We don’t sell that fire engine, but our competition does

A new tradition for my young family is to go get our Christmas tree and, while decorating, order pizza and drink wine and watch a couple of classic Christmas movies. One of our all time favorites is Miracle on 34th Street. This film has so many great lessons in it for our kids – and adults too. My favorite lesson Kris Kringle teaches us is when he is working the Santa line at the Macy’s department store and a kid asks for a fire engine that he knows Macy’s does not sell so he tells the mom to go across the street to Gimbels – the competition. The mom is truly shocked and seeks out the manager from the toy department to applaud him for making their happiness more important than taking their money. She also tells him that she had not done much shopping at Macy’s in the past, but is now going to be a loyal customer.

Well, you’ve probably seen it, the top brass at the company finds out about the buzz and loyalty that this crazy unexpected technique has created and demands everyone in the company get behind it. It’s genius. They insist all employees send the customer to Gimbels if Macy’s does not have exactly what they are looking for. In fact, after all of the good publicity and customer goodwill Macy’s receives for doing this, Gimbels decides to do the same and send people back to Macy’s. Both companies, anxious to avoid looking greedy, decide that the money is not as important as making sure that the customer finds what they are looking for and both end up creating happier, more loyal, customers and in turn – more profit.

What a great lesson. Take a stand. Be honest with your customer or prospect and if what your selling is not just right for them – help them find it. Rather than sell them something of yours that is sort of what they need, why not help them find just the right thing? Even though you did not make a sale, you know they will tell a great story about you. It’s so hard to get people to tell good stories about your business and I know for sure that people are not going to talk about your business if you’ve sold them something that works, but is not just what they need. So rather than taking the money – be different and create a surprising, unexpected experience for them and I bet something good will come out of it. And because of this, over time, you’ll likely end up with less customer service requests (and headaches) and more loyal customers who talk about you often and keep coming back.

What a great time of year! Happy Holidays!