Ben Langhinrichs

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June, 2005
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Tue 7 Jun 2005, 05:27 PM
I get a rather perverse pleasure out of the times when someone comes looking for one of our products, and after talking to them for a while, I talk them out of buying the product, or sometimes simply show them how they can avoid needing the product.  My wife thinks I'm nuts, my kids despair of me, but (I think) I have sound business reasons.

Now, the obvious reason might be the one made famous in the original Miracle on 34th Street movie, where Santa Claus sends customers to other stores to find better deals, and the store is viewed more favorably in the future.  This is not a bad reason, and I have certainly had customers come back to buy products after first being sent away without needing them, but it is not the only reason.

The reason I like it when this happens is that it demonstrates some small spark of objectivity.  Not much mind you, but a little bit.  There may be plenty of times when I show people that a product of ours is the "right choice", and I am certainly not shy about mentioning our products, but it stands to reason that sometimes our products are not the "right choice".  Sometimes there is a better, cheaper, easier choice, or there is a way that a customer doesn't need our product at all to accomplish the task.  It just isn't believable that our product is always best, and when I start feeling like it is always best, I am becoming dangerously subjective.

So why all the worry about objectivity?  Because, without objectivity, I'll make the products I want, and I'll be happy with the way they work.  Trouble is, I want to sell my products to other people, and they may not want the products I want, and they may not be as happy as I am with the way they work.  If I get subjective, I start to ignore them or minimize their feelings.  That is not the way to run a business.

So, once in a while, it is refreshing to realize while a customer is telling me why they need my product, I can see past the potential sale.  I can see that it might be just as easy to use a native feature, or it might even make more sense to use a rival product.  When this happens, I tell the customer, and even offer to help them follow up.  They have done me a huge favor, without even knowing it.  They have reassured me that the customer still does come first, even if means a "lost sale".

So, have you convinced someone to NOT use your product, or service or skill or talent, recently?  If not, have you possibly lost sight of whose needs really matter?

Copyright 2005 Genii Software Ltd.