Dear CMO:

Ed Rush is the former head of all NBA referees and now runs clinics for those who aspire to greater things in their refereeing careers. He had trouble filling his early clinics, and the evolution of his positioning is a lesson to anyone selling solutions to smart people.

What do referees need to progress in their profession? According to Ed, the answer is “become better referees.” The problem is that referees don’t think they need to get better. They think they’re already pretty good.

What do referees want? They want to get noticed by those who select the referee squads for NCAA and NBA games. How do they get noticed? According to Ed, the answer is “get better.” Referees need to get better to get noticed so they can move on up to The Bigs. They don’t think they need to get better, though. This is a problem.

Ed repositioned his clinics from “Become Better Referees” to “Get Noticed by the NCAA and NBA.” Now, his clinics are full. His curriculum hasn’t changed a bit, though.

There’s a lesson in this for anyone selling solutions to professionals or others: selling to your audience’s wants is easier than selling to what you perceive to be their needs. Selling to wants will make more money, faster.

Selling a professional software suite to a credentialed professional audience is a good example here. Tell an attorney or an accountant that “you will give them more solutions” becomes a shoving match. They haven’t been doing this for 35 years only to be told that you know things they don’t. We all have egos, so this is a no-win situation. Tell an attorney or an accountant that you can save them time and effort, allowing them to share their expertise with more people, is a message that is accepted. You haven’t changed the product. It still offers up the solutions you developed.

Key Takeaways:

We may not all agree on what we need. But if your market is telling you what they want, listen carefully. They are telling you how to position your product.

We all have egos. Ensuring that you support theirs – and that you aren’t exercising yours – is smarter.

Your job is to get them there, not get you there. You are the bodhisattva, not the Buddha, in this equation. It’s about them, not you.

Position your solution in a way that doesn’t require you win a fight.




PS: Photo courtesy of Flickr.