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The Authoritative Yet Irrelevant Sales Pitch

big_green_egg_largeMarketers and sales guys love a sales pitch that sounds authoritative, yet is irrelevant. Too bad customers don’t.

Example: the Big Green Egg. It’s a BBQ grill. Living in Texas, I am an authority on BBQ grills. In fact, I have my own set of grilling tools in a monogrammed case. Seems pretty authoritative. I grill with propane, which some people think makes me a grilling dilettante (grilletante?), but Hank Hill uses propane. That makes it legitimate in my eyes. Also, I’m enough of a grilling expert that I understand that it’s mostly about drinking Modelo Especial while playing with fire anyway.

A number of my friends who also consider themselves authorities on grilling use a grill called the Big Green Egg. In fact, they think of themselves as more authoritative than me, because the Big Green Egg does not use propane. It uses coal and/or wood. And they probably drink craft brews rather than Modelo Especial while grilling. Purists. (I didn’t say “snobs.” But you can.)

I looked at the Big Green Egg when shopping for a grill. Here’s why I didn’t buy one: the big feature that the salesperson relied on in the pitch was irrelevant.

“The Big Green Egg isn’t like other BBQ grills,” the salesman said. “It’s engineered from the ground up to distribute the heat evenly for a better grilling experience. Notice that the surface doesn’t get hot when you cook? That’s because it’s made from the same ceramic material used to shield the space shuttle during re-entry.”

Good to know. I hadn’t planned on plummeting my BBQ grill through the atmosphere from space. If I were planning that, though, I would definitely buy a Big Green Egg. As it is, I want something that’s easy to fire up while I drink Modelo Especial.

Firing up a space shuttle while drinking Modelo Especial is, I’m pretty sure, a really bad idea.

Interestingly, every Big Green Egg owner that I talk with comes back to that part of the pitch. “It’s the same ceramic material used to shield the space shuttle.” OK, it’s a differentiator that no other grill can claim. But, authoritative as it sounds, it’s an irrelevant pitch. Not one of my grilling friends has ever plummeted their BBQ grill through the atmosphere.

Some have tried to make the case that the benefit is that the surface remains cool, so you and your children don’t risk getting burned. If that’s a benefit, it’s a peripheral one. I’ve been grilling for years and never burned myself on the grill surface. My kids know that it’s hot and stay away. And the sales guy didn’t make that case anyway…he just kept talking about the space shuttle. Completely irrelevant.

A feature is not a benefit. A grill is not a space shuttle. And a differentiator that doesn’t make a difference is irrelevant. Focus on the things that make your product better for your customer, not the cool-sounding things that aren’t relevant to solving your customers’ problems.

  • Artie Gold

    Alas, it *is* a feature. It really is. It’s the pitch that’s the problem.

    The real point is that if it’s remains cool to the touch on the outside, it isn’t *radiating* the heat; in other words, the heat that’s being created by rapidly (or not so rapidly) oxidizing the fuel is remaining within the capsule, performing its magic of altering the nature in the chemical bonds in the formerly living tissue placed within that heated chamber.
    And to think that most of the first decade of my career was in advertising. Well, let’s clarify: The company I worked for was in advertising. I helped keep them furnished with numbers.

  • Russ_Somers

    Artie, thanks for the comment and good to hear from you!

     I don’t disagree that it’s a feature, as it’s different enough to rise above being a mere attribute (all features are attributes, but only some attributes are features). The issue is that it hasn’t been properly translated into a benefit. Does the fact that it remains cool on the outside make the food taste better? If not, the benefit remains 1) arguably a bit more comfort, and 2) a bit less risk of being burned. Those things are nice, but not nice enough to justify the price delta vs a more traditional grill. Yet the sales team continues to lead with it…because they’d rather talk about the feature that seems sexy to them, rather than the benefits that are meaningful to the client. Or else they think their clients plan to launch their grills through space. Which I would do myself if enough Estes rocket engines Duct-taped together would do the trick