“Those who say ‘it’s not personal, it’s just business’ are lying. All business is personal and the best business is very personal.” – Rick Lenz
On both sides of every sale are individuals, each with their unique mix of rational and emotional motivations for coming into the transaction and completing it. That mix of motivations provides us the amazing opportunity to create an experience that delights our customers.
What does business as personal look like?
When I sold large computer systems into enterprise businesses, the personal aspect was very clear: people made decisions based on the impact on their personal lives and justified them on rational terms. And while all of these decisions involved multiple people (technical, managerial, financial, support), the personal impact of each person involved is what made the difference between a win and a loss for us. Here are some examples of the personal motivations I saw in action (but almost never actually spoken – all discovered by building a personal relationship with the buyers):
Time: I don’t want to spend my weekends trying to make this project work – I have family and community activities that take my time. Will your company be able to come through so I get what I want?
Risk: We don’t want a failed project – we just went through that with your competitor. I’m up for a promotion soon and I want to make sure this is successful. Does choosing your solution give me the security I need to make this recommendation?
Big win: I’m on a fast track and need a big win. Will this get me that without undue risk?
So, how can a personal experience be scaled across enough customers to make a business profitable?
If you’re delivering high value consulting services, then you can be personal as a normal part of your interaction. You’ll need to get to know what matters personally to people and have a way of remembering it. I had a client who was fabulous at this – and she didn’t need a CRM to remember things: she saw her clients as her friends and treated them that way. That worked for her – she never had a problem getting new business as her friends moved from company to company. Maybe you need a CRM – I sure do. So, set it up, keep it up to date, and then act on what matters to these people at regular intervals: check ins on how their family is doing or birthday reminders or job anniversaries. LinkedIn does a decent job of this for you at a surface level: take it a few steps deeper.
If you’re delivering a higher volume of goods and services, then narrow in on who your ideal customer is and what personal motivations make them ideal for you. Then build your experiences around that. That’s why having a narrow focus can help your business actually be more profitable: you’ll be able to meet the emotional needs of your customers as well as the rational needs. A good example of this is a small retail shop I used to occasionally visit when shopping with my daughter. The shop owner had created an experience of entertainment, party, and community for women wanting inexpensive but dramatic fun clothing to feel great in and enjoy themselves. All the clothing had some aspect of vivacity in it: bling or ruffles or a slit up the side or an unusual fabric or something else. All felt unique, but at a modest price. The décor, sign, bags, price tags, and the salesperson all carried the same feeling and were consistent. The owner also hosted special events for parties or celebrations to play with the clothing. This didn’t require a huge expense, but did require thoughtfulness and a commitment to who their ideal customer was.
Let’s take time this week to think about how you can personalize your interactions with people in your business to create connection and delight.