Transformations Are Sold, Tools Are Purchased

Selling Tools vs Selling Transformations in Entrepreneurship

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned an important lesson that, if I knew earlier, I could have benefitted greatly. That lesson is: tools are bought, but transformations are sold. In this article, I’ll delve further into the meaning behind this phrase and provide some tips on how to successfully sell a transformational product.

Tools vs Transformations

When I talk about tools, I refer to products that fit into a well-understood category. Customers are familiar with the category, and they know what other products are in that category. Furthermore, they may have even used another tool in the category previously. Customers do not have to learn much to understand the tool’s function, nor do they have to rethink how they do things to implement it. Tools examples include a to-do list app or a time tracking system.

On the other hand, when I talk about transformations, I refer to products that require a complete or partial business rethinking. Sometimes adopting a transformational product requires rethinking a career; it requires transformational change. Convincing professional marketers to change everything they have learned and accomplished in their years of experience in inbound marketing was not easy. Hubspot, which initially sold an early inbound marketing platform, had to convince marketers that all their conventional ways of marketing were less relevant now.

Tools Are Bought, Transformations Are Sold

One can easily put up an informative website, explain the tool and provide a way for customers to buy it to sell a tool. However, selling a transformational product requires more than that. Prospective customers must first be convinced that change is necessary before selling a product. Therefore, if an entrepreneur has a transformational product, they need salespersons to sell—not those with aggressive tactics interested in quickly closing in sales, but those who understand that prospective customers must be sold on change before even starting product conversations.

Tips on Selling a Transformative Product

1. Storytelling

Transformational products require storytelling. Entrepreneurs must inform the customer about the world’s changes and how companies need to adjust or leverage these changes.

2. Collaborate on Advocacy

Collaborating with competitors will help increase the size of the pie and spread the word faster.

3. Build a Community

Entrepreneurs should create a community that supports converts’ business decisions, helps them connect with others, recognizes their achievements, and offers support.

4. Hire Appropriate Salespeople

Entrepreneurs should hire salespersons who can teach the customer about the importance of change. If they start with aggressive salespersons, they may fail.

5. Offer Early Hand-Holding

Entrepreneurs may consider offering early hand-holding to early customers. While this may not scale, it will help customers be successful. When a product has many customers, entrepreneurs can worry about scaling it up.


Entrepreneurs must learn to differentiate selling tools and selling transformations. They must also understand that transformations require storytelling, collaboration, community building, appropriate salespersons, and early hand-holding. With this knowledge, entrepreneurs can successfully sell their transformational product.

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