Posted by Alan Nazarelli ● Tue, Sep 27, 2022 @ 02:02 PM

Aspirational Marketing Part 2: Aspirational Selling


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A few weeks ago, we created a post titled Aspirational Marketing, a term we coined to explain our observations on how, during our Executive Opinion interviews, business and technical leaders readily share their aspirations and, without much prompting, but needed to be prompted to share their pain points, which we are frequently asked to probe for at the behest of our sponsoring clients. Clients want to learn about pain points because the prevailing wisdom for some time now in Marketing and Sales has been "sell to their pain points", i.e., sell the aspirin, not the vitamin as we recently heard at a sales motivation webinar. In that blog post, we postulated a contrarian view that if Senior Executives have to be prompted to articulate their pain points, but so freely share their aspirations, then why not sell to their aspirations? Which is likely to have stronger motivational pull and therefore propensity to purchase. It feels natural, therefore, that Aspirational Selling follow Aspirational Marketing, hence this post.

In Aspirational Marketing, we proposed five questions to guide marketing content creation that addressed both prospects' articulated and unarticulated aspirations. Unarticulated aspirations are hidden from view because prospects are frequently guarded about sharing their truest ambitions which they hope will also help propel their career advancements. They certainly will not be too open about these with fellow executives who they view as potential competitors for these personal aspirations. Sellers therefore need to "prepare the ground" for the aspiration-eliciting questions, as we had to in our research interviews, by accomplishing two things:

  1. Engender buyer trust. Becoming their "consigliere"-create conditions whereby the buyer can have a "privileged" conversation with the seller, one akin to a conversation they could have with their attorney.
  2. Compellingly and masterfully link their solution's benefits to their aspirations.

There are volumes published in sales training and literature about point 1 above so, we won't try to reinvent the wheel and address it here. Engendering trust will go a long way to helping sellers engage buyers in these "privileged" conversations. On the second point, the seller's training and skills are called upon. We propose therefore that, to be implemented at scale, Aspirational Selling be placed into the agendas of corporate sellers and sales enablement leaders. We are conducting additional customer research and at the end of this post. We have provided a link if you are interested in becoming a sponsor in exchange for the right to insert proprietary and/or publication rights when we syndicate our findings in early 2023.

5 questionsBelow are five questions that have been tested through our research interviews to ensure that buyers' aspirations are uncovered that your sellers can take for a test run.

  1. The Magic Wand Question: If you could wave a magic wand and get three wishes to create your ideal [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake etc.], what would they be?
  2. The Future-Scape Question: If we were to have a conversation two years from now, and you were able to create your ideal [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake, etc.], what would it look like?
  3. The Do-Over Question: If you had an opportunity to set up your [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake, etc.] all over again today, what would you do differently?
  4. The If...Then Question: These are designed to elicit internal decision rules and can yield powerful insights when your product co-exists with other complementary or substitute offerings. These get best results when asked by a third-party (consultant, partner or research provider): What if...then rules, either formal or informal, does your organization have for which use cases call for the use of [product x] versus the use of [product y]? This question is a great conversation opener for a broader discussion around the utility and efficacy of your product in a complex multi-solution environment.
  5. The Looking-Ahead Question: The "mirror image" of our future-scape question above. Looking ahead, what are top two [or three] ways would you like to see your [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake etc.) evolve over the next two years?


Alan Nazarelli is President & CEO of Silicon Valley Research Group.

Topics: Market Research Best Practice