Roman Or Norman? It's The Difference Between Being Seen As A Partner Or An Invader.
With all of discussion in recent years about importance of understanding our customer's needs, it's a valuable exercise to try to see ourselves as we might be perceived by our customers.
For example, if a customer glances out office window as we march from visitor's lot towards their fortress, briefcases and laptops in hand and a pocket full of business cards, do they see friend or foe? Invader or partner?
On a recent speaking engagement in England, I found myself thinking seriously about two different groups of our sales ancestors. We've learned a great deal from both, but it became clear to me that each has a far different message to tell in terms of how to deal with customers.
Back in year 1066, an aggressive organization calling themselves "Normans" invaded England from what is present-day France. They were led by a loud, authoritarian sales manager who came to be known as William Conqueror. You'd probably recognize type. His goal is winning – on his terms.
Now, Bill, as he was known to his closest friends, had done some fairly extensive market research and had determined that English were good fighters, but he felt that he was better. So his approach was to be tougher than other guy. He moved in, built forts, stole stuff and killed a lot of people. Needless to say English didn't care too much for him, so he had to spend rest of his life in combat to hold on to what he had taken. Bill was convinced that this was only way to conquer a country and his loyal troops saw it that way too. After all, what else could you do since English never stopped fighting back? To this day, remains of Norman forts are scattered throughout countryside and every English child is taught date of battle of Hastings where Bill, Conqueror, struck his first blow. A thousand years have passed, and "customer" is still angry.
If Bill had done a little historical research, however, he might have found a better way. A thousand years earlier, another sales manager, this time a Roman named Jontheous, attempted to take English market by storm. When locals fought back vigorously, however, he concluded that a lifetime of fighting wasn't going to be good for team morale. Jontheous pulled out, returned to corporate headquarters in Rome, and about ten years later revisited England - without an army. This time he brought with him architects, and priests, and teachers who moved in to local villages and cities and befriended citizens. They built water systems and sewage systems, and even forts and walls. But unlike forts of Normans, Jontheous's walls didn't separate Romans from locals. They surrounded towns and offered protection to everyone. His people intermarried and learned local language. They even added local gods to Roman worship.
Jontheous and his followers lived in peace with English for more than a hundred years and many cities they helped develop, such as London, still bear their mark. By about 125 AD Romans were having trouble in other parts of empire and were forced to downsize and close some branch offices, so they departed, leaving behind a rich legacy of contribution. Their successful working relationship with English people meant that after passage of some 2,000 years, people of England still speak well of Romans.
Today, however, even with all emphasis on customer-focused selling, I still encounter far more Normans than Romans. I still see too many companies who perceive client as something to be conquered rather than embraced. Just other day, while waiting in showroom of a local car dealer, I overheard a manager coaching a sales rep by saying, "There's a customer out there with bags of money. Go get it!"
Roman or Norman?
I've heard a vice president of a major software company tell a client that they had to be committed to their product 100% or they would be seen as enemies!