Selling The Realized Self

Hail entrepreneurs and marketers! I’m curious, have you noticed the shift? In recent years we've gone from selling “stuff” to selling experiences. This has been coming for a while but the transition is almost complete. You can find the roots in our recent abundance that triggered our shared awakening. Now that our basic needs are fulfilled, what next? I believe it’s the fully realized self.

So in the end, all we really sell is the realized self. So much is standing between us and that “self”. Our bodies, our habits, our diet, our activity, our thoughts. We need help. Underneath all this crap is a unique and, just maybe, magical being. 

This pure self is what we all seek. But we can’t do it alone. We need to help to get there. It’s a  massive collaboration. Essentially the internet is the playground for that collaboration. Not just the old internet trapped behind a screen. We are being connected via an increasingly screenless Internet.

The “internet of things” has begun intersecting our lives at an intimate level. We know the only way to create change is to change thoughts and habits. Recent movements like the “quantified self” are enabling awareness and change. This is not a fad but our new reality. This presents an even bigger opportunity than the screen-bound internet. So how do you cash in? By creating awareness and changing behaviors. By helping others live better lives.

So the more you help others realize their potential the more you will have to gain. But here’s the rub, those that have success will be increasingly held to a higher and higher standard. The next generation of entrepreneurs and marketers will be forced to be far more virtuous than the present or past. 

This is because they will experience an unheard of level of openness and transparency. Which means accountability, which can be bad for sales. 

So how do you navigate this new world? How do you sell the realized self and not screw up? 

We must become worthy of our customers and employees. We must set the example of a fully realized self, show how our product or service has changed our lives. But it isn’t really a product or service we are selling, it’s a cause.

Companies without causes will be lost in a world of infinite choice. If following that cause hasn’t changed your life for the better then why should I bother? To sell the fully realized self we must first practice what we preach. 

The challenge is set, all businesses must answer the question- what helped you that could help me? How can you change me for the better?

Sunflower Seed Service

I heard a fascinating story yesterday that I want to share. I had lunch yesterday with one of my favorite clients- Dan Kahn who owns Floors To Your Home. He related a customer service story that really captures the contrast between a great and terrible customer experience. 

Dan loves sunflower seeds on his salads. He gets the same salad for lunch almost everyday. But the Marsh near his office was out of them. He decided he'd still have a salad but told the cashier when he was checking out that the sunflower seeds were out at the salad bar. She said- yes, our supplier is no longer stocking them but I can let the manager know. Dan said that he appreciated that since he has been coming for years to get the same sunflower seed salad.  

While Dan was just getting seated the cashier appeared with a little plastic cup filled with sunflower seeds. She let Dan know these were on the house and that they were sorry the seeds were not there when he wanted them. Shortly afterwards the store manager came up, again apologized and told Dan that they were going to re-stock the sunflower seeds themselves so Dan could always get the salad he wanted. 

Needless to say, Dan was one happy guy. But he had a much different experience when he went to the Marsh by his house. He also found sunflower seeds missing at the salad bar, same mischievous salad bar supplier, and again notified the cashier on check out- hey, no seeds, me like seeds, tell manager please, etc. But this time the cashier didn't appear to be listening so he repeated himself- no seeds, me want. When she finally gave him her attention she told him- yeah, they aren't stocking them anymore. So he asked that she mention his concern to her manager, I get this salad all the time, etc. She looked up at him and said "I'm sorry, to be honest, I don't think he'll care". Dan was speechless. He walked out with his seedless salad and began to consider the two experiences. 

Sunflower seeds are small things and small things are easy to overlook. They might not seem important, they might seem replaceable with another seed but for Dan they make the salad. He realized that this was true with every customer experience. Often there is something small that the customer really, really loves- it could be a person in your organization they really enjoy talking to, the annual holiday gift you send, the way your product is packaged or…sunflower seeds. 

Dan is using this experience to take his company's customer service to another level. He is working with his team to identify what their customers' "sunflower seeds" are. Experiences are rooted in the culture of the business. One manager had created a customer centered culture and the other a self centered culture. 

Building a culture that cares about "sunflower seeds" is more important than having the best price or location. Every business must work to create amazing experiences that build loyal customers who then tell stories like this one to everyone they meet. That's the core of culture powered marketing which is by far the most cost effective marketing around. 

Watch Your Language

If you want to communicate with someone it is a lot easier when you are both speaking the same language.  This goes well beyond “English”. It has to do with a group of people collectively working to redefine words to have specific, contextual meanings. This is why “touch”, “phone” and “search” mean something so radically different now compared to 20 years ago. People came together and gradually redefined these common words. They could have made new words but it’s more effective to iterate on existing words.

I have observed that successful organizations are very purposeful about language. They work to select and re-define their common vocabulary. Often this starts with leadership but it must be a team effort. A language unused becomes jargon.

A common language acts like an OS for a team. It’s a platform that enables agility, communication, delegation and accountability. Projects and systems can run on that platform.

Language must start at the top. If the boss doesn’t speak the team language then it won’t stick. I’m learning this myself- I really need to watch my language.