My Pumpkin Lady’s Secret to Business Success

by Elizabeth Lang on 21 October 2011 1 comment
Photo: chucka_nc

This weekend I went shopping at the local farmers market. We weren't looking for anything in particular, just browsing for what looked good.

While browsing, we noticed a giant posterboard sign titled "Award Winning Recipe." There were several delicious-looking pictures of stuffed pumpkins followed by an "easy" recipe. The recipe used simple ingredients that you would find in almost any kitchen: rice, onions, carrots, and some spices. And what else did you need? Two small pie pumpkins.

The stand featuring the award winning recipe sold, of course, pie pumpkins. The owner of the stand came over with a copy of the recipe, helped us pick out two pumpkins, took our cash, and wished us well. (See also: The 9 Secrets of Successful Craiglist Sellers)

A few things were notable about this pumpkin lady's stand. It only sold one item — pie pumpkins. Most farmers market stands feature multiple types of items — even the specialty stands will have a variety of whatever they are selling, be it the "apple stand" with Courtland, Honeycrisp, Harlsons, and MacIntosh, or the potato stand with fingerling, red, and Yukon gold potatoes. But the pumpkin lady only sold pie pumpkins, all about the same size and shape. And she had very few left that morning.

Personally, I've never bought a pie pumpkin before in my life. It never occurred to me to make anything other than pie with a pie pumpkin. And frankly, given that you can buy canned pumpkin, cooking and carving the real thing seems like too much work. Had you asked me, prior to my trip to the farmers market, what my chances were of buying a pie pumpkin that day — I'm fairly certain they would have been zero. And yet, I walked away from the market with two pie pumpkins.

So, what was the pumpkin lady's secret to selling something most people don't think they need?

She wasn't actually selling pumpkins. She was selling the only remaining ingredient I needed for an easy, award winning recipe — two pie pumpkins. She was selling me what I came to the farmers market for — not individual produce items, but a delicious meal.

The pumpkin lady's secret to business success goes something like this. In business, and in life, you will succeed when you...

  1. Know the end goal of what someone is looking for in the place you're making it available
     
  2. Show the person that you have what they're looking for
     
  3. Provide the single thing that person needs to achieve that end goal

The pumpkin lady sold so many pumpkins because she...

  1. Knew that people were looking for a delicious, seasonable, and fresh meal at the farmers market
     
  2. Provided a recipe complete with pictures of the completed product
     
  3. Sold the pumpkins needed to make that recipe

Many business people know the "hot" buttons for getting a buyer: money, sex, safety. But there are also many underlying needs and wants that can be sold. Determine how you can provide a recipe for the item you're selling, and you'll achieve success.

What business tips have you learned from being an observant consumer?

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So how were the stuffed pumpkins? Where can I find the recipe?