“People who focus on their product do not build great businesses, people who focus on their customers build great businesses.”

One of my jobs when I was 17, was at a toy store in downtown Manhattan. It was around Christmas time and people were coming in from all over the world to find the best gifts for their loved ones.

They wanted to find the perfect gift — the ones that say, “I know you”.

One of my colleagues, let’s call her Sally, was an older woman and she was convinced that she could sell anything to anyone.

She wasn’t wrong. The problem was the way in which she did so. Even though we started out around the same time and she was selling higher-priced items more frequently, she ended up being let go from the job and I did not.

Before we get into what she did wrong, I want to share a couple of definitions with you that I first heard from Myron Golden, which are the differences between convincing and persuading.

“Convincing is getting someone to do something for your reasons while persuading is helping someone do something for their own reasons.” — Myron Golden

Sally was a convincer, not a persuader.

She wanted people to buy for her own reasons, not for theirs.

The tactics that Sally used were pressuring customers into buying. She used sob stories about how it would benefit her and made people feel guilty about not making a purchase. She wouldn’t care to know whom the gift was for and just recommend things because it would earn her a good commission.

Inevitably, the customers would return in the next day or two for a refund and then never return.

If you’re getting a “used car salesman” vibe, you’re exactly right.

What I learned from her was that although you could convince someone to make a purchase, it would most likely end up in a refund, creating more work for everyone else with checking returned items and restocking them, while also giving that customer a reason to avoid your store for the rest of their days.

“Don’t go to this store” they’d tell their friends “the staff pressures you into buying things.”

If you use high-pressure tactics to convince customers to make a purchase, they will quickly resent you.

I took a different approach.

While Sally was very great at pressure selling, what she was not good at was listening. Her strategy was to convince people why they needed to buy what she was selling. She would say things like “kids love this” and “it’s one of our top-selling products”.

Well, Sally… it turns out that not all kids are the same.

Instead, my strategy was to build relationships with the customers who came in, by asking them a little bit about themselves and the child they were buying the gift for. I asked questions like “How old is the child?”, “What type of things do they enjoy doing?” and “Should this gift be educational, crafty, sporty, or just for fun?”

Have you ever received a gift and thought well this is nice but this person doesn’t know me at all. My goal was to make sure that never happened.

In my opinion, convincing is no different than manipulating, and people resent you when they feel manipulated into buying things they don’t need or want.

"People refund transactions, not relationships.”

Years later when I started my first e-commerce business, I lost that face-to-face relationship-building time with the customers and fell into the same trap as Sally.

Because I didn’t know how to build relationships with people in the digital e-comm world, I spent most of my time focused on finding the best products to sell instead. I thought if I found winning products it would ultimately make me successful in my business. I was more focused on getting my cut and selling lots of things than creating relationships and serving.

This approach is flawed in a few other ways as well…

If you rely solely on trending products to build your business then what happens after that product is no longer cool?

I can tell you from experience, that your entire business dies with it.

Focusing on just products is a surefire way to build something that will not last.

“People who focus on their product do not build great businesses, people who focus on their customers build great businesses.” —Tony Robbins

Instead of focusing on what products to sell, you need to focus on who your customer is and build relationships with them so you can actually serve them.

If you don’t know WHO you want to serve then you will have a really hard time growing your business.

Many people who come to me for advice are often struggling to get their message across, and one of the most common problems is they have no idea who they’re selling to. They just have products and they hope someone will want them!

Without knowing who your customer is, how can you figure out how to talk to them!

That’s when I learned about the Dream Customers concept.

A Dream Customer is the type of person you would love to work with. Someone who you would actually be excited to talk to if you were stuck in a room with them. The type of people who could actually benefit from what you have to offer.

So instead of trying to find the next trending product, ask yourself these questions:

Who would I love to serve?

What are the results I want to get them?

What types of things are they currently buying to try to get that result?

If you don’t know who they are, you won’t know what to ask them or how you can help them!

Don’t be an internet Sally! It’s a trap that even I fell into too.

Instead, care about who your customer is and find ways to serve them!

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