Who Do You Serve?

Delivering a product or service to a customer involves a delicate balancing act for the business owner: how do you navigate between doing what’s in the best interest of your customer versus what’s in your own best interest?

Many people answer this question with the stunningly stupid cliche about looking for “win/win” scenarios or always putting their customer ahead of themselves.  If that’s you, please form a line to the left where someone will be handing out sainthoods shortly.

For the rest of us, it can be a bit more complicated.

Let me share with you a scenario that I run across and have to deal with all the time in what I do.

The Customer Isn’t Always Right

You sit down with a client and they tell you what they want.  You scratch a little deeper to try and understand the business drivers behind that and you discover that what they say they want doesn’t align very well with their drivers or may not actually deliver them the outcome they are looking for.

In situations like that, it’s always good form to try and educate someone.  Explain your understanding of what they are looking to achieve to eliminate any confusion and then put forward the issues you’ve identified.  Often times, it’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and you go forward.

But sometimes, it’s not so simple.  The customer just wants X and what they really need is Y, but they have no interest in seeing reason.

I used to find these situations really hard.  There’s something in my DNA that makes me want to bring these people around and show them the error of their ways.  Shine the bright light of my greater wisdom and intellect into the sorry, dark depths of their stupidity and ignorance and save them from their horrible trainwreck of a future.

Gaining Some Simple Clarity

A couple of years ago though I came to a couple of realizations:

1) Sometimes, you just can’t fix stupid.  As much as it pains me, some people have a deep seated level of inner craziness that even a lobotomy couldn’t remove; and,

2) Give the customer what he wants.  Sometimes people just want to wash their eyes with bleach.  I don’t get it, I’m sure you don’t either, but it happens, so don’t fight it.

Like I said, my default position is to always try and point out the problems.  In fact, this builds trust and often leads to more business.  When you show someone that there is a better path and they come around to it, then they think you’re on their team so it melts away any future “trust” objections they may have when doing business with you.

Other times though, if you sell butter in your butter store and they think that, despite all of your logic and protestations, butter will help heal their sunburn faster and prevent peeling, then just sell them the butter.  In fact, make sure you try and sell them the most expensive butter you have.

Always Be Selling

Seriously, don’t hold back, just sell.

One caveat to this obviously before my lawyers get involved.  Don’t sell heroin to pregnant ladies.  Don’t sell explosives to minors.  Use common sense.  If someone is going to hurt themselves or decimate their business, push back and walk away from the deal.  Don’t sacrifice being a decent human being for a sale, that’s not cool.

Putting that caveat aside, it all comes down ultimately to “whom do you serve” in your business.  There are occasions where everything lines up and everyone wins, but other times, you’re confronted with a not so obvious situation.  Before you make your decision, remember that while you of course want to do right by your customers, you can’t save everybody from themselves.

At the end of the day, you are in business to turn a profit, so if someone demands that you sell them something that you offer remember that you are in business to look out for yourself.

I’m going to look out for myself and tell you that you should subscribe to the greatest thing ever created, the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter.  It’s growing like crazy – almost every day someone is posting a new picture of their welcome kit that you get with your first month’s subscription.

We go to print on the March issue next week, so click the link below to make sure you don’t miss out.

Leave a Comment