'Weird' is worthy of a spot in your selling strategy

For years I have been promoting the concept that you must "humanize your selling strategy." The short explanation for this plan is that you must match your sales approach to the individual or company who will buy your product. How will it benefit them?

Let's use envelopes as an example. What sets your very ordinary product apart from all the other envelopes that your customers can choose from?

Your selling strategy. How you sell. The relationships you have built with the buyers. The pricing, quality and delivery that you are able to promise, and then the follow-through. Because you're not just selling envelopes, you are selling a person.

That strategy has been my ace in the hole throughout my selling career. No matter how much customers change, the formula works.

I just finished reading Seth Godin's fascinating new book that reinforces my thinking.

In "We Are All Weird," Godin says "human beings prefer to organize in tribes, into groups of people who share a leader or a culture or a definition of normal. And the digital revolution has enabled and amplified these tribes ... who respect and admire and support choices that outsiders happily consider weird, but that those of us in the tribe realize are normal (our normal).

"My argument is that the choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to sell more junk to the masses is both inefficient and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird and, if you wish, to become weird."

He explains that years ago, mass marketing led to greater profits, that specializing or acceding to choices was not necessary because producers could make more money from "forced compliance and social pressure."

Godin noted that in 1918 there were 2,000 car companies active in the United States. You may recall that Henry Ford's production line process changed car manufacturing forever. And he's rumored to have said that a customer could have a car in any color, as long as it was black. Was that the beginning of mass marketing?

On the contrary, years later Microsoft "knew that every single company in the Fortune 500 was using their software, usually on every single personal computer and server in the company."

With that sort of success, Godin asks, "Is it any wonder that market-leading organizations fear the weird?"

Godin predicts the end of "mass" as we know it. And he says that may make you uncomfortable if your work "revolves around finding the masses, creating for the masses or selling to the masses."

Rather than seeing this change as a threat, he says it is the opportunity of a lifetime: "The way of the world is now more information, more choice, more freedom and more interaction. And yes, more weird."

So let's go back to humanizing your selling strategy. Whether you are selling face-to-face or through a website, your customers have to feel as if their businesses are your most important accounts. Do you know enough about them, about their lives outside their work, about why they buy from you rather than another vendor? Do you tailor your sales presentation to address those needs? Can they trust that you aren't just all talk?

Will this trend put mass marketers out of business? Probably not, but small businesses should pay particular attention to this phenomenon, because they can most easily adapt to selling to the "weird." Call it what you want, but Seth Godin makes being "weird" the new normal.

Mackay's Moral: If you can't be all things to all people, aim to be all things to some people.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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