It’s Time to Build the Customer’s Self EsteemNovember 26, 2006
It’s cynical. It’s manipulative. And it’s being taught everywhere by the very best sales trainers in the world. It’s the “pain model” and sales trainers pitch it around the world every day of the year. But, like many things these days, these sales trainers are teaching worn-out strategies from a dying world.
Here’s the question sales forces are being taught to ask themselves – “How can you make a prospect suffer pain?” As we said, it’s cynical and it’s manipulative, but most sales trainers would be quick to point out that it works. Perhaps it does. But just because it works today doesn’t mean it will continue to work in the future.
Let’s take an example. Today’s New York Times has an article about learning to do “text messages” on your cell phone. If you are over 30 years old, you should learn this skill. If you are younger, it seems, you are born with the skill. “A Parent’s Guide to Teenspeak by Text Message” is all about how Cingular Wireless will be conducting a campaign next year to help parents learn to do “text messaging” on their cell phones. Why should parents learn this new-fangled skill? Because their kids and grandkids all text message their brains out all the time.
Now, I have no idea if Cingular Wireless will pitch their campaign to parents’ and grandparents’ pain. The article points out that some people already say that “Cingular is pandering to parents who are increasingly worried about their children’s safety, who fret that they are not ‘getting through’ to their children and want to maintain control over them.”
If they do pitch their effort at parents’ pain, they will simply be like 99% of the sales campaigns in this country. Such strategies are based on making the buyer feel inadequate in some way. Think of the beauty industry if you’re not convinced.
Hopefully, instead, Cingular will do something almost no one else is doing. It will pitch its campaign to the benefits of learning to send a text message on a cell phone. These two words (benefits and learning) are anathema to most of today’s sales trainers, but they are words that will increasingly return to favor as the public continues to become better informed about products and services. As we continue to have faster, better and more reliable access to information, we all become a little less susceptible to those who want to yank our pain and insecurity cords. (We’ve also written about this topic in the article “The Speed of Trusting Your Audience.”)
Which is why we hope Cingular will tell its audiences all the cool things they can do with text messaging besides contacting their children. For instance they could tell them about SMS – Google’s “Simple Messaging Service.” SMS allows you to look up everything from stock quotes to weather to local movie times – all without having a cell phone that connects to the Internet. Or, they could tell about how Yahoo will send “news alerts” to your phone – so that you will instantaneously know when your stock has hit a new high, your competitor has hired a new CFO or when the Denver Bronco’s have named a new quarterback. Again, all on a cell phone NOT connected to the Internet.
Cingular could go even further and teach the ways in which you can use your cell phone to make free international phone calls, look up price comparisons while standing in a store and ask for the definition of the word “incredible.”
In fact, there are tons of reasons to learn text messaging and the other incredible benefits that ingenious companies offer cell phone users. Yes, learning just enough to send a text message will bring you closer to your teenager – but that’s a benefit, that’s a real benefit, believe me.
A very few companies see this. One of the few is the Dove soap company and their Campaign for Real Beauty. Log on to their site to see a video of how the traditional beauty industry has been making you feel your pain. You’ll find it at http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/.
“Every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is” the Dove video tells us. Agreed, and every customer deserves to feel beautiful just the way they are. In the coming years, they’ll be buying from Dove and, hopefully Cingular, more than they’ll be buying from the companies who only look for a way to make them suffer pain.
The folks at Dove also ask in their video, “How did our idea of beauty become so distorted?” We’d like to ask, “How did our idea of selling become so distorted?” It’s time for sales people to direct their efforts towards the customer’s gain, not the customer’s pain. And, it does work. Just ask Dove.