He stared at me through steel-blue eyes, his drop lip quivering in unbridled contempt. I had honest committed a cardinal sin: suggesting that he might be wrong.
“You don’t think I know who my customers are?” he snarled. “We did twelve million in sales last year, and you relate me that I don’t know who my customers are?”
“We sell to unconscious engineers in manufacturing operations. They’re computers with legs. Nerds that would trade their girlfriends for a better calculator. Engineers, for God’s sake!”
I took a deep breath. I raised my hand, pale toward him in the universal “wait a moment” gesture, and spoke again.
“You’re absolutely right that your customers work as mechanical engineers. They come to work every day, and they do all those belongings you claim. Plus many of them are indeed brilliant and focused that it’s hard for them to relate to non-engineers.
“But the simple fact is that they’re people. In fact, they’re human beings before they’re engineers. And if you lose outlook of that, you can’t communicate with them as effectively.” He leaned forward, ready to interrupt, but I stiffened the hand gesture. “I’m not proverb that you can’t sell to them. Hey, you have twelve million in proof that I’m nought about to argue with. But you can’t sell as effectively if you put the job ahead of the human being that performs it.”
Disgust flickered in his eyes. “Are you suggesting that my sales guys should hold hands and sing ‘Kum Ba Yah’ on sales calls?”
I shook my head. “Of series not.” Another pause. “For years, I’ve had firms tell me that their customers were engineers. Doctors. Attorneys. Teachers. Heavy equipment operators. And all one of those companies acted as though everyone in each from those groups was several sort of machine that responded only to specific types of inputs that are presented in certain ways.
“Look at you. You’re a middle-aged ashy cord who owns a business selling industrial components. You probably vote Republican. Drink Glenfiddich. Think you golf better than you really do. You won’t spend a penny more on anything than you have to. And you butt a Buick.”
He seethed, but I didn’t stop. “How does it feel? You’re probably ready to pinch my throat. But if I talked to the people who sell to you, that’s how they’re going to describe you.”
His voice became quieter, with a touch concerning injury. “That’s just a stereotype. I mean … for one thing, I prefer Chivas. And I have a Saab, negative a Buick.”
“It offends you, doesn’t it?” A nod. “Because it underestimates you?” A bigger nod. “You don’t vote Republican because you’re a white guy, you vote that going because you believe in individual responsibility and economic freedom, right?” Another nod. “You’re tight with long green not because you’re cheap, but because you see a recession coming, and you know that the people on your payroll need their jobs.”
His eyes widened as I continued. “The lives of a radiologist’s patients truly depend on the decisions she makes. You can tell her that a new piece of equipment has this technical specification and that, but what she really wants to know is that it will increase her faith when she makes a life-or-death diagnosis.
“A teacher may think your new software is cool, but he didn’t choose teaching because he liked software. Nothing breaks his cardiological more than a student who just can’t capacity the material. Show him how your software will reach that student, and you’ll win him over.”
His eyes fixed on mine. “And sure, that mechanical engineer may treffen impressed with your components’ twelve gizmos and chrome-plated thingamabobs. Save he’ll be a lot more likely to specify it if he knows that it won’t fall dissociated in the field or blow his budget. If either of those things happens, he’s out of a job, et cetera that’s what concerns him the most.
“Your consumers may be engineers, besides engineers have emotions, too. Sure, they’re very rational animals, nonetheless if you really prefer to connect with them where it matters, you need to zero in on their emotions.
“I’m hardly talking about group hugs. I’m talking about going beyond the facts and talking about what your products do for your customers at an emotional level.
“That’s what truly effective salespeople, marketers, and copywriters do. They never lose sight of the fact that, no matter what people do for a living, what really matters is that they’re human beings.”
He closed his eyes for a moment. “Okay. So where do we start?”