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Don't Tell Your Customers...

Updated: May 18, 2023

Two men talking over data and graphs

It is a commonly known fact, but not acknowledged enough: people do not like being told. They are open to suggestions and ideas but not to the fact of someone telling them what to do and what not to do.

This does not only apply to adults. You might have dealt with kids sometime or the other. Toddlers too have a mind of their own. How can we expect adults, who actually have a mind of their own, to follow instructions?

Earlier, the idea of marketing was more product-oriented. The customer-oriented marketing approach that we follow today was completely missing back then. It was more so because, customers then did not have many choices when it came to products and services. Things were slowly introduced into the market and then the salesperson would go door-to-door practicing push-marketing.

I always thought how difficult their job was. Pitching an idea of a product which the customer had no knowledge of and trying to sell it to them right away. If not, they would have to keep following up till the sale was made or the customer said a clear "no" to the product.

Coming back to today's date, when the market is filled with alternatives. Awareness about any brand or product is just a blog or a TV commercial away. People nowadays have options and lots of them. They consider themselves knowledgeable on most product and service offerings and like to take decisions based on that knowledge. They might ask for feedback and reviews from peers, but that's it.

However, some businesses still don't get it. They are still living in the age of push-marketing or hard-selling. One good example will be that of an Indian salon. The famous "small-talk" at the salon is one of the best examples of why hard selling is wrong and why a new approach is required.

However awesome you think you look or going to look soon, before your salon session, you will soon be told all that is wrong with your face and hair. Your confidence, if it could be plotted on a graph would look like an inverted bell curve by the time you left the salon. The pH is destroyed and your hair looks like grass. "Whoa, really?" you wonder raising an eyebrow, "I thought it looked great." Next it is your nose, which is giving a stiff competition to Mount Vesuvius with its innumerable pores which now seem like huge craters to you. I hate this gimmick and I have seen fellow customers give that irritated look, as well.

You see, there was a time when this gimmick would work, flawlessly. The salon staff would make people see their "not-so-obvious" shortcomings and would earn more business from them instead of just the regular haircut. But lately, I have seen customers going defensive. The reason? Well, they don't like being told about themselves.

Another example that many of you would relate to would be the timeshare pitches. The pitch will make you feel like you were even holidaying the wrong way. You would lose half-a-day of your much awaited vacation trying to say no to the enthusiastic timeshare sales representatives.

Marching into someone's personal space and telling them what they are doing wrong is not something most people like. Tell your customer what value you can add to them, rather than telling them what they are doing wrong. No need to play offensive.

The best way you can earn a customer is by showing how much you honor and respect their knowledge, awareness, and their decision-making skill. A good pitch is based on showing your customer what value you can bring to them instead of what all they have been doing wrong. The moment you make this pitch, your customer themselves will see what more they can get from your service. Let them decide that. They feel empowered rather than pushed to make a good decision. And since you are so chilled-out, they would most likely to go for your service/product.

You would also often find your customers asking about the price of the product or service offering without even knowing the details of your offering. If you provide bespoke service, the price you mention could as well be a premium one. However, once they listen to the price, they stop listening to everything else.

This is what I do when I am pitching to a client: if they ask about the price at the first go, I reply that once they know what all services I offer (suppose content writing, editing, revisions, copywriting etc) they will know what all they want and then I can customize their package and the fee, likewise. In this case, they are more open to listening to what I have to offer that their business can benefit from. At this moment, they are not thinking about the price anymore. They just want to check off the items/services on their list and listen to the experiences I quote and how I can customize the content as per their need. This approach has worked well for me, till date.

Help your customer ease into the idea of what they are buying and how it can help them, rather than why they should buy it.

This mantra is not only good for new customers but it also ensures returning customers. So, don't tell your customers what they don't have, tell them what they can have.

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