From the Lab: Sell Experiences, Not Things

In The Science of Speaking, I advise you to consider all of the things that might motivate people when pitching, not just the obvious ones like money. Today’s post is a subtle addition to this advice.

It’s based on the fact that experiences make people happier than material possessions. Across a variety of demographics, researchers have found that “experiential purchases—those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience—[make people] happier than material purchases.” This is true both in hindsight (looking back at purchases already made) and foresight (looking forward to purchases that might be made in the future).

This means that when making your pitch, it’s often better to focus on the experience(s) the audiences will gain if they accept your ask (or the experiences they’ll miss out on if they don’t), rather than the material possessions they will gain. As an example I’ve used before (to illustrate the power of emotional appeals), take Sam Mendes’ FaceTime commercial: rather than focusing on the product itself—an iPhone 4—it focuses on the amazing experiences it enables. When you focus on selling experiences, not things, you’ll likely sell a whole lot more.

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