When you have a Need to Know, you can’t only listen to yourself.
I talk to people all the time about their small business, and strategy for competing well in their marketplace, but I have noticed a common theme. Often times these owners cite the reasons they can’t compete with one particular company or trend. They are upset that their small business seems to be slipping, but also reluctant to change what they are doing. They just want to listen to themselves tell themselves to do the same things that used to work better. That is not adapting, that is not changing the problem, that is not going to work. If you knew what you need to know, why even talk about it?
I do my best to listen to other’s ideas for my business, so I don’t dismiss an idea before I hear it.
My favorite story of this happening is one where I met with one of the more well known Real Estate brokers in his market, he asked to meet with me and I obliged as that is what I do. The meeting was one sided, I never got a chance to offer my explanation of the way I would transform his marketing and set him apart from the rest of those in the towns he sold homes in. He simply interrupted me and took over telling me what he thought I would need to know. Trouble is this meeting wasn’t for my business, it was for his.
“Most of my Customer’s are not online, or on social media.”
That was when I became the most interested in this guy, I stopped listening to his explanations because of two major issues. One, he was wrong, and two, he was clearly at the meeting to make sure I knew how wrong he was. “It is not worth any investment for me to compete online, the big real estate guys have it covered.” Meaning Realtor.com, Trulia.com, etc. He was surrendering ‘online’ to them. “Most of my customers find me through word of mouth and past business.”
I sat across from him as he spewed this nonsense and drifted into thought about why he called me to come talk to him. I mean he promptly took over the conversation, and told me why I wasn’t needed. I would have stayed home and worked on a Real Estate client that wants to be the best online presence in his market. The reason came to me as he explained his fear that his employees would waste time marketing online. He knew that having me in his office, he would be comfortable enough to tell me that I wasn’t needed. That he could go and tell his real estate people that he had met with me, but it was a waste of time and money. He wasn’t ready to admit he had a need to know, he wasn’t ready for change.
“I disagree wholeheartedly”
That was my response and I followed it up with an offer that went something like this: ‘I came here because you asked me to, and I fully want you to do what you think is best for your business. That is why I am going to offer you the opportunity to watch me do what I proposed to you for someone else. That way you can know for sure that either you were right, or I was.’
I did not come to sell him, I came at his request, and I came to explain. He didn’t listen long enough for me to, but I listened to him, and decided before he stopped talking that I would exit his office ASAP. His need to know was not matched by his understanding of that need.
What we have been busy building for the very successful Real Estate Broker who asked to talk to me, and listened, is a dominant web position that will incrementally separate itself from the competition. It is also something that the first Broker I spoke to never heard about, because he didn’t listen.
Small Business owners need to watch their ass, but still listen to new ideas.
I know about the trials and tribulations of small business ownership, I have a few of them. (Andolinis, Sauce to name a few) It is hard, and there isn’t always someone to turn to when you need advice. But that doesn’t mean you are the holder of every answer and when you conduct yourself that way, eventually it shows.
Sometimes you just Need to Know, so listen. Then you can decide if someone is a flake, a schemer, or a bullshitter.
One response to “Small Business Owner No No”
Great article! I too have had this issue, recently I had 2 different brokers come to me for marketing help. One, was very engaged and wanted me to help not only the franchise but teach the agents how to utilize inbound marketing – the other told me that he does not understand technology and therefore he wanted me to help him with direct mail but nothing else since he has been in the real estate industry longer than I’ve been alive so he knows what works and what does not. It’s frustrating when you are called upon to offer your advice and services to a business just to have the owners tell you why you don’t know what works. Listening is the greatest advice to give to a small business owner and establishing trust is the best thing a marketing professional can do to create a successful business relationship.