The other weekend, my family and I headed north to escape the heat and relax. Our kids were playing in an open square, and someone approached my husband with a flier. “We are doing a free event up the road, with dance and music demonstrations,” she said.
Since we thought the kids might enjoy it, we decided to go.
We walked down the street and into a really nice-looking building, with beautiful artwork and fountains. Books lined the walls, along with big motivational posters.
Upstairs, the live dance demonstration was going on. There were a number of people in the room moving along with the instructor, and the advanced students were quiet.
I had this strange feeling that something was not quite right. It was just a vague hunch, since everything about the environment was really beautiful, clean and organized.
After the demonstration, we gathered in the lobby below. We were approached by a number of people, all of them very nice.
But still the feeling lingered.
They started to talk with my husband about their program, some kind of health and mental wellness regimen.
This is when it hit me what was feeling uncomfortable: they were clearly selling their program as The Way instead of A Way of getting healthy.
Here is what I noticed:
- They all had smiles on their face, but they were a little too tight, as if they were working hard to appear peaceful and relaxed
- They didn’t ask us anything about ourselves, or our own approach to health and happiness. We could have had a productive two-way conversation since my husband is a traditional Navajo healer and I am a life coach. Instead, every bit of the conversation was focused on explaining their program and services.
- When we didn’t bite at buying what they were selling, they were still polite, but got a bit cold, and clearly moved on to other prospects.
- The feeling was just off.
I don’t necessarily think they were brainwashed cult members, I just think they had decided to employ a business and marketing strategy that stated that their way was the only way.
And doesn’t it make sense?
In this time of uncertainty, we want a black and white answers.
- We want to know that our program will solve 100% of everyone’s problems every time.
- We want to believe that someone’s religion will give us total spiritual clarity and perfect moral guidance.
- We want to know that the ideal diet will shrink our cellulite-ridden behind to ideal, smooth proportions.
“If you spend money with me, you may get good results. Or maybe not.”
It doesn’t necessarily make you want to whip out your credit card, does it?
But it is the truth.
When engaging in selling and marketing, you often have to be a lot more clear and direct than is comfortable in natural conversation. As long as you have a good sense of the value you are providing with your business, and a system that leads prospects willingly through a logical set of steps, you shouldn’t sweat it.
As my friend Naomi from Ittybiz just mentioned in her email about How to nicely turn your customers into voluntary zombies, (part of the rocking free info offered by her and Sonia Simone in their Marketing for Nice People program):
Key Concept #1: We like to be told what to do.
In other words, and said by other people like Seth Godin, people are looking for leaders. They want you to be clear and compelling and direct. They want you to make it easy.
“So if this sounds like a fit for you, here is what comes next …”“If you want this pair of earrings, here are the three ways to pay for them…”“If you want me to fix your computer, go to this form and check off all the items requiring attention…”
People I respect don’t pretend to have all the answers. If I don’t agree with them, or buy from them, they don’t change their behavior. They don’t view a transaction, or lack thereof, as a measure of our relationship.
They don’t pretend to have a magic set of steps or a system that will solve everyone’s problems.
They just focus intently on understanding the needs of their clients. And providing the very best services they can, using a solid business model. They learn from their mistakes. They speak clearly, honestly and directly. They laugh. And mean it. Without that weird fake crease on their forehead.
Selling The Way is exhausting.
Buying The Way feels creepy.
Don’t do it (unless you want to).