Sometimes, Virginia, There Certainly Is a Santa Claus: Motivating Future Success
By Barry Maher
Jack was the head of a small high tech scientific instrument company. One of his best clients, let’s call them Amalgamated Bio Tech, wanted to place a very substantial order—between 10 and 14 of the company’s latest machines. The machines really weren’t designed for the specific application the customer had in mind. They would have done the job, but marginally. Still, the head of Amalgamated had great faith in Jack’s company. She pressured Jack to go ahead with the deal. And she called two of Jack’s partners, and they pressured Jack as well. After all, their machines were what the customer wanted.
Jack flew out to Amalgamated and actually demonstrated why the competition’s less expensive machines would meet this particular need better than his machines could.
“We’re not in business to provide you with equipment you won’t be 100 percent happy with,” he insisted. The competition got a very nice sale without having to lift a finger.
Of course that was the last time Amalgamated ever bought anything from Jack’s competition. They buy more from Jack’s company than they ever did before. But what’s really boosted sales is that in the last few years the woman that runs Amalgamated has become extremely influential in industry groups. Her recommendations have turned what Jack’s partners once called “the order Jack was too good to sell,” into what Jack calls, “the most profitable deal I never made.”
That’s the Miracle on 34th Street tactic. You become Santa Claus, sending the customer to Gimbels even though you’re with Macy’s—because that’s best for the customer. Still, while it worked for Kris Kringle in the movie and it’s worked for Jack’s company and countless others, I can’t guarantee the results you might get.
I know a middle manager who talked his superiors out of offering him a lucrative promotion because he knew he wasn’t properly qualified for the job. I wish I could say he’s first on the short list for the next promotion he is qualified for, but I can’t. Refusing the position hurt his career. Though probably not as much as taking the job he knew he wasn’t qualified for would have.
All that said, obviously few things build credibility like doing what’s best for someone else rather than grabbing something that appears to be in your own short-term interest. The only thing that could ever stop me from doing business with the mechanic who told me all I needed was a $7 part when I took the car to him for a new transmission was his retirement.
We’ve all known businesspeople who earn so much trust from their customers that those customers would never want to take the risk of buying from anyone else.
What would it do for your career if you were trusted that much by the people you work with?