A true story, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Jerry was a young energetic manager who wanted to make a big splash in the business world. He worked hard and tirelessly. It was not uncommon for Jerry to work 18 or even 20 hours a day when he first got to the company to make sure he would accomplish his goals.
When Jerry first got to the company he made a list of his Top 5 Dream Clients in the area. Starting with the biggest client in the state, with a worldwide footprint, Jerry put this customer as number one for a reason. We will call this company Minnie Entertainment (ME) for the purposes of this story. If he could win this customer for the company it would change his career path. A customer of this size and notoriety would be a shot heard through the entire company and set the course for his rapid rise to the top.
Jerry focused a lot of energy doing research on what motivates this customer to buy, and who the real decision makers were. Over the next several months Jerry kept pounding the pavement and the internet to try and get a chance to meet with the decision makers at this company. One thing Jerry had on his side is that he really cared about his customers and developing real relationships with all of them. Then out of nowhere he was contacted by a local customer who knew, and was good friends with, the VP of ME. Because of all of the help and support that Jerry had given to this customer, he was willing to introduce Jerry’s company to the VP of ME and hopefully solidify all of Jerry’s efforts into what had now been over a year’s worth of prospecting and research. Jerry was so excited he couldn’t believe he was going to get a chance to meet with the VP of ME. You see Jerry grew up with this company. He had bought many of their toys and seen every movie they ever put out. As a kid he could remember the magical time he had visiting their parks and how much fun he had taking his own kids there as an adult. He dreamed of the impact he would make with ME by providing them with the excellent service and customer support he had built his reputation on thus far and couldn’t wait for the meeting.
The next day his phone rang and it was his corporate office. They had received word that Jerry had made headway with this customer and had a meeting with their VP. Jerry was very proud of himself, and boasted, just a little, about his tenacity in finally getting this meeting. In an instant corporate took over and started planning the presentation for this meeting. They told Jerry that all of their top brass would come down for this meeting and they would prepare a presentation that would blow away ME. Jerry was concerned. You see all the research he had done pointed to the fact that ME was interested in relationships and vendors that understood their needs. However, Jerry’s experience had been that the corporate marketing MO was to stand on the top of the mountain and pound their chest, ranting about how great they are. Jerry knew this approach would not go well and tried to help steer the presentation in the appropriate direction. But it was to no avail. When Jerry tried to help with the presentation he was told that his ideas were amateurish and would not fit the company’s brand. With Jerry’s back against the wall he had no other option but to take a back seat and allow the corporate office to run this meeting and hope everything turned out well in the end.
Finally the day had come. Jerry was so excited to finally see the backstage operations of ME and meet with the VP of what he considered one of the greatest companies in the world. As they were escorted into the conference room, Jerry noticed that not only was the VP there but so was every other decision maker for the entire ME operation. The VP, we will call him Jim, introduced himself and then proceeded to introduce each member of his team. When he finished the corporate brass went down the line introducing everyone on their team. Jerry was trying to keep his grin under control. He thought to himself, ‘this is amazing!’ When will we ever get a chance to have this many power decision makers around one table again? This was the chance of a lifetime and it was all because of the real relationships Jerry had built with one local customer.
Jill, one of the directors of Jerry’s corporate office started off the meeting stating that they had prepared a presentation that they would like to run through. Jim, the VP of ME told Jill to go ahead. Jill proceeded to give the presentation and as she did, she brought each member of the team in to discuss their role. Well, all the members except for Jerry. Jerry sat in awe of all the things Jill explained. Many of the things Jill was saying they could do, Jerry didn’t even know was a product or service his company provided. Finally, after 3 hours of the presentation Jill closed up the presentation.
The presentation was everything they promised. It was so much information it blew Jerry away. The presentation was very professional and very polished, as were the speakers that had traveled with Jill. However, as soon as the presentation was done, Jim stood up and said, “Well thanks for all the information. I was hoping that we could spend some time talking about what our needs are and what possible ideas or solutions you might have that could fit our current needs, but it seems we have run out of time. Thank you and good day!” And just like that all of the decision makers for ME shuffled out of the room. Jerry was crushed.
All too often when we want to try and win a new customer we spend our time talking at the person. When they are talking we are thinking of how we will respond and what we will say. As this story illustrates, many times it doesn’t matter what you have to say, but rather, can you listen? I have always tried to shut up and let others tell me what they need. If I think I can provide them what they need at an extremely high level, then we work together to find a solution. If I don’t think I can, I thank them for their time and then try to find someone that can help them. The moral behind this story is that you shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t waste time talking about yourself. Chances are most people have already done research on your company if they have agreed to meet with you and they are fully aware of the services or products you provide. Most of the time the best thing you can do, is shut up, listen, and then genuinely try to help everyone you meet. Only time will reveal who the customer is and how they will be presented to you. Then it is up to you to shut up and listen to that customer.