Have a Love Affair with Your Customer!!

Many years ago when I was just getting started in my sales career, I had a client (Jim) say the following to me: “Our business relationship will be very much like a dating relationship”. I’m sure I had a puzzled look on my face so he continued, “In this relationship, you will play the role of the man, and I will play the role of the woman.”

At this point, I was more than a bit puzzled – I was starting to sweat uncomfortably and had an overwhelming desire to break and run. What did he mean by “play the role of the man”? Instead of breaking and running, I asked him to continue. He could see the look of concern (more like sheer terror) on my face and laughed and said, “It’s quite simple really – I want what I want, when I want it, and just remember – I’m always right!”

Overcome with relief that he wasn’t part of some weird sex cult and coming on to me, I muttered something like, “Sure, I can play by those rules”. He turned out to be a very demanding yet very loyal client. Over the course of a couple of years I sold him over $45 Million in products and services.

One of the key takeaways I learned from that experience is that it is imperative to have a “Love Affair With Your Customer”. No, not in the kinky degrading sort of way, but in a way that is authentic and truly has your customer’s best interest at heart.

You see, what Jim was really telling me all those years ago is that he wanted to do business with someone that:

1) He Trusted.  Without trust, your customers will never “love” you. Trust is the bedrock of any healthy relationship – business or otherwise.
2) Listened to Him.  At the end of the day, your customer is a person and wants to be treated like a person. This includes listening to their issues. As Stephen Covey would say, “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” So often, we want to tell our prospective customer all of the wonderful things our product or service will do for them without truly understanding their needs.
3) Met His Needs.  Only after you have built trust and listened to their needs will you be ready to proceed to step 3 which is meeting those needs.

Here’s the beautiful part of this equation and where it truly gets exciting. If you perform the following 3 steps better than anyone in your particular market place, your customers will indeed develop a lasting love relationship with you that will stand the test of time.

As a matter of fact, the bond will be so strong that it will defy all logic and reason. Your competitor can lower their price by 20% and your customer will not “cheat” on you by switching to your competitor. That’s the power of love. Are these steps easy? Not always. Are they worth it? Every time! Now quit reading and go find a customer to have a love affair with!


Accidental Racist

In light of all the racist activity taking place today, I was reminded of a duet sung by two unlikely musical giants in their own right.  Although it was written a few years back, I think it’s more applicable today than ever.

The simple truth is we can never know how someone with different skin color feels unless we are able to walk a mile in their skin…which simply isn’t possible.  But we can respect one another.  We can get to know one another and listen to each other’s divergent points of view.  We can hear other’s story and understand what has shaped them into the person they are.

It makes me cringe inside every time I hear of yet another report of violence in our world simply due to the color of a man or woman’s skin.  Friends, we need love.  Yes, I know that’s cliché, but it’s true.  Change starts one person at a time.  One man.  One woman.  One girl.  One boy.  We simply need to love, respect and try to get to know one another.

I grew up in a small east Texas town that was about 50/50 black/white.  Yes, racism was alive and well – but that’s not what I remember.  My graduating class had less than 100 students – not a big school.  But I don’t remember a great racial divide.  I played football right along side my white brothers and my black brothers and thought nothing of it.  Heck back then water breaks were a reward during a 3 hour football practice in the Texas heat.  And to save money, we reused the cups so we were all drinking after one another and thought nothing of it.   And almost 35 years later, I’m still friends with the majority of my classmates regardless of color.

Here’s the thing about hate.  It destroys the hater.  True, it often destroys those that are the target of the hater.  But living with such an intense all-consuming hate also swallows up the hater alive.  At the end of the day, we are all humans.  Our pigment should not be what defines us.  God gave us all our own beautiful hue.  So let’s have love and respect one for another.

Okay, here’s the song I made reference to.  The title is “Accidental Racist” and it’s performed by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J:

To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin
But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin

‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood
I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book
I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Comin’ to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be

I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you don’t judge my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can re-write history
(Can’t re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)
I’m a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It’s real, it’s real
It’s truth