By: Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv
J&L Mathis Group, Inc.
“Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.” -Og Mandino
Alexander the Great
I heard a story about Alexander III of Macedon many years ago that Dr. James Kennedy told. Alexander was one of the most famous generals and rulers in the history of Western Civilization, earning him the name, “Alexander the Great.”
During his short life (33 years), he rose to power and conquered territory from Europe and North Africa to the borders of India. Military schools still teach some of his tactics used in battles.
One evening after a fierce battle, he was walking around the army encampment when he found a soldier sleeping on duty. The Macedonian King awoke the lad and told him the
penalty for this was death.
The boy was scared and crying. The commander paused for a moment and seemed to take pity on the lad who was sniffling and whining before him. You could hear a pin drop.
“What is your name, boy?” Alexander asked. “A, A, A, Alexander, sir.” The boy said meekly…. “What is your name, I said!” Alexander said louder. “Alexander,” the boy said with a little more volume. “WHAT IS YOUR NAME!!!???” Alexander the Great shouted with anger.
“ALEXANDER, SIR!” The boy said with his eyes closed screaming.
Alexander the Great commanded, “Then change your name, or change your conduct!”
The king didn’t want anyone bearing his name to be known as a slacker in his army.
Like the young man, you are at a crossroads in sales. You have to make a choice between two opposing forces. You need to change the value that people see in what you sell, OR change the audience you sell to. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
“If someone likes you, they’ll buy what you’re selling, whether or not they need it.” -Gene Simmons
Either people see value in you, or your product and services, or they don’t. Whenever I hear someone use the “lack” word in sales and revenues, it all goes back to a lack of value on the buyer’s part. I sell only to people who see value in what I am selling… and so do you.
Why did the Toyota Scion go out of production recently? Lack of value among enough buyers to keep it on the market. Why did Encyclopedia Britannica quit publishing? Lack of value among readers and buyers. Why did my local Sports Authority go out of
business? Lack of value among sports enthusiasts.
But Toyota makes one of the most popular cars in existence… the Camry. Wikipedia and Google are staying in business among readers looking for information. Dick’s Sporting Goods is still in business. The reason is these companies present a value in purchasing and usage that the first group lost, or let go of.
“In the early 19th century, they tried selling soap as healthy. No one bought it. They tried selling it as sexy, and everyone bought it.” -Rose George
If your sales are sagging, first look at the value people see in what you sell. Do they choose someone else who is cheaper? Do they choose another seller who costs more and delivers more? Do they choose another company who meets their actual needs better?
If you can’t change your value, maybe you should change the audience or customers you sell to. Maybe your base market has “dried out.” Maybe your “buffalo have roamed to another greener pasture.” Maybe the industry has shut down. The past eight years have been tough on several industries: coal, oil, healthcare, banking… and the list goes on.
“I would sell 2 million records; a million went to teenagers and a million went to the adults. So, when The Beatles became so popular, I lost a million to the teenagers, but I was still selling a million to the adults.” -Bobby Vinton
Like Bobby Vinton, Johnny Cash learned to find the right audience and sold to it. Cash realized from fan mail that he was a hit with men in prison, so he recorded albums live from prisons and they sold millions of copies and reshaped his image in the music business.
Vinton realized his audience was no longer the teenagers, but that made him focus on adults. He laughs all the way to the bank… and back again!
Heraclitus said over 2,500 years ago, “There is nothing permanent but change!” When I cannot work with industries that have been crippled by economic conditions, government regulations or shifts in the market, I alter the focus to other groups who need the same message of Reinvention. Everyone can reinvent and should every few years. If you don’t need to now, just wait… Your time is coming!
“Nobody has really grasped yet the great wealth that can be made selling data over the Web. There are 100 million potential customers out there.” -Michael J. Saylor
In sales, your challenge is to either identify a value people see readily and will buy like candy bars at the checkout lane, or identify an audience who will want the value you sell.
For instance, I am always meeting corporate leaders who are trying to sell the same products in the same way to the Millennial Generation. They haven’t come to grips that this generation values and buys differently from the previous generations they sold to so easily. Some people have figured it out, while others are still struggling with changing their business models.
“I know people said I wasn’t selling out in America, but that was entirely untrue. We sold out all over the world, and every night I looked out into the fans… that you’re talking about, the tears, the honesty, the inability to not be completely overjoyed because they
felt accepted.” -Lady Gaga
Notice that Lady Gaga identified values that her audiences were seeking: personal honesty and the lack of personal acceptance. Why do you think Bernie Sanders, Justin Trudeau, and Donald Trump are resonating in a political world that was all but turned off of politics just a few years ago? What values or audiences have they tapped into that has put them on the front pages of papers around the world? People have felt that their everyday needs were being met by these candidates’ messages, so they flocked to them in large numbers.
What can you do to improve your value (message) and experience that reaches people uniquely? John Sculley said, “As a brand marketer, I’m a big believer in ‘branding the customer experience,’ not just selling the service.” Is the experience you deliver on a
consistent basis a value that people will get excited about (and pay more for)?
What can you change in your focus to reach people who aren’t being reached adequately? Charles Kelley said, “I feel like fans who like old Southern rock and country, and more lyric-driven songs in general, have come to country radio. I think that’s why you see country radio growing and albums selling: People are craving a little more of the singer/songwriter stuff going on in country.”
Kelley identified a group of people who have migrated from one musical medium to another to receive value. If you listen to mainstream country music today, it isn’t what it used to be. It sounds more like a blend of Southern Rock and “Rockabilly” music from
Let’s make this interactive! Here are several quotes from people who succeeded in displaying the right value to the right audience. Read each quote and tell me if it is based on changing the value, or changing the audience. You will see that the results were successful once they identified the change each person needed to make.
• “I’m not good at selling laptops. I’m good at selling ideas.” -Nicholas Negroponte
• “I love to meet my fans, and after every show I usually hang out for a few hours, talking to my fans, signing autographs, and selling T-shirts.” -Tommy Chong
• “We’re in the business of selling pleasure. We don’t sell handbags or haute couture. We sell dreams.” -Alain Wertheimer
• “Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” -Frank Zappa
Permission is granted to reprint this article provided the following paragraph is included in full: Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv. is The Reinvention PRO™, an International Platform Certified Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional and best-selling author of Reinvention Made Easy: Change Your Strategy, Change Your Results. To subscribe to his free professional development newsletter, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how Jim and his programs can benefit your organization or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his web site: www.jimmathis.com. © 2016
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the above article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.