Selling an Experience

Selling an Experience

What business are you really in?

Was I wrong when I said you should offer a price match guarantee?

This question was inspired by reading Jeff Shore's article on, "Don't Wage a Price War. Win Sales by Eliminating Your Competition." A paradigm shift is needed from selling a commodity someone can get anywhere to selling an experience customers can enjoy only with your company. Everyone in your organization needs to have this mindset: We are the ultimate experience provider. We will not be oversold. In fact, if you can find it more expensive somewhere else, we will raise our prices and match it.

  • Don't compete in price wars; compete in experience wars. Sound crazy? Perhaps. However, if this were truly your mindset--if it were everyone's mindset in your company--it would change your approach to the experience you provide. It would force you to deliver the ultimate customer experience. Personally, I get upset if I find out someone is charging more for something either of my businesses sell. I start to think, What are they providing that we aren't? Is it quality, consistency, customer service? What is it? We all need to improve our game and be proud of what we charge relative to the experience we deliver.
  • Employee mindset is wrong. Ask your employees this question: "If customers told you they could get what we sell someplace else for significantly less, what would you do? What would you say to keep them?" You'll probably be disappointed at their answer. Too often when faced with that scenario, employees act almost apologetic and start offering the customer more, or even worse, a discount to justify the price gap. The problem is that your front-line employees may not understand the true value of the services and products they are selling to the customer.
  • Expensive cup of or a free living room? About 10 years ago, the first time I worked with Starbucks, I found out that some baristas felt guilty about charging a customer $5 for a cup of Why? Because that was more than 50 percent of their hourly pay. They couldn't comprehend how someone could pay so much for a cup of coffee. So I started thinking about what they really sell. Then I remembered my favorite sitcom of all time, "Friends," with Ross, Rachelle, Chandler, etc. I remembered them hanging out in their favorite coffeehouse, Central Perk, for hours laughing, having a good time, being "friends." Then I thought about all the times I met someone at a Starbucks. It may be an old school friend, a potential client, a neighbor, brother, or one of my kids. Rarely have I ever spent less than 45 minutes, talking, getting caught up, or building a relationship. Then it hit me: What a deal! They aren't selling an expensive cup of they're selling really inexpensive rent on a living room for people to connect, hang out, and enjoy each other's company.
  • It is not just a triple grande, non-fat decaf iced latte. It is the total experience: the warmth of beautiful surroundings, a friendly community of people (customers and staff) who recognize you, a consistent product, and a place to escape to for hours should you choose. When the baristas realized how important that was to their customers' lives, it changed their perspective on what those customers were getting for their money. The baristas went from feeling guilty to feeling proud of what they sold.

What does your company sell? I hope you take the time to use this exercise and fully develop something that is so strong that your newest employee runs home to tell their parent, spouse, or neighbor, "Hey, you know what business we are really in?"

John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Call him at 216-839-1430 or email

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