Who’s on First in Your Business?
Updated September 2019: I stumbled on this post I originally wrote in 2012. Have I really been blogging that long? I did have a few additional thoughts, that you will see sprinkled throughout, but for the most part, the message and ideas have held up pretty well because marketing lessons are timeless.
Marketing Lessons are Everywhere
One of my all-time favorite comedy routines is “Who’s on First?” by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. If you are not familiar with the routine, take a few minutes and watch the short video. And even if you have seen it before, it is always nice to have a midday laugh. ( The routine starts around 1:24)
The miscommunication between the two performers is what makes this routine so funny. Abbott and Costello are both speaking English, but they are not communicating because they have come into the conversation with dramatically different levels of knowledge.
We watch and laugh as Costello becomes increasingly frustrated because the information he is receiving makes absolutely no sense to him. He is able to recite back what he hears, and Abbot thinks he is making his point clearly, but that is obviously not the case
While this is funny in video, it isn’t in real life, especially when you are trying to make a sale or impress someone at a networking event. And we also see this type of cross talk pop up on websites and in social media.
So take a look at the marketing lessons you can pick up from these great comedians and make you next sales conversation fun and productive.
Strike One: Jargon
Rather than admit they don’t know, people will often nod knowingly as you toss around industry buzz words and jargon. To avoid this error, take a minute to define your terms.
It is so easy to introduce jargon by saying, “you probably know this, but…” Once the terms are defined, it is easier to switch the focus to what you really want to sell.
If you are writing web copy the first time you introduce jargon consider adding an alternative or explanatory phrase in parenthesis next to the content like this: TLDR (Too long, didn’t read)
Strike Two: Playing in the Wrong Ball Park
Is “Who” a name or a question? In the video Bud thinks it is a name, while Lou thinks it is a question. In business when a customer says they have a big problem, or a substantial budget to fix it, many sales professionals start to salivate.
But what is big to the prospect may not be to you. Ask questions to clarify what the other person means. Don’t be afraid to ask prospects to be specific and give you examples so you can guarantee you are playing on the same field.
For example – If they say it is a big problem, ask about the penalties for not solving it. Will the business fail or simply hit a bump in the road?
Strike Three: Shut Up and Listen
As the routine builds to its crescendo, the two performers talk over each other, to the point where they are anticipating the other’s comments, but are not really listening. If you want to make a sale, connect with a prospect or referral source, stop and really listen to what they are saying.
Instead of going through your standard questions by rote, build on what they say. The conversation may meander a bit, but you will learn a lot more relevant information which you can use later in your sales process.
Hit a Home Run: Put These Marketing Lessons into Practice
If you want to knock your next sales call or networking conversation out of the park take a few minutes to plan your conversation. Look for ways to simplify your message, rehearse your definitions and be sure to ask questions. Most importantly, listen to the answers!