It was a dark and stormy night. OK, that’s a cheesy opening. Bear with me.

You’re on a ship in a storm. You’re an excellent swimmer. In spite of some nervousness, you stand solidly at the ship’s rail. Suddenly, a man is washed overboard. He’s in trouble. He can barely swim.

“Try the side stroke,” you scream. Mimicking the motions from the deck. “It’s easier”.

“Throw me the life ring,” he screams back.

“No really” you say. “Swimming is easy. Just do this,” you say, pantomiming the motions.

Swear words scream from the drowning man’s lips as he shouts at you to throw him the life ring.

“How rude,” you think. “Doesn’t he know I’m trying to help him?”

Sound ridiculous?

If you’re shaking your head saying “I would never do that. I’d throw him the life ring,” than think again. I see this one all the time in business.

People often try to teach people what they think they really need, rather than meeting people in the immediate situation of what they want. In other words, you can’t teach stress relief to someone who just wants the pain in their back to stop. First you have to help them heal their back pain.

The spark that ignites your wildfire is the problem you solve for others. But here’s the kicker. They need to know they have the problem, and really want to solve it, or they’ll think you’re an idiot trying to teach them to swim when all they really need is a life ring.

In the words of Shawne Duperon, you need to “meet them where they’re at, in order to take them where you want them to go”.

Three tips:

1. Design what you sell to the most immediate pressing pain your customers have. Often what motivated you to get into this line of work was overcoming adversity yourself. So go back and think about your mindset when you were in that adversity. It’ll be your first clue.

2. Be specific. The more people think you’re an expert in their pain, the more likely they are to buy from you and the more they’ll pay you.

3. Not sure? Ask them. Surveys are a great way to find out the words your customers or audience would use. Facebook is one of the best survey tools out there. Post a question to your status feed and see what conversation comes back. You may be pleasantly surprised!