Selling on Values Instead of Value

Two options lay before them on the table.

  1. Part with cash and buy your product
  2. Keep their cash and leave your product

We’re taught to show the value of the product so you can sway more people in your favor.

“Sell them on the value, not on price,” is common sales advice.

“Sell them on your values instead of value,” is far less common advice.

Below is a video from Professor Dan Ariely, a highly renowned researcher of behavioral economics at Duke University.

The entire four minute video is thought-provoking, but pay extra attention at the 1:30 mark when he discusses the sales of the Toyota Prius vs. the Civic Hybrid.

This is a pretty interesting theory that Professor Ariely brings up. He says the look of the Prius speaks louder to the ego of the eco-friendly consumer when compared to the normal looking Civic Hybrid. Take a look at the chart below that documents the year-by-year sales of both cars from 2002 – 2011.

2004 prius takes off

Notice how the sales were pretty close in 2002 and 2003. Then, in 2004, the Toyota Prius started to speed away as the industry leader in hybrid car sales. Take a look at how Prius redesigned their eco-friendly car in 2004.

2003 Prius


2004 Prius

2004 Toyota Prius

Now look at the chart again, focusing on the year 2004. That was the year Prius ran away with the hybrid market, and it was also the year of their bold redesign. I remember people saying how ugly it was.

It didn’t matter, though, because that car was beautiful to the people who buy hybrids.

If they’re driving a Prius, what’s driving the ego?

The Prius provides a better opportunity to let other people know what your values are. The values are, in turn, driving the ego that effected the purchasing decision.

Values > Ego > Purchase

So, for the Prius purchaser, it looks like this:

Values (Eco-friendly) > Ego (I want people to know this about me) > Purchase (Buy the Prius)

This Values > Ego > Purchase concept is also apparent in “buy one, give one” models.

Toms shoes are purchased because people have values associated with world causes. Toms provides an opportunity to let others know about those values via your footwear… while also providing a free pair of shoes.

Your values shape more purchasing decisions than you think.

The watch you do or don’t wear, the type of deli meats you buy, and the way you make your coffee… Are these daily acts associated with our values, too?

Selling a Keurig on the wrong values

I foolishly once tried to sell my parents on the idea of getting a Keurig. I told them how convenient it was and how much I enjoyed mine.

My pitch was coming from my values (efficiency and convenience) and ignoring their values of love, nostalgia, and using their daily coffee grinds as enriching mulch.

It might just be a coffee pot to me, but it is decades of a morning coffee ritual with one another for them. Our differing values clearly impact our morning coffee experiences. One value isn’t better than another, but trying to “sell” a Keurig based on my values without considering the values of others was sure to flop.

If you’re trying to sell on product value and still coming up short, try thinking about what personal values can be infused into your brand. Making connections with customers based on mutual values will go a long way in building your brand and increasing your sales conversions.

When someone buys your product/service, you want them to be able to associate it with those values.

So ask yourself, what values are you associating to your brand?

Data on car sales: Wiki
Photo credit:
Hat Tip: Professor Ariely