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I grew up in a family business. And the lines between family time and work time were, at best, very blurred. Talk around the dinner table was always a mix of commentary on whatever New York sports team was playing and what had transpired at work that day.
If you just landed from space at our dinner table and overheard the chatter, you’d surely be confused. I think even we could get lost. What I can assure you is no matter the topics of the day, which were almost always sports and business, the discussions were always heated and full of passion. Sometimes, these passionate discussions turned into shouting and insults.
When it came to sports, a lot of the fervor was due to my oldest brother, Marty, and I being avid Yankees, Giants and Knicks fans. But our middle brother, Richie, who Marty and I accused of being adopted, was, and continues to be, a Mets, Jets and Nets fan.
The arguments would turn on a dime from sports to who should be doing what at work, how the work was getting done, what services we should be providing and even what products we should be selling.
To say the arguments about sports and business were heated is like saying jalapenos are just a little hot.
Things never got boring at the Levi dinner table, or anywhere at home or at work for that matter. It’s always going to be tough to get three brothers to agree unanimously about anything. Whether it’s fan loyalty or work-related, it’s only natural that things can get heated.
Fortunately, our dad was the arbitrator between the three of us when things got out of hand. He didn’t care about sports at all, but he did care about the business. He possessed the cooler head.
That didn’t mean we wouldn’t take him on as a group, or individually, if we were really passionate about the way we were doing our work, the people at our company doing the work and the way we were going about growing the business.
The power of passion
I remember many years ago I was lobbying for the right to sell the new European high-end technology that was just beginning to reach the United States. I wanted us to be selling more niche-type products vs. selling the same things my competition was trying to sell — the plain-vanilla products installed at the cheapest price.
After presenting this concept to my dad with all the passion I could muster, my dad told me: “Al, I know you love this stuff but nobody will pay more for something they think of as a commodity. Get used to the fact that if a customer can’t drive it, wear it or show it off to his friends, he won’t pay up for anything more than he has to.”
Undeterred by his comments, I had returned from being at an ISH event in Frankfurt, Germany, armed with a new vigor and a determination to sell what I felt were superior products. I was fully committed to making a passionate presentation to any customer I’d come into contact with.
Here’s the great news. People bought the higher-end, higher-priced equipment from me. I believed they could see the logic of my arguments about energy savings, comfort and safety. But what I believed even more is they bought my passion. The same passion that was honed in conversations around our dinner table.
The story gets better.
One day I received a letter from a customer after doing one of these high-end technology installation jobs. And I kid you not, here’s what the customer wrote:
“This is the best money I ever spent on something I can’t wear or show off to my friends!” Hey two out of three ain’t bad.
It was a magical moment!
And when I shared this letter with my dad, who was always a good sport, he looked at me, smiled and said, “I’m happy to be proven wrong.”
So, are you thinking that your customers won’t listen to your passionate presentation on what you really believe is in their best interest? If so, you’re wrong.
Do you think you can grow your company and make a profit by trying to be the lowest-cost bidder? Not likely.
Break away from the pack and learn how to sell better solutions that your customers will be willing to pay more for.
Find something that’s better out there in the marketplace and get yourself fired up about it.
I bet you’ll make more sales and profit than you could have ever imagined on something most customers “can’t drive, can’t wear or show off to their friends.”
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