Aug 202011

Just Remember: Hope Is What You Are Selling

If you would like to improve the results of your sales and marketing, just remember that hope is what you are selling.  There is very little certainty in life, so with every purchase we make, we are hopeful that it will give us certain results.

There is a deep psychological basis for this “hope,” which is rooted in what you often hear characterized as “people make decisions for two reasons – to avoid fear or to seek pleasure”.  If we explore this a little deeper, the avoiding fear piece seems pretty straightforward; it is, at least in large part, the famous “fight or flight response”.  The “seek pleasure” part is a bit more complex though, as the “pleasure” can come from an extremely wide variety of sources, including the simple hope that certain aspects of our lives will improve or we will get a feeling of comfort and peace, even if for just a short period of time.

Let’s look at a few examples of how we make certain purchases to seek the “pleasure” of hope for a certain feeling.  The first example would be buying and eating candy or junk food.  Why do we do it when we know it has no nutritional value and in fact can be very bad for our health?  We do it because we are hoping that it will give us a pleasurable feeling.  We hope that it will quickly satisfy our sense of hunger and relieve our headache caused by low blood sugar.  We hope that it will satisfy our “sweet tooth” or make us feel happy and soothe our anxiety when we’re depressed or upset about something.  We don’t do it for purely rational reasons; we do it largely for emotional reasons, as we are hoping it will give us a certain feeling.

Now let’s look at a much more expensive purchase:  a luxury car.  Why do we spend two or three times as much money on a luxury car, when there are other perfectly good cars that will get us from point A to point B just as quickly and as safely?  We do it because we hope that having such a car and riding around in it will make us feel good about ourselves.  We hope that it will give us a sense of importance and status in society.  We may also hope that it will give us a sense of exhilaration when we step on the gas pedal and go from 0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds.  We hope that having that luxury car will give us a wide variety of feelings that will make us happy.

We’ve talked about some products, but how about services, even business services.  Are they purchased based on hope as well?  Absolutely.  Just about every purchase that is made in the business world is also based on hope.  As I stated in the beginning, and as you are no doubt aware from your own experiences, there is very little certainty in life.  This is equally true in the business world.  Take, for example, the purchase of strategy consulting services, or coaching services.  What is the hope of the buyer of such services?  Depending on which class of services, the hope is likely for better performance of the business or of the particular executive contracting the services.  The contracting executive could also be hoping to alleviate the workload of his team and free them up for other tasks he hopes to focus on more.  In either case, the purchaser may hope that the improved results lead to a bonus for him or her.   That bonus would then allow them to make other purchases that they hope will give them other good feelings.  You see how the cycle continues.

So now that we’re talking about hope and expectations, we get to another very important point to bear in mind in your sales and marketing:  prospective buyers love testimonials.  Why is that?  Well, given that there is no true certainty that what you’re offering will give them the feeling(s) and results they hope to obtain, they want to hear stories of others who have used your products or services and enjoyed the exact results they are seeking.  This is often referred to as “social proof”.  It’s pretty straightforward, but often overlooked.  Prospective buyers are just trying to close the gap between hope and certainty.  They know they are unlikely to close the gap 100%, but they’d like to get as close as possible, before taking a closer look at your offering and ultimately, taking the risk and pulling the trigger on making a purchase.

This leads us to another fundamental point:  customers are buying benefits, not features.  This notion of hope can help us gain further understanding into why it is so important not to make the common marketing mistake of focusing on the features, rather than the benefits, of your offering.  Prospective customers simply don’t care about the features.  They want to hear about the benefits that are aligned with the feelings and results they are hoping to achieve by buying your product or service.

When you are planning and executing your marketing and selling, make sure you dig deeper to understand the hopes and aspirations of your prospective customer.  This applies equally whether you are selling to consumers or businesses.  Regardless of whether we’re talking about a bottle of perfume or a high-speed copy machine, every prospective customer has hopes attached to their potential purchase.  You must understand at as deep an emotional level as possible what those hopes and aspirations are, and you must then position your offering to be the one that best satisfies them.  If you approach all your marketing and sales from this “hope” perspective, you are likely to be very pleased with the results you achieve.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.  Leave a comment below.


Paul Morin

  • gene bianchi


    I agree on much of what you say about hope and its different aspects. Yet how much does the seller, as a full human being not just a seller, have to think about selling bad stuff? It’s a built-in ethical question. I don’t say that you ignore it, but it may be worth bringing up. So it also comes to hope for what? I know it can get preachy.

  • Gene,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree completely that there is a built-in ethical question. I think this question exists with everything that we think about selling. If you know or feel that you are selling bad products/services and using hope as a tool to make it happen, that would certainly raise some ethical issues. I guess it would raise some ethical issues even if you weren’t using hope as one element of your sales/marketing pitch. On your other point regarding “hope for what,” I think it depends very much on what you’re selling. As you know, people buy different products and services in the hope of achieving a certain feeling or outcome. The nature of that feeling or outcome would depend on the individual making the purchase and the product/service being bought.

    I appreciate your comments, Gene. They are thought-provoking.


  • Thank you for another great post. I never thought of it that way but you´re right. I´ll buy this product in the hope of getting thinner without exercising, I´ll pay for English classes in the hope of getting a better job (and not because I´m interested in the language). = )

  • Yes, María, I think that almost no matter what the purchase is, there’s always some hope behind it. But that’s OK — as long as we’re aware of it and understand it as well as we can, we can tailor our marketing for maximum effect.