“What do you own?” he asked her.
“I own lots of things,” she replied, before going on to stumble through a list: Her car, her favorite Gucci purse, a timeshare in Mexico, her 300,000 count Egyptian cotton bedsheets.
“No you don't,” he said calmly.
“Yes I–” she started.
“You don't own any of those things, because someday, all those things will be gone,” he said.
She squirmed in her seat.
“The only thing you own,” he said, “is the one thing that you will have forever, no matter what happens.”
“Debt?” she laughed.
A friend of mine told me this story the other day when we were sitting in this pool. Obviously I was sipping a cocktail and obviously I oooed and ahhhhed over the main point of the story, because as it turns out, this conversation took place in a sales setting (MY FAVORITE SETTING NEXT TO CHARMING LITTLE PENTAGON-SHAPED POOLS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE JUNGLE). The man was her boss, and the woman was an account executive whose job it was to get people to agree to have a meeting. Since this is precisely what I used to do in advertising sales, I felt like we had a bond going there, you know?
Anyway, while we're all sitting around (that's you and me, because you're here too, now) selfishly reflecting on our own names, going, “Oh yeah, so true, my name is so important,” that's not what this guy was talking about.
He was talking about the customer's name.
Because when you're selling yourself, it's easy to think that your name is what matters to the customer. You tell prospects all the things that YOU'VE done and all the things that YOU think and all the things that YOU suggest and all the reasons why YOU are the best.
But guess what? Nobody gives a shit about you.
What they care about is themselves–because we're human, and that's what humans do. And therefore, the most important thing to them is THEIR OWN NAME.
How is your product, your service, your widget…going to help them make their name?
Whatever story you tell, it should never be yours–it should be theirs.
It's why Nike puts out this ad:
…and not this one:
(Which by the way, can we talk about how my Photoshop skills have improved over the years? Might not be the world's greatest, and those fonts certainly don't match, but considering I can barely make myself a grilled cheese I'm feeling awfully smug.)
What's the big difference here?
Not the sex appeal of the ad, but it's about something so simple, most people overlook it:
The first ad contains the word: YOUR. (Twice.)
The second? Contains the words: OUR, US and WE.
Sometimes, it's the smallest tweaks that can have the biggest impact.
Your homework: Look at whatever you're selling. Print out your sales page, your description, your whatever you've got. Go through the print out with a big red pen, and circle every place that you use the words our, my, mine, us, we, me, I.
Now, what can you do to turn those statements around from being all you…to all about the customer?
Need some inspiration?
Take a peek at this About Page. Or Spotify's. About Pages are always sales pages in disguise. You might think a company's About Page would be the one place they should talk about themselves, right? Wrong. At least, not in the beginning. The challenge is to talk about yourself within the context of the customer. (Don't look for ours right now–we don't have one at the moment. Long story.)
At the end of the day, a customer really only cares about how a product or service is going to help them.
Because when they buy something from you, turns out it's not your name on the line…