Comments and emails about the first article in this series (NLP and Sales 1) got me thinking about what works and what doesn’t work in dealing with potential customers.. and about one of my pet hates in selling: the ‘We are proud to announce’ tactic. In this approach the selling company runs a campaign along the lines: We are proud to announce…
… the launch of our new range/catalogue/etc
… the appointment of Jack or Jill to our team
… the opening of our new store
… our new brand/logo/livery
Yes, they’re proud of these, which is fine and laudable, but to think their customers should be in the least interested is quite amazing! What they are actually conveying to their customers is ‘we’re self-centred and self-serving – and quite uninterested in you – except insofar as how you can help us make more money!’
The company is thinking ‘they’ll be impressed by us!’ The customer is thinking ‘So what? What does this mean for me?’
This self-congratulatory approach is very common. It’s selling ‘your’ way rather than the customer’s way! The customer is not interested in what you are proud of. Amazing as it may seem, the customer isn’t even interested in you. The customer is interested in… the customer.
WIIFM: what’s in it for me
So if we wish to influence customers we’d better start thinking their way and from their point of view – because that’s what they do.
In NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming we talk about ‘meeting people in their model of the world’ i.e. learning what it is like to be somebody before we attempt to influence them. Stephen Covey (of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame) suggests the same thing i.e. first understand people and them begin to influence them.
Customers are interested in themselves and their needs. If you want their attention and their interest and their custom you’d better look at things from their point of view and pitch your message in terms of their needs, their solutions, the benefits for them, etc. In other words you’d better start thinking about what it is like to be them.
In NLP we have a deceptively simple little technique for developing this attitude. It’s called Perceptual Positions or Different Perspectives and is a way of developing the ability to put ourselves in other peoples shoes.
Self-centred marketing in action
This was how I was thinking a little while ago as I drove out to one of our NLP Core Skills courses in the New Forest. I was thinking along these lines because the Different Perspectives technique was one of the topics for the day. So I began looking out to see if I could come up with an example of this self focused approach to sales and marketing to use in the session.
It turned out that there were examples everywhere!
- The huge sign outside the newly built block of flats which shouted ‘Only 5% left!!’ Yes, not surprisingly, they were counting how many sales they had made 95% no less – nearly there!!! And well done you! But, looking at it from the customer’s point of view, who cares! It might have been better to have said something like ‘Only two flats left!’
- Driving along the dual carriageway I noticed a van ahead of me in the inside lane with eye-catching livery. As I drew nearer I could see a phone number on the van but not what they sold. As I passed them I got a glimpse that it was something to do with websites. Lovely paint job. Poor selling job. If the van had a simple ‘we sell great widgets – now here’s how to contact us’ it might have worked in the few seconds in which a customer might be exposed to the message.
- And just before I left the dual carriageway I noticed a couple of other vans with company name or product – but no easy way of contacting them that was easily discernible.
- Finally I passed a farm selling their own produce. They’d got a large hand written chalk board outside their gate “Organic meat and vegetables here”. A simple message – written in a way that enabled passing traffic to quickly get the message. Because they’d thought about it from the customer’s perspective.
At the NLP Core Skills course the group came up with lots of further examples of their experiences of self-focussed rather than customer-focussed, thinking. Which suggests how many opportunities exist out there for a more consultative approach to selling – an approach that asks what the customer is proud of… rather than tells what the company is proud of.