Your customers are idiots

Clearly MY customers are not idiots. My customers are people of discernment, refinement and good taste.


Unfortunately I may not always have treated them that way.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation?

A potential new customer calls ((or emails, it not being 1953)). They are looking for some help with a new digital marketing project. You have been recommended by someone at their business networking club. Can you help them set up a Facebook campaign?

Why yes, yes I can.

Of course setting up a Facebook campaign is a stupid idea for this company. They are an accountancy firm. They need to be on LinkedIn. I tell them so. After all they called me because of my expertise in digital marketing. There is a pause.

Well this is awkward.

They become breezy. Could you send some details of your rates and so on? they say. We’ll be in touch they say. We part on good terms

Though it sounds a bit like they suddenly wanted to get me off the phone ((or the Hangout)).

It took me a long time to realise that when someone contacts you and asks you if you can do a particular job if your response is

You don’t want to do that.

That sounds an awful lot like

You sir, are an idiot ((or you, sir, are and idiot for the 4chan amongst us)).

Customers are not idiots ((even the ones who are idiots)). They do not, in general, want to hire an expert. They do not want advice. They want what they want ((“Customers don’t want a choice. They want what they want” is possibly my favourite business aphorism (it’s from Joe Pine, management guru), maybe run close by “All the mistakes I made in business started with the words ‘I assumed that'”))

Successful people listen to customers and really, really understand what it is that they want. Then they sell them that.

I find this oddly difficult to do. I watch other, successful, people who make it look effortless.

It seems like it should be effortless.

I worry what it says about me that I find it the opposite of effortless.

Repeat after me.

Customers are not idiots ((a Google search for this term is a scary insight into the human experience)).

Customers are not idiots.

Lessons from a double glazing salesman

A long, long time ago I had a summer job doing home removals ((not really I just put this stuff in to give me some blue collar credentials)). It was hard work but better than catching chickens ((a real alternative)). We were at the more expensive end of the removals business and tended to work for very wealthy people.

There was a particular job that sticks in my mind. It was, even by our high standards, a gorgeous house. The couple that owned it were ridiculously young and friendly. Not only did they provide copious tea and biscuits they sat and chatted with us on our breaks. She did not work. He sold double glazing.

You don’t seem much like a salesman

said the foreman

You seem, well, like a really nice guy. But you must be a really good salesman.

He looked around the house for emphasis.

It’s is easy

said the very successful salesman

you just ask people what they want and then sell them that