‘Tis the season to squeeze as much money out of your customers as humanly possible! I know that’s not the standard phrase – it’s ‘tis the season to eat jelly,’ in case you were wondering – but the desire to trick people into paying us is always hiding just under the surface. You can hear it in the gleefully desperate pleas of Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertisements everywhere. Pretty soon there will be a Pay Me Tuesday and Fork It Over Wednesday to go along with those, and when they happen I’d like credit for coming up with those names.
The point is, we are all always trying to get people to pay us. Even this article has deep in its core the sneaky, devious, ulterior motive of hoping that you find me interesting enough to hire someday. We are all playing the same game, and all of us know we’re playing it, which makes it difficult to do anything to stand out amongst the hordes of others trying to convince you to pay them instead.
So what can you do to connect with your customers in a way that will win you their business instead of watching it go somewhere else? If everyone is doing the same thing, how can you distinguish yourself?
Look People In the Eye
I’m amazed at how uncommon this one is. I just had a guy show up on my door asking if he could shovel my driveway, and he never once looked me in the eye. Not even when we were shaking hands. I don’t mean to suggest this is the only reason I didn’t hire him – I also use driveway shoveling as a sufficient amount of exercise to allow me to skip the gym without feeling like a total lardball – but it doesn’t help establish the rapport I’d like to have with a stranger who has just asked me to pay him for something. So as much as possible, try to be present with your customers. It’s hard to convince them that you care about them if you’re staring at something else.
Focus on Stories, Not Data
Technical specifications are essential for people to know in order to make sure they’re buying the right thing, but they don’t tug at the heart strings. So try as much as possible to attach a story to the thing you’re selling. A video showing me how easy it is to fold a high chair won’t win me over nearly as much as a video showing me a toddler trying to climb into that same high chair so he can eat dinner. Every business has stories begging to be shared, including yours. It might take longer to tell them than it does to print a spec sheet, but it works better too.
Solve Their Problem, Not Yours
That’s what’s at the heart of this article. I’m not asking you to hire me here. I’m genuinely hoping that this advice is useful to you, and if it turns into you hiring me someday, that’s great. If it doesn’t, though, I’m OK with that. A lot of other companies do this, too. Coca-Cola barely sells a soft drink; instead, they sell the idea of connecting with others, and by the way it might be a little better if you have a Coke too. It’s worked out pretty well for them, I think. Trusting that the money will come if you put others first is not always easy to do, but it tends to work out.
Good luck this holiday season, and remember to eat as much jelly as possible. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a Coke. Not because I especially want one, but because it’s the only way to catch a polar bear that I’m aware of.