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Business Management

The Two Sides of Joe Jones

Selling Wants Versus Needs


I work with a client who always refers to his hypothetical customers as "Joe Jones" in an effort to make his sales team realize that our customer is no different from us. I agree to a point. What follows was inspired by a conversation with him one day.

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Joe Jones is two different people: The Joe Jones who walks into the grocery store has a set amount of money that he’ll allow himself to spend; it’s called a budget. He doesn’t necessarily want to spend that money, but he knows he has to. When Joe Jones walks into our realm, he has a much different stack of money to spend. It’s money he wants to spend; it’s money he will absolutely spend on something! This money has somehow magically escaped his budget and now he gets to make some sort of selfish purchase.


This is not the same guy from the grocery store. Too often this Joe Jones is treated like the other Joe Jones who will make decisions from a budget. In nearly every case, what we have in front of us is a customer who is hoping to justify a purchase that is selfish — and that changes everything!

You can’t ask the Joe Jones in the grocery store to buy ice cream if it isn’t in his budget. But the Joe Jones who walks into a motorcycle dealership is looking for a reason to buy a treat, and, more importantly, he’s looking for someone who will tell him it’s OK!


Some people need to give themselves permission to buy our stuff. It’s our job to help them give that permission to themselves. They come in our doors to see if we’re worthy of granting them permission to do something selfish. They’re also looking for someone who will ask them to make that decision, to "give" them permission.

They need that permission because they’re often stuck in the rut of having told themselves "no" for all the right reasons for so long.

Following is a note from a friend of mine, Chris Baker, who worked for one of our clients. I think it echoes the theme of this installment quite well.


"I had an interesting observation yesterday. A young lady from church has successfully conned me into helping her learn to ride. She has sold herself on the idea of buying a bike and exploring the open road with the wind in her face. Talk about clouded vision! She found an ’80 Honda Hawk on Craigslist that was in decent shape, running, inspected and appeared to be a pretty fair candidate for her. The guy wanted $700 for it. Well, she contacted him via e-mail to determine availability and location. He informed her that he had two people coming to look at it today and one other guy tomorrow. She then started frantically sending e-mails, asking whether she should offer him $1,000, and if I could go with her to pick it up that afternoon!


"That’s my kind of customer, Otis! It didn’t take much to push her hot buttons, and it typifies perfectly the difference between need and want. She was like a pit bull on a limping squirrel. Her eyes clouded over and she was ready to pay well more than what the bike was worth to feed her want."

You’ve surely got a story like this you could tell. Take a good, hard, honest look at your approach and ask yourself which Joe Jones is walking in your store. Is it the Joe Jones with a budget or the Joe Jones with a desire to scratch an abstract itch. You’re selling to the guy who wants what you have for sale, not the guy who needs it.

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