“People don’t like to be sold to, but they love to buy”
– Jeffrey Gitomer
“Stay out of here; it’s a ‘No snack’ week”. So my heart tells me parked outside of Cafe Javas, a fast foods restaurant in Kampala Uptown, debating whether to go inside or not. I stare at their vibrant interior, then start battling my appetite as I weigh the pros and cons. “Do I really want the snack? Is my craving stronger than my desire to stick with my “No snack week”?” As I contemplate, for just a little longer it looks weird, I force a decision – Not to enter, and off I go. That was some day and I hope you can relate.
On most days, I still have same contemplations on many things – whether to spend the 50k on eating out at the café or buy groceries and head home. Sometimes I go eat, and others I walk away. And whatever choice I make, I claim to be fulfilled with some stupid defense in mind, I say stupid because it is always a fact of consolation at times.
In business, this is in relation to the struggle that all prospective and current customers experience in the face of a purchase, and the challenges all businesses must overcome in order to grow and thrive. In this case, Café Javas is a business, I am a client. They must be doing something so that my showing up comes without a struggle.
It wasn’t always so hard when I was in my 20s, I never contemplated that much then. I would enter the café without pondering why. I had fewer options. Today, my preferences have changed. These days when I am not out with my daughters, bae or friends, I prefer buying home groceries than spend at a café. I am strict with my choices now unlike then. I am not sure if the café owner knows that changing fact in me (imagining we are 100 clients with that behavior now).
On a day that I decide to walk into a café, I order my favorite chicken samosa, when I do, the thing I don’t want to hear is someone give me options. “We don’t have Chicken samosas but we have beef samosas, they are good too… blah blah”. And if it happens two or three times I always stop asking for the samosa all together. If it is not a darling place, I stop going back. I have done this to many places.
That’s the difference between buying and being sold to. Buying is when you want something and getting it. Being sold to is what happens when they say “no, we can’t do/ have that, but..”
This is very common. Buying has that magical payoff of wanting something and feeling like the king of the world because you’ve turned your own wish into reality. Being sold to comes with coercion; someone trying to convince you with a substitute or what they consider a better alternative.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes there are very good reasons why the customer can’t have things exactly the way they want them. Those expectations may be poorly informed, or completely unreasonable but sometimes the customer even knows it but can play ignorant. Creating alignment isn’t easy; and yet that’s the name of the winning game. That’s what drives business; building a business that seems to align effortlessly.
NOTE: This article is an extract from the book GET SHAP – Reimagined thoughts to level up your business and career.
There are three dimensions to alignment. The first of those dimensions is the Offer. Here you avail what the market wants. You position yourself as the best candidate to sell. The stronger that alignment, the more effortless growth seems to occur. Most business people at many times rush to increase advertising efforts and budget to transform business yet all they should be doing is align themselves. Consider two examples: Jumia and Safe Boda.
On Jumia, you search for mostly daily use items you could need, and choose from any number of interesting payment options. When you find the item you want, you click just one button, and you’re done and go back to your comfort and wait for delivery at your door/gate.
With Safe Boda as a customer they make your wish come true by ordering your ride from your comfort by just a click. Just like magic, Jumia and Safe Boda and their ilk continue growing because they have found their flow with technology. That way, through technology, they have aligned themselves to their clients. They have built a great offer delivered by a resonant identity.
Of course many competitors have come up but none has defeated them because of their customer flow and alignment. Don’t get confused, we can’t do all the things customers want. There will be unmet expectations because those wants and expectations are unreasonable, or impractical. Or at times, we know that they won’t actually deliver the results that the customer ultimately wants. E.g. I’d love it if I ordered a Safe Boda rider to pick me and be very neat in suits.
That way, I would feel so high sitting behind this rider. But wait, this is impossible and unreasonable, riders are middle life people, and they don’t go into all that luxurious living. The safety code too doesn’t allow that smart dressing with no warm jackets and all. Customer alignment calls for understanding and filtering of such crucial matters and craft a perfect model.
Each and every “no, we can’t do that, but…” must be followed by a compelling explanation, else it becomes an opportunity for your prospective customer to consider walking away. That’s why, as entrepreneurs seeking to build flow in our businesses, we must think long and hard about all the different things our audience wants or expects.
I have had many dates in my life. I am glad I have had, they have taught me too much. I surely prefer second dates to first ones. First dates can feel a bit exciting but are expensive and require a lot of hard work. They can be tricky and funny. Most times they are sugar coated, the personality you see is always ironed to fit in the date and impress.
When you pass first date’s trickiness, that’s when you get to have a second date. Second dates are easier. You are now in the equation. It is the beginning of reality and shading off of the masks. I’m not talking about romantic dates by the way (wink). This is about business, sales, and marketing. My point is that second dates are times for you to build a real and resonant identity. This leads me to the third piece of the puzzle; the Intuitive Path.
This is about aligning your business with your prospective customer’s expectations and intuitions around what next step they should take at any given point. For example, you may want them to know:
- The next thing they want to read or hear or see from you
- The next step you want them to take on a journey
- The next thing you want them to invest in (whether it’s their very first investment with you, or the next in a long series).
The more the next step you want them to take aligns with what feels obvious and logical and right to them, the smoother that path will be.
This brings us back to planning a second date.
Good second dates combine two things: First, they build on the relationship that has already been established. Secondly, they push things forward taking them to the next level. These are both critical qualities; if things don’t move forward, then you find yourself in a string of dates that seem to go nowhere, and eventually you’re back to kissing frogs in search of a new prince or princess.
The two keys that you need to balance as you craft a path forward for your second date are: 1) Building on what’s already there. 2) Bringing things to the next level. They both result into an intuitive path that your customers are eager and excited to follow.
When the alignment is absent – that’s when you end up having to push hard on every sale like kicking a broken horse to move fast. When the alignment is just right, when you’re basically a darling product, then everything gets easier. The customers move forward and pay less attention to the shortcomings.
They buy with blindness and support you. They evangelize.
There are interesting ways different cultures say hello. Back home, we say; Agandi!, meaning how is your life (one beyond visibility, inner). In some parts they just say; Jambo, etc. When I was living in the United Arab Emirates, I learnt that they say; “Salam” which means “peace”.
And in India and some closer parts they say Namaste, which loosely translates as “the light in me sees the light in you”. The latter greeting have always been the most interesting greeting that I use at the end of most blog articles & speeches and I will use it to drive this point home.
It illustrates an important and powerful dimension on which we must all create alignment between our business and the people that it exists to serve. Of course, the first step towards making a sale is having something that people want but remember lots of other providers do the same as what you do or even better.
Choosing between multiple providers in today’s stiff competition will have a strong gut sense that one just “feels right” and then do the due diligence that allows their brain to sign off on the decision. That gut feeling comes from alignment (offer, identity and intuitive path). The light in them seeing the light in you, and recognizing it as the very same light. This draws us to the two main parts that form alignment; Relatability and Aspiration
Ever gone to a store or office and found everything not easy to relate with? When positioning you must keep in mind the element that when customers look at you, they see themselves. Because we implicitly trust and connect with people in whom we see ourselves. So they buy from relationship empathy on top of the need. Quality alone is not enough, there must also be some relatable attributes.
This positioning comes in colors, message, overall brand image, structure, website, etc. It is not something tangible that you create but something psychological that you incorporate in your offerings and identity.
You’ll find this balance in every leader and person or brand you’ve ever looked up to – and in every leader that you wish others would stop looking up to as well! That balance of “You’re just like me, you represent my beliefs and feelings” and “I want to be like you when I grow up” is exactly what is compelling to the audiences.
So that’s the key: find the ways in which you can portray that your offer, identity and intuitive path are in alignment with your market. The overall brand must speak to their emotions somehow. You have to empower the light in them to see the light in you. Alignment and its great hidden importance is a great deal to getting SHAP. Make it a habit to see how it can be incorporated in your business.
For more details, get the book GET SHAP
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