What do you sell?

Determining what type of business you are in

Almost every type and size of business has the opportunity to receive multiple trade publications. If you make a point to review them, regardless of their industry, you will find yourself exposed to many ideas to enhance the operation and profitability of your business, A two-person gift shop can gain from reading the magazine addressed to the operators of a clothing store or a quick-print shop because many of the fundamental business concepts transcend all types of businesses.

If you read Dr. Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you will recognize that reading trade publications is part of the seventh habit: sharpening the saw. Looking at any industry, attending a seminar, trade show, visiting with someone in the same business field to exchange ideas, or reading a management book, report or trade publication are all excellent ways to sharpen the skills of the trade.

The name of the publication and advertiser has long been forgotten, but the skill that was shown by the company that paid for the magazine ad will long be remembered, In the advertisement, a gas company was addressing restaurant owners. The invitation was to come to their laboratory and test the various brands and types of cooking equipment that were available.

The advertisement mentioned that 45 different pieces of equipment had been assembled and that any restaurant owner was invited to bring his chef, recipes and ingredients to the laboratory. The idea was that the chef could test cook before purchasing the new equipment for his or her restaurant.

Surely, the gas company is attempting to persuade a chef to cook with gas instead of electricity, but this is also a situation where a company understands that it is selling customer satisfaction as compared to being a company that is selling gas. Now the restaurant owner who might have replaced just a worn-out piece of equipment with an updated model can investigate the alternative choices.

Too often an opposite scenario happens as exampled by a report in another trade magazine. A young couple wanted a safety fence around their in-ground swimming pool. Their concern was the safety of their 3-year-old toddler. They shopped the business directory online, interviewed several contractors, and made their selection. A contract was signed, and the fence was soon constructed.

During the inspection made upon completion of the fence, the parents discovered there was a method by which the toddler could still gain access to the pool. Obviously, this made the fence unsatisfactory to the couple. The solution was not quick in coming, as the contractor explained to the parents that he had built the fence as detailed in the contract. The parents responded that the fence did not achieve its purpose.

Granted, the contractor had fulfilled the letter of the contract, but the problem was in the perception of the sale: the contractor was selling a fence, the couple was buying peace of mind; and as the solution to this scenario was long and drawn out, you can expect that the couple did not provide any referrals to the contractor.

In a survey performed by Dr. Richard Feinberg of Purdue University 20,000 people were interviewed about their shopping experiences and preferences. The results showed the five most important factors were:

1. Having the item(s) or performing the services that the customer needs or wants
2. Saving the customer time
3. Providing value to the customer
4. Providing the product(s) or service(s) in an attractive manner
5. Having someone qualified to assist the customer

Note that price is not one of the top five concerns and that the desires of a happy customer are fairly basic.

The bottom line of this article is to demonstrate a comparison; did you notice that the first part of the article contained two stories? Most people can identify with the ideas and needs that were expressed in both.

The second half was more statistical. Both conveyed the same information, but the first half was designed to help you in seeing a situation from a human perspective as compared to just giving information. Both the stories and the statistics were designed to be persuasive about the importance of paying attention to the wants and needs of the customers whom every person has. The next time you have the occasion to make a difference in whatever work you do, you can decide, "what do you sell?"

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