My dad, who I sadly lost this year, had a saying about selecting a life profession: “Think of what you like to do, and decide if you’re going to either make it or sell it.” In its simplicity, the adage has proven itself true over and over again.
Consider the talents of artists, scientists, and engineers – all of whom can conceptualize an idea into masterpieces of beauty and/or function. How else would we have the benefits of a Renoir painting or a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright? Who would have ever imagined we could reduce a computer’s size to that of a manila envelope? Wait – who could have ever imagined a computer in the first place? To help creative souls make an actual living, it is the sellers – teachers, marketers, salesmen – who find ways to promote artistic concepts into consumer needs. If done effectively, we become excited to be part of something new or beautiful, to embrace a better breadbox by improving circumstances to a higher standard than ever before.
Historically, the sales and marketing side of business has been seen in a negative light – tough to justify expense and return, annoying and persistent personalities, etc. Yet, even if we can’t take credit for a product’s design or creation, aren’t the rest of us actually sellers? Aren’t we selling a new entrée plate in the cafeteria, or a new menu delivery system to our patients and hospital staff? Aren’t we selling an efficiency method when we promote automation of our inventory? Or, would it be more accurate to state we are sharing excitement and fun instead? Doesn’t everyone want to be “in” on the latest idea or fashion? Perhaps not, but sharing happiness and excitement is definitely a fun way to manage change.
Over the holiday season, I kept wondering how one of my favorite movie characters – Buddy the Elf – would handle customer service and sales. His innocence, and genuinely happy approach to everything, is pretty significant when one also considers outcomes. Recipients of his antics do not realize what hit them: random acts of kindness, compliments, and silliness temper the doldrums of day-to-day life.
In a recent blog by Ron Dawson (12/10/10), he cites Buddy life-lessons we can all use every day – from greeting everyone with a hug to loving the unlovable. While we can’t hug everyone in our daily business, we can treat everyone with genuine welcome. And, perhaps the hardest challenges are the most rewarding (aka the “unlovable”)? In Stephanie Wonderlin’s blog about Buddy the Elf, she identified how his skill sets – always asking questions (“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”) and positive outlook (“You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”) – help us learn our customers’ needs, along with adapting sales strategies to accommodate the target market. She reminds us that technology does not replace human contact. Surely, we haven’t forgotten that?
In the end, I think we sometimes forget who our customer really is. It could be someone calling for software assistance, or a recipe’s allergy information, or just another human being seeking to expand their knowledge. We might also forget that the majority of us are the sellers, or better yet, the educators of a challenge yet unsolved. What an awesome privilege – sharing knowledge, promoting solutions, and bringing artistic concept to reality.
Thanks for the reminders, Buddy… my favorite color is red.
by Annie Conley, Director of Client System Integration, Vision Software