Home > Social Influence > Can you sell ice cubes to Eskimos?

Can you sell ice cubes to Eskimos?

This question came up in another thread. Thought it might be an interesting topic.

Can you sell ice cubes to Eskimos? - by KSA-Mktg
This question came up in another thread. Thought it might be an interesting topic.

Can you sell ice cubes to Eskimos?
Sure, why not? - by Liberty
I was thinking maybe special IMPORTED ice cubes...you know, for the upwardly, and otherwise trendy Eskimo. - by RainMaker
In all seriousness, selling ice cubes to Eskimos shouldn't be as difficult as it might sound. Not too unlike selling "Water" to folks who live on or near water.

If I had to do it I would focus on the "Quality" of the water being used. After all, who wants dirty ice cubes? Yuk! - by Liberty
OK, maybe trendy ice cubes.


But, do you think you can sell someone something they don't want or need? Can a skillful sales person sell anything to anyone? or does it also depend on the customer being disposed to purchase? - by KSA-Mktg
But, do you think you can sell someone something they don't want or need? Can a skillful sales person sell anything to anyone?
In general, "Yes."

...does it also depend on the customer being disposed to purchase?
In a word, "No." - by Liberty
OK, maybe trendy ice cubes.


But, do you think you can sell someone something they don't want or need? Can a skillful sales person sell anything to anyone? or does it also depend on the customer being disposed to purchase??
Something they don't NEED but WANT...YES definitely! That covers at least have of the market out there!

As for something they don't WANT or need, theoretically the likelihood of that seems quite slim WITHOUT convincing them that they DO want or need it. - by RainMaker
...convincing them that they DO want or need it.
Therein lies the key. - by Liberty
Therein lies the key.
Uh uh..I see no key here. Please share how you would do that. How do you sell something to somebody who doesn't want or need it? Give us the words. - by Gary Boye
Uh uh..I see no key here.
They "key" is convincing the prospect "that they DO want or need" your offering.

How do you sell something to somebody who doesn't want or need it?
You persuade them to hold a different viewpoint. - by Liberty
The way I see it is that you can
  • point out a previously unidentified need or want
  • show a prospect how your product/service meets their needs or wants.
  • And, sometimes you can "change their mind" about your product by explaining how it works so they can see how it meets their needs/wants.
But, I would never assume that you can convince people they need or want your product if they really don't.

Maybe a small difference, but I think it makes a big difference in how you approach your job. - by KSA-Mktg
The way I see it, people change their minds all of the time and not by some mysterious or coercive process. They simply hold a different perspective.

Let's use "ice cubes and Eskimos" for an example. The hypothetical "Eskimo" might believe without a shadow of a doubt that he/she has no want or need for "ice cubes". Through the perspective of "water is water" this belief makes sense.

However, what if our hypothetical Eskimo was shown how not all water is the same and that the reason for much of the fatal disease in the local area was due to a microbial contamination called Cryptosporidium which is known to exist in 86% of lakes, rivers and streams?

In addition, what if our hypothetical Eskimo was informed that there is no medical cure for Crypto and that pregnant women, children, and the frail elderly were vulnerable to this potentially fatal disease?

Now, after being shown a new view (perspective) on "water and ice" do you think our hypothetical Eskimo will hold the same belief that "water is water" and continue to "want" to drink the local supply?

I doubt it! - by Liberty
Then, I guess we're all talking about the same thing. Pointing out a previously unidentified problem is certainly a valid sales tool.

My interpretation of the expression "selling ice cubes to Eskimos" has always been "selling someone a product they neither want or need". What I thought you meant was that if you were a REALLY good sales person, you could convince the Eskimo that rather than freeze their meat in a back room of the igloo, they really needed the ice cubes to keep things frozen.

Sounds like we agree that a person can't really be "sold" unless they want or need the product. - by KSA-Mktg
My belief is that "perspective" determines what options/actions are available and acceptable. Change the perspective and you change the reality. - by Liberty
Then, I guess we're all talking about the same thing. Pointing out a previously unidentified problem is certainly a valid sales tool......
......Sounds like we agree that a person can't really be "sold" unless they want or need the product.
I don't think we're talking about the same thing. First of all, I think Liberty wins the point here--providing the presentation on Cryptosporidium is factual and it may very well be. If not, of course, then it's just a fictional example to resolve a fictional issue.

In Liberty's example, we see the implementation of "disturb" selling to help make the sale. But more importantly,we see something which is really quite advanced. Liberty doesn't go after the "need" which is being discussed here. Instead, Liberty finds the risk.


My interpretation of the expression "selling ice cubes to Eskimos" has always been "selling someone a product they neither want or need".
That is also my interpretation of that expression. I'm going to take a wild guess that nobody on this forum is actually in the ice cube business targeting the Eskimo market. I interpret Kathleen's use of that well-traveled hypothethis to suggest that she was posing a question concerning how much persuasion plays a part in professional selling. Even among the best, two camps seem to exist. Simply put, one says that selling is persuasion. The other says that we are smarter to spend our time locating people who want what we offer, and spending as little time as possible with people who don't want what we have. The latter usually is strategic and systematic. The former relies on tactics, skillful presentation, and mild aggressiveness. Both camps have people who make big money.

One observation--The people who earn good money and are of the persuasion mindset share that mindset with novices in selling and those who can't cut the mustard. On the other hand, it's very rare for a person who is committed to a system, such as in the latter category, to be unsuccessful.

I belong to the latter category and yet I could demonstrate great presentations skills, and, implement tactics and techniques at will. I choose not to rely on persuasion, because I prefer my own system. I think I would stay with my system even if they found traces of Cryptosporidium in it. - by Gary Boye
Gary,

I think you summarized the entire issue extremely well! I, too, am in the strategic and systematic category. And, yes, there is such a thing as a Cryptosporidium, so I think Liberty should get points just for knowing about it!

Kathleen - by KSA-Mktg
Can you imagine how successful a salesperson could be if he/she learned how to bridge both camps. - by Liberty
Can you imagine how successful a salesperson could be if he/she learned how to bridge both camps.
I would say I am in the middle ground. If my first contact brings on a "no thanks," I usually make sure it is poured in concrete before hanging up or walking out. My general philosophy is to look for people who say "hey, I've been wanting to get one of those..." (your 2nd group), but there are many people when I throw in a last ditch question just before hang up, suddenly engage in a discussion. I have found many of these people are able to step away from their predisposed opinion and consider what you are saying and some even turn into sales. These few sales that could have easily been left on the table (based on the first few sentences) greatly increase my productivity.

There are others, on which I don't waste my breath. Thanks, have a nice day....CLICK. NEXT. I can usually tell the two apart and if not, the last ditch question seperates out the potentials. - by RainMaker
Can you imagine how successful a salesperson could be if he/she learned how to bridge both camps.
Actually it's more common in actual practice than this thread would reveal. Working with a selling system does not preclude good communication and perseverence. One of the well known proprietary systems is the Sandler Sales System developed by the late David Sandler. He was a proponent of manipulation and implied that you couldn't really remove it from selling nor would you want to. I don't know Kathleen except from her presence here, but I'm willing to bet that she knows the power of well placed bad grammar, run-on sentences, and idioms in selling situations.

Here's another example. I mentioned Liberty finding the risk, and I described it as "advanced". That is strategic, not tactical.

So when we're talking about persuasion, it is not that a strategist or systems devotee would forsake that important element in selling, it's just that we would not define it as such. We would place much more emphasis on finding and converting. - by Gary Boye
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