What Do People Want?

/> Maybe it's because I'm a fan of classic films and history, but I really enjoy these old guidance films from the post World War II era. This particular trip back in time takes a look at selling, which makes it even more relevant, seeing as how Dan Pink believes that we're now all salespeople - persuading, influencing, and moving others (a notion which I definitely agree with).

Like it or not, we?re *all* in sales now...and most of us don?t like it. We think of sales as sleazy, cheesy, and slimy. But that view is outdated. It?s more about the conditions in which sales has long taken place rather than about the nature of sales itself. Selling has a bad rap because most of what we know about it arose in a world of information asymmetry ? where the seller always had more information than the buyer and therefore could rip the buyer off. But today, information asymmetry is giving way to something at least close to information parity. That?s changed the game in ways we?ve scarcely recognized. We now live in a world not just of ?buyer beware? ? but also of ?seller beware.

~ Daniel Pink

What I find particularly interesting is his emphasis on how the internet, and the resulting explosion in information availability, has completely changed the sales equation, as it has done in almost every other area of our lives. This is truly a terrible time to be alive for any business, government, or individual that used to benefit from hiding information or taking advantage of other peoples' ignorance. I hope to write in greater depth about this in future, as it's a fascinating area of social study.

In the meantime, this particular training film from 1948 takes an interesting route in examining real human needs - indicating that people buy products for six reasons: comfort, economy, safety, durability, appearance and performance. We then learn that if we can determine which of these six reasons a prospective customer is interested in, we'll be more likely to make a sale.

If the dark side of capitalism is about taking advantage of others, creating false needs and flogging useless products, then I think its humanitarian face is that which innovates and creates ideas, skills and products that truly helps others. As I've mentioned before, the information revolution creates an environment that is far more likely to give rise to the latter. Only then will we be helping others and, as this video emphasises, giving people what they want.

A man smoking a cigaretteKeep an eye out for the "performance in a cigarette" segment at around the 12:40 mark. Some classic ignorance there, but it makes you wonder whether people 60 years in the future will possibly look at our lifestyles and think of how ignorant we were - using our brain cancer causing smartphones or drinking heart-damaging "energy drinks".

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