Revenue and your character: The high price of pride
"I know, I know," the child says, grabbing a tool from his father, who is partway through showing how it works and what to do with it. But something goes wrong as the child tries to use the tool. He stops and mumbles, "Must be broken." He is reluctant to admit that he really didn't "know," and that he really hadn't thought it all through, and he shouldn't have been so hasty. He doesn't want to admit that he could have learned something from his dad after all.
Fast forward thirty years. Now the child owns his own business. "I know, I know," he says, interrupting the customer. The customer, an expert in his field, is trying to explain his needs. But the business owner doesn't want to hear it, because he "knows."
Of course, he doesn't really know. So when it's time to meet the customer's needs, he does what he wants to do, instead of what the customer wanted - or what he and the customer agreed to do.
Most of the time, in situations such as this, he latches on to the first idea that pops into his head, and tells his employee, "Do it this way." The experienced employee questions the decision, but the boss insists. "Just do it," he says, and walks away. The employee shakes his head, and does the job, all the while knowing that what he is doing is not wise. So, the job is done incorrectly, which leads to other problems further down the road.
When the boss is asked later, by the customer, why he did it that ridiculous way, he has all sorts of excuses, and it's always someone else's fault.
This is foolish, unearned pride at work, pure and simple. It's one of the most costly characteristics a business owner can possess. We all have problems with pride, especially those of us who are self-confident enough to have started our own businesses.
There's nothing wrong with that feeling of satisfaction when something is done right, but there is plenty wrong - and it will hurt your business - when your pride causes you to insist that your way is right even though there is no good reason to believe that it is. I see this constantly in CEOs and business owners. They just refuse to admit that they might be wrong, or don't know the right way to do something. Being the one who is "right," immediately, is more important to them than actually being right.
Of course, this causes problems with employees and vendors, who just shake their heads and decide that they will look for an opportunity to work for someone else. This guy always finds a way to screw everything up, they think. In the end, the prideful entrepreneur will be surrounded by people who don't care, because the people who do care won't stick around.
Pride causes big problems with customers. Most customers want to combine their expert knowledge with another expert's knowledge, to establish the optimum solution. They are looking for a collaborative, synergistic interaction.
In the case of high-ticket, high-scrutiny items, these collaborative conversations are the foundation of the buying process. How the vendor responds to the customer's explanations of his needs will have a major effect on the customer's buying decision. As the customer listens to the salesperson or the business owner (especially the business owner), he will take notice of that person's behavior. He will be asking himself:
- Did this guy really hear me, or was he simply waiting for me to finish talking so he could say what he wanted to say?
- Is he truly considering my perspective - and respecting my experience - or, did he decide he knew more than I did, even before I started talking?
- Is he talking to me, or to whomever he thinks I might be? In other words, has he decided who I am already, because he has this boilerplate idea of who customers are? Are the pre-conceived notions in his mind preventing him from seeing the real human being in front of him?
- Does he think he knows everything, including who I am and what I need?
As the vendor starts to respond to the customer's explanation and questions, the customer will look for further clues to the vendor's character. He will ask himself:
- How does he talk about his other customers? Does he respect them?
- How does he talk about his vendors and employees? Does he respect them?
- Are his opinions based on actual experience, or just something he heard or read?
- What are his professional standards? Does he make comments such as "Well, that's good enough"?
- Does he chafe at the suggestion that he might be wrong?
- Does he think he's smarter than everyone else?
If the vendor is insufferably prideful, and the customer has other options, he will take his business elsewhere. If he has no other choice and/or has set his heart on that particular vendor's item, he may go ahead with the purchase in spite of the vendor's obvious character weakness.
If he decides to make the purchase in spite of his reservations about the vendor, he won't be a pleasant customer for the vendor to deal with. He will question everything and check everything, as the vendor is performing the task, creating the item, or servicing the item after it was purchased. In other words, the customer will be a pain, on purpose, because he is worried that the vendor's pride will:
- Cause the vendor to make bad decisions as he is creating the product or providing the service
- Keep the vendor from attracting the best employees and vendors
- Cause the vendor to hide imperfections from the buyer, and lie when confronted about them
- Create conflict where none is necessary - when an ego-free discussion could have solved the problem in a stress-free way
- Cost the customer - money, time, worry, and repairs
Most importantly, the customer will be worried that vendor's pride will keep the vendor from getting the advice of experts who do the same thing day after day. The vendor, who only does that one thing once in a while (or may have never done it before), will think he is smarter than the guy who has done it hundreds of times and who has learned all the little tricks that make the job go faster, more easily, and successfully. Because the vendor is too proud to ask for help from an expert, what should go smoothly will not go smoothly, and will create additional costs and headaches for the customer.
Is your pride getting in the way of your success? Are you stubborn about your way of doing things, even though your employees and customers have tried to suggest that you do them differently? Do you say, "I know, I know"? Do you interrupt? Do you think your customers are stupid? When your customer starts to talk, do you think, Oh, here we go again, another arrogant jerk, telling me how to do my job? Do you think you can do [whatever] without consulting an expert or reading a manual? Do you get upset when a customer points out an error or inefficiency?
All of your customers, no matter how smart they may or may not be - know what you're thinking. Disdain always shows on the face when disdain is on the brain. It could be as subtle as the faint beginnings of a facial sneer, but it's there. If you're thinking disdainful thoughts about the customer, the customer knows it. And you're losing business because of it.
The only way to get that business is to stop thinking those thoughts, and to replace them with more helpful, empathetic, patient, and caring thoughts. Yes, you can change your thoughts. And, when you do, your concern for their welfare will be evident, and the potential customer will think, Ah. Finally. Someone I can work with. Someone who is actually trying his best to help me. Good.
And the sale will be made.