Don't Sell — Serve

JANUARY 2020

George Taylor, partner and account executive, writes about the importance of playing the long-game and investing in relationships in your sales practices.

"Having spent over three years working in high-end retail, I left the industry frustrated, and disappointed at the prevalence and acceptance of dishonesty."

Initially, I was encouraged to provide a good service, and to help solve customers problems through this service. But this was very surface level, and vague direction – and it was diluted by the more short-term objective of getting money in the till. I was encouraged to tailor my advice in order to ensure the customer was under the impression that what I could offer them that day, was the best option for them. Essentially, I was encouraged to act with bias.

Admittedly, I did use the sales and persuasive techniques taught to us in order to achieve this short-term objective, but it made me feel uneasy, and ultimately embarrassed.

Why?

There is no one that knows they are being ‘sold’ to (as opposed to being provided with a service) more so than the individual themselves. And whilst these individuals may feel obligated, and even pressured into making a purchase, they will leave the store inherently dissatisfied.

As David Ogilvy famously observed – the consumer is not stupid – and they will figure out that perhaps their purchase was not a good one, and they should have been directed elsewhere. This is inevitable, and will result in the customer losing confidence in the service, and not returning to the store.

Also, the individuals providing the ‘salesy’ type service know themselves, as I did, that the customer may be better off with a different product. Selling, as opposed to serving, leaves both parties – seller and customer – with a feeling of dissatisfaction, and dishonesty (on behalf of the seller). This will be never a sustainable business model, in any industry.

How is this relevant in advertising?

Regardless of the industry, the principles of sales remain constant. Advertisements that misleadingly portray a product or service do more bad, than good (and by ‘good’, I mean an increase in sales). Just as in retail, the consumer will inevitably find out they have been a victim of dishonest practice – and will lose confidence in the product or service, and move on.

With honesty at the heart of sales and advertising, businesses will be rewarded in the short term, and in the long term. A business in which advertises their product or service with honesty will inevitably be rewarded with an increased brand perception against their competitors, an increase of customer loyalty, and ultimately sales.

 

In a time where dishonesty and deception are routine, in almost every industry, honesty sticks out like a sore thumb. I encourage all businesses to serve, not to sell.

by George Taylor

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