July 9

Did I Think This Through?

why150by Jeff Kirsch

Taking pride in your service or product really gives your customers a sense of what they are getting. Getting past the sales pitch and seeing true emotions helps ease the mind of decision makers. It lets them know there is substance behind your service or product, not just show. But too much pride, seen as arrogance, can turn a customer into an enemy faster than bad service or poor quality. It gives a person a reason to find fault, and more motivation to speak out against you.

The Pitch

Deciding to take some time for ourselves, my wife and I decided to have someone watch our kids so we could go out for a casual dinner. We decided to go casual because we couldn’t get over the idea that someone might try to Stir the Potatoes again. We selected an Italian style restaurant, some place we hadn’t been to before. As we waited for our table we enjoyed the atmosphere and observed the people around us.

We were seated in a nice corner booth and our server came over to introduced herself. She explained all the nooks and crannies of the menu, including the restaurant’s special oven-fired chicken. While taking our order the server was delighted at my wife’s decision to mix and match things from the menu, since she had suggested “customizing” the meal. Her mood soured when I placed my order for the chicken parmesan. “Wouldn’t you like one of our oven-fired chicken meals instead” she asked, to which I indicated I did not. “But that is what sets us apart from other restaurants,” she insisted, to which again I responded no thank you. “You can get that anywhere,” she scolded, at which point my wife stepped in and suggested, “But it is better than any other place, right?” The server’s response was a resounding “No”, and she shook her head and walked away.

I looked at my wife and wondered how things went so wrong. “You made her mad,” my wife said. After eating our meal, our server returned with a desert tray. She had calmed down and was at ease describing the sample size deserts, highlighting which were her favorites. Of course I took one and my wife the other, ensuring the happiness of our server for the rest of the night.

The Sale

I was told by a good friend to start with a question, and so I ask, “What was she thinking?” Anyone who has worked with customers knows the mantra, “The customer is always right.” The truth is the customer wants to be right, and telling them they don’t know what they want so bluntly does not endear them to you. In information security, we have to sell something that on the surface most people don’t want. We are selling something they don’t see, something they can’t touch or taste. We tell them they are safe and to trust us, but how we often sell it is with a club.

As an IT auditor, I have unfortunately done the exact thing I’m saying you shouldn’t do. I believe at some point we all make this mistake. We are so enthusiastic about our work that we are blinded to what the customer’s point of view may be. It isn’t until you see that look on their face that you realize you need to brush up your “pitchman” skills.

Perhaps we need to step back after we are convinced the product is the right thing, and remember what gave us reservations in the first place. We can then work our way forward step by step, understanding where the “sale” may hit a snag. At those points, list what sold you on moving forward and put those ideas in your customer’s language. Removing yourself as a hurdle to selling security brings us that much closer to the finish line, and will restore the trust your customer needs to feel. The last thing you want to do is walk away asking yourself, “What was I thinking?”


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