After the nerve-racking experience of watching the results of the most intense election in my lifetime, I found myself having a Zen-like experience the following day.
It had me thinking about the power of connecting with local communities and populations.
After a sleep-deprived evening, I flew from Houston to Kansas and had a 100-mile drive to make in the late afternoon. It was a beautiful, cloudless day driving through miles of farmland.
As I began scanning the AM stations to find talk about the election (yeah, busting up the Zen), I landed on one that brought me back to my youth. With the breathless national news going on, I began thoroughly enjoying stock reports that station gave.
These were not stock market reports. These were cattle stock reports.
Every 15 minutes or so, our friendly sponsor told us the prices per pound recent cattle auctions had produced. I really didn’t have a good feel for what was a positive or negative report, but I smiled ear to ear listening to it.
It reminded me of the local radio station we listened to as I was growing up in southern Louisiana. Tide schedules and reports of where the speckled trout and redfish were biting were more important than most things broadcasted.
In hotel lobbies, I’ll usually pass on the national newspapers and grab local ones. More often than not, I’ll toss the national news sections aside and find sections covering local news, businesses, sports, etc.
Those sections tend to give a far better feel for the fabric of a particular community.
We live in an era in which seemingly all news is local. If something of interest is happening in any corner of the country (or world), it is on our smartphones, computer screens, or television sets within minutes.
Moreover, it is the more negative or shocking news that grabs the most attention.
That peaceful drive on a November afternoon reminded me of the power of building and protecting our local ties.
Even in a “wired world”, people are drawn to companies, people and products that connect with and openly support their communities.
Whether yours is a small company or giant institution, how “local” is your outreach?
How connected are you with the people you actually see every day in your stores, lobbies, and communities?
Being “in a community” and being “part of the community” are different things.
Which will you be?
One of the mantras I have long used to encourage proactive sales cultures is “Market hard. Sell soft.”
I have found myself chuckling along with groups over the past couple of months that that mantra could have saved some folks in our industry the recent heartburn they’ve experienced.
After a recent session, a manager joked that he wasn’t sure they are allowed to say “sales culture” anymore. He said folks seem more afraid of being accused of selling than they are of missing goals.
I kidded back, “Well…that fear will last until they begin missing goals.” He nodded agreement.
Thinking a company can survive without any type of proactive growth (sales) culture is like thinking a person can survive without breathing.
You may not immediately feel the impact the minute you stop…but things will go south quickly.
Addressing his statement in a little more detail, I explained that “market hard” doesn’t mean we periodically market aggressively as much as it means we market consistently.
We tend to misjudge what customers know about us and we especially overestimate how often they think about us.
I like to clear that up for folks by reminding them that customers and potential customers know extremely little about what we offer.
However, that really doesn’t bother those customers that much… because they almost never think about us anyway.
Mind you, it’s not that they think negatively of us. They are simply living their lives, and we aren’t a big part of them.
We’re out of sight and out of mind.
The concept of “market hard” is that we do as much as possible to inform customers of who we are, where we are, what we offer, and that we would love the opportunity of earning their business.
We do this with focus and enthusiasm day in and day out. Consistency is just as important as creativity.
The more work we put into clearly educating customers of what we offer – while using every marketing avenue available to us - the more relaxed and helpful our face-to-face conversations become.
“Sell soft” does not mean we do not sell. It means our primary goal is simply increasing the number of friendly chats we have with existing and potential customers.
A more informed customer base plus increased conversations creates a healthier and more productive culture – no matter what name you choose to give it.