Sales and marketing professionals, repeat after me: No one cares about you.
Sure, sure; your kids, parents, friends, and significant others do.
BUT, you aren’t trying to convince them to buy anything from you.
Do you recognize yourself or your sales (or marketing) teams in this photo here?
Don’t be that guy.
This isn’t rocket science: to win business you must be focused on your customers. Do you know what your customers and prospects want or have you only paid just enough attention to fake it?
If you’re slick and have enough charisma, you can fake it. Uninformed customers can be hoodwinked by your bullshit.
Of course, once they realize that you don’t give a damn about them, how long do you think they’ll be your customer?
Storytime — Buying Cars
I’ve only bought three new cars (to go with one hand-me-down Mazda GLZ, complete with poop stain on the front seat from when my younger brother had a diaper malfunction — there’s a still-vivid memory; and four other used vehicles).
I’ll set aside the Saturn experience of simply paying the price on the car. That was nice. Haggling sucks.
Of the other two purchase experiences, I’ve had the displeasure of meeting the “used car salesman” stereotype.
About ten years ago my then girlfriend, now wife wanted a Mazda 3 or something else the same size. The sales guy would not shut up with pushing us to other deals, floor models, and larger models that either weren’t what she wanted our outside the budget.
He was finally called away and, on our own, we wandered the lot and she found the Mazda 3 she wanted. He barely pretended to listen. All he wanted to do was sell a car with the largest possible commission for himself.
Fast forward to a few years ago and we were looking to replace our Ford Explorer (a Carmax buy, loved Carmax, but we wanted new). On a whim, we dropped into Apple Ford after my daughter’s soccer game one Saturday. Four hours later, we drove off in our shiny new Ford Explorer.
Wary after our last experience with a new car, we weren’t looking forward to talking to a car salesman. We told the guy we wanted another Explorer (we had done ZERO research). He kept asking questions: Basics or bells and whistles? Pets? How many? Leather seats or cloth? Color preferences? Do you do any biking or hiking? Kids?
We ended up with two choices, either perfect for us. We opted for the one with heated seats because a warm ass on a cold morning is delightful.
What’s the point here? We NEVER went back to that Mazda dealership. For anything. If I ever want another Mazda, ain’t going there. The Ford salesman listened to what we wanted and even steered us past higher end SUVs that weren’t a good fit and would have given him a larger commission.
As for service, the reason we were at Apple in the first place was because of the great job they had done keeping our old Explorer running.
Are You Helping or Just a Used Car Salesman?
I wrote a version of this post years ago directed at copier salespeople, who have a reputation of only wanted to move boxes and on to the next victim, er, customer.
Don’t. Be. “Awesome.” Guy.
Listen, then speak.
That means hearing what your prospects and customers say; not just nodding along until you grab an opening to make your sales pitch.
Your new sales pitch is about helping them.
Helping them solve their problems.
There’s a Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid movie (with a young Scarlett Johansson) called In Good Company (pretty good movie). A scene at the end summarizes what a good salesperson should care about.
After making a magazine ad sale to a long-time client (there’s some great stuff in the scene about the value of relationships too), as they leave, Quaid’s character says to Topher Grace, “And you know what the best thing is? It’s the right thing to do. It’ll improve his business.”
There’s another great quote from Quaid about sales that I loved too:
We’re still selling a product, right? Which hopefully someone needs. We’re human beings with other human beings for customers.
I explored this topic a while back here, When It Comes to Marketing: Always Be Human.
Be Their Partner
I like to feel like the person I’m buying something from cares, at least a little, about my success.
You can’t do that if you’re mouth is engaged all the time.
So shut it. Listen. Become a partner in your customers’ success.
They’ll remain your customer for a long time.
Of course, I believe content marketing is a strategy that will help you help your customers. And I’d be happy to help you with that — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonus movie scene: Who else cringed at all of the synergy crap from the 90s and 2000s? Always loved this scene which shows how much synergy was just a bunch of words and bullshit and usually just an excuse to fire people so stocks would go up and execs could get paid. Anyway, soapbox. Off. Enjoy.