So goes that start of a conversation I overheard today whilst out shopping at our local Market.
What a damning inditement on all those free offers we are continually bombarded with in order to grab our business; offers which, in reality, have nothing free in them. They are a hook to get us to buy and clearly in the mind of individual concerned they had been forgotten: it was the financial transactions that had been remembered, not his free gifts (if they had actually ever received any).
This set me thinking … again … about how we sell ourselves daily: in business and in our own lives. We used to have a saying at work;
‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’
i.e., You don’t get something for nothing; everything costs.
To some point I agree. But where that cost lies is the divider between something being perceived as an offer of service and being taken for a ride.
If we make our customers pay, they see it as being taken for a ride and their trust is often shattered. If we take the cost, our customers see it as a service, as a favour, and it builds trust … and if we do make a mistake in the future they are far more to help us solve it than make demands.
This is a simple division, but one which businesses and individuals ignore at their peril … every day. We promise but don’t deliver. We offer something for free … but there’s a catch!
Perhaps we need to think more carefully before we advertise our next free offer because if we fail to deliver on that offer, we make our customers (and friends) ever more cynical and thick-skinned: we turn them off rather than turning them on to what we really have to offer. In reality, we turn them off to us because we fail to deliver on what we’ve promised. It is ourselves that we are selling short and it is ourselves that get the bad publicity. We gain the label ‘Can’t be trusted’.
The idea of personal integrity is getting ever more lost amidst spin and short-term fire-fighting. High profile figures expect us to believe their words, even though we see they are contrary to their actions (the cover up). However, for those who are prepared to match words with actions, the opportunities are huge. There is a saying I like to use for personal encouragement:
‘Where the darkness is darkest, the faintest light shines brightest’.
I’m not on my own when I say that by being honest and open, yes, even admitting our mistakes, we build an opportunity for growth and success; for competitive advantage. Despite what the macho businessmen (many of whom are scared witless of failing) may say, customers like attention and they like vulnerability because that makes us just like them, complete with faults and failings, and they can relate to that.