenza store, after browsing around for a while, what is the most likely first question they will ask the salesperson?

"How much does it cost?"

This is no place to start a conversation. There are no details, no needs being filled, no comparisons for value, no sparks of desire. But none the less, the question has already been asked, so the game has begun.

Let us back up. Why was that particular question asked in the first place? Because every consumer knows the value of their money but most have not considered the value of the product before they go to shop for it, especially in terms of comparison to similar items or long-term gains or losses. When consumers have no idea what questions to ask, they go with what they know - price. They know it costs money. They want to sound intelligent. So they ask the question, "How much does it cost?".

And it gets them nowhere. An eager salesperson picks up on the cues then sells them twice the three-handled credenza they needed for four times the price. But this is not about consumer intelligence.

This is about consumer needs and wants. The deep down ones. Needs that they may lie about or avoid discussing. Wants they may feel embarrassed about having. The next time someone asks you, "How much does it cost?", keep in mind that they probably need some coaching. Start at the beginning and ask some basic questions. In your particular field, you know what those questions are, and you know which answers lead to which products and services. Continually fit the right product to the right consumer and you will be selling a lot more three-handled credenzas.