Turn Want into Need

Early in my sales career I was told that a main part of my job was to turn a customer’s want into his need. Someone may want to purchase your product or service, but until they feel the need they likely will not. When I was discussing this adage with my Dad, a career salesman, he used our local amusement park (Kennywood – the best park ever) as an example when he noted that they add new rides each year creating that need to go back and experience those rides.

Wants and needs are poles apart and are separated by the degree of necessity. A “want” is something you would like to have, but don’t really need. It is a desire, a wish, or something of a luxury. A “need” is something you must have, a necessity. By its very definition, the word “need” has its origin in the Latin word necessarius, meaning that which is unavoidable or indispensable. Needs range from basic survival needs (water, food, shelter) to cultural, intellectual, and social needs (i.e. we need an educated society, Governments need to collect taxes).

Try explaining this concept to a teen who wants the latest Apple product or a child who just saw an ad for the hot new toy. They don’t “want” them, they “need” them. That’s the power of advertising. Advertisers carefully craft messages to turn wants into perceived needs. Think of all the things we consider necessities today that years ago (or even today in other cultures) would be luxuries: a smartphone, a latte, shopping online, food delivery services, etc. A successful advertising message transcends the audience perceptions of needs and wants. It creates an emotional appeal that subtly convinces the audience that the item being promoted will make a difference in their lives by either making them happy, giving them status, or satisfying a desire.

While doing career talks at the High School, I would share this concept and advise the students that they are already practicing being a salesperson. When they want the car for Saturday night, they have to sell their parents that they need the car.

We must learn to distinguish between those things we want and those things we need. We must identify our must-haves and the reason why. Our needs must have a reason. Needs can be those wants that have a purpose. If we do not really need it and the want lacks drive, then we are likely to find that the status quo is fine.

It is a simple premise, when we transform our wants into must-haves, it changes the motivation and the accountability factor. Wanting to do something gets replaced with needing to do something and that makes all the difference.

I have seen firsthand where companies or organizations want to improve, grow, be more successful yet they never get to that higher level.  If it is simply just a “want” with no real business requirement driving it, it is likely not to happen. Growing a $25 million department within a $2 Billion company does not get the attention or resources that a startup company gets to make it first profit; an Athletic program at a highly academic focused university doesn’t really need to win championships.

Over the past few years my weight has crept upwards. For a while I have wanted to lose that extra weight and made some good-hearted efforts. However, it wasn’t working. Finally I decided I needed to live a healthier lifestyle. I am down 20 pounds as I write this blog with a health and wellness program to change my eating habits. I was motivated by the desire to be proactive about my health today and not be regretful later in life.

Do we want Christ in our life, or do we need Christ in our life? It is easy to want Christ as part of our life but for many of us, is it a “must-have?” Is the status quo fine? To transform our lives, Christ must become the focus. Again, it is a simple premise.

This Sunday is Pentecost where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles to fill them with God’s love and purpose. I think it is a great example of the want becoming a need. Since Jesus’ ascension the Apostles have been waiting and wanting to spread the good news of Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s presence created the purpose within the Apostles and fueled the need to share God’s Word.

To be all that God has in store for us requires that we stop believing the status quo is fine and be transformed. Christ in our life is indispensable. As the Apostles did, we too must allow the Holy Spirit to ignite our purpose such that we feel the need to be ‘Christ-like’ in who we are and what we do.

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