Features, Benefits, Meaning. What does it all mean to the customer? On the importance of Empathy for the customer. On buying from the cable company.

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Typical day on the construction job site.

It is a common mistake that sales & marketing pros make to hammer on the features of your product to the prospect. For the most part, you’ll lose ’em because they’re really not that interested in your features. What they want to know is what’s in it for them, and what it’ll mean to them when they got it. They wanna know what it’s like to be the owner of the thing. Give them the ownership experience. And show results, results, results. “Here’s what it’ll look like when it is finished.” That’s what people want: positive, proven results. They’re really not interested in the process. Few people want to know how it works. The engineers want to know how it works, but God save you if you’re trying to sell super smart, yet cynical engineers. They’ll nit-pick everything. Not exactly my target market.

What’s it like for them?

I realize I hammer on this a lot on this platform but what you really need to begin with your innovation and creativity project is Empathy for your customer. You begin with empathizing with the customer. Walking a mile or two in his / her shoes. Knowing what it’s like to be them. What’s their day-to-day like? What does today look like for them? Try to think it through from the morning to the evening at home. If you can, try to have them walk you through their entire day. Better, watch them walk through their entire day. Be the anthropologist and observe them. You may think that’s unreasonable or not feasible. Only it is reasonable and feasible because I’ve done it dozens of times with my market: construction contractors. Let’s see if I can walk you through a typical day for them in the summer time.

Typical day on the construction job site.

4 AM wake up call. Get ready for the day. Leave the house around 4:40 AM. Get to the job site at 5 AM. Get PPE prepared. Get working hard. Two of my guys called in this morning, which means we’ll be behind a few days now. The GC is screaming at me because I just told him we’ll be behind, which puts him behind. (He’s comped on schedule.) So, my guy takes the beating like he should, and goes back to work. The boss shows up and isn’t happy as usual. He , too, beats my guy up because he’s mad that two of his guys didn’t show today. He’s thinking about firing them. But if he does, he wants my guy to do his dirty work for him. Lunch — on the job site. Cheap sandwich and tiny bag of chips. 15 minutes later, back to work. The afternoon goes a bit better. One of the guys shows up and gets to work for three hours. Better than nothing. They make some headway on the project in the early afternoon before quitting time at 3 PM due to the July heat of 105 degrees. They leave the job drenched in sweat, and head home.

That’s a small snapshot of my customer’s typical day. Happens all day in season. You wouldn’t believe the problems these guys encounter! I wonder how any of them ever make any money!? I feel sorry for ’em. And I admire them. I wouldn’t want to do that all day, every day. Then, when it rains, you don’t get to work? What!? What if it rains hard for four days in a row? Then what? No work for four days? No pay? That’s a hard ass way to make money.

What I can do now is speak their language. I can say the F word around ’em because that’s every other word. Plus, it’s fun to say it! And it makes me relate to them better even if it is supposedly not good to say it around the kids.

Become more like your customer.

I think it’s important to realize that you ought to become more like your customer, more like your market. Not everyone agrees with me on this, but if you’re true, if you’re genuine with them, and if you want them to know, like and trust you — and BUY from you — you outta be more like them. Dress like them. Talk like them. Do things they do. Have similar interests and enthusiasms. (Most all of my guys like Metal. I love Metal! Think that helps us build relationships? Better believe it! I can talk about Metal forever. One of the best things I can do is to take my customer to a Metal show and pay for it all.) Remember: we only buy from those we know, like and trust. This goes for brands as well as people. All of us. Together.

Buying from those we do not like and trust. Buying from the cable company.

You ever buy from somebody you don’t like or a brand you don’t like? How’s that feel? Crappy! You hate it! You feel like you want to take a shower afterward. I feel like that every time I pay the damn cable company $200 each month. Pisses me off because their customer service sucks so bad and they do nothing to fix it. I swear to God: they have deliberately horrible customer service. It’s done by design. If they were simply cool — and if they treated their very long-term customers like me as well as they treat new customers — I would stop hating them so much.

But here we are. I very grudgingly pay them the $200 a month because they are one of two games in town. And the other one I hate so much that I can’t even write their name down. They remind me of my cousin’s crappy RV buying experience from the other day. Guess what she did? She left that idiot sales guy’s sales floor after spending 8 lousy minutes with him, and went and bought online. An $80k RV bought online from an RV store 5 hours away from her! Turns out that the sales guy is increasingly becoming unnecessary. She didn’t need him to spend that $80k. Beware the future — especially in retail sales.


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I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.

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