By Peter Switzer
Overnight, the world’s richest woman died and it reminded me of a lesson we all should never forget if you want to be a success.
Liliane Bettencourt was a French businesswoman and heiress of cosmetics giant L'Oreal and she died age 94. Bettencourt and her offsprings owned 33% of the company, meaning her net worth was around $39.5 billion and I’m talking US dollars!
L’Oreal is one of the world’s most successful and enduring brands and cosmetic companies have been some of the greatest role models of how you build a business, attract customers and, more importantly, keep them.
However, these great business brands don’t just teach would-be great entrepreneurs to build exceptional businesses — they teach us about the art of winning over people. This is a skill useful for anyone in the selling of goods, services, your potential as an employee, a manager, a CEO or a partner for life!
One of the most memorable pieces of sales advice I ever came across came from our business coach (a woman who’d made her name in PR) was when she told us that Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, had famously said: “In the factory, we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.”
He also was famous for something forgettable which was: “Look, kiddie. I built this business by being a bastard. I run it by being a bastard. I’ll always be a bastard, and don’t you ever try to change me.”
OK, he wasn’t always the best business role model but his insights on what you’re really selling is critical when you market your products, your services, your business brand or your personal brand.
Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why has argued in one of his famous Ted Talks that most people don’t buy on facts and figures, which is the domain of the neo-cortex part of the brain. Instead, we’re more driven to like and buy a product, a service or a person based on their why.
So it's less what and more why.
He says people are often heard saying that: “I know the facts and figures say this but it just doesn’t feel right,” or they might say: “I’m going with my gut-feeling.”
The emotional bit in the selling and buying process dominates, with Sinek insisting most of us buy not what you do but why you do it.
When we started a financial planning business, we rebated commissions and charged flat dollar fees. Our ‘why’ is our prominent desire to make our clients wealthier rather than pocket easy profits at their expense.
Revson lived in a politically incorrect age when women were thought to want to look like movie stars and models so he used these people and images to connect to his audience.
It was the era of the TV program Mad Men and Revson knew that “his customers didn’t want the latest shade of red lipstick. They wanted to feel sexy, desired and exciting. They wanted their husbands or boyfriends to look at them like Humphrey Bogart looked at Lauren Bacall.”
The experts in sales say that despite his questionable personality, Revson got sales. He knew that knowing what you sell changes how you sell.
The smart Brenda Do from BL Copywriting in the USA has this great message for all sellers and marketers. “When we forget what we truly provide, it flattens our marketing messages and stalls our creativity. Before long, we start looking and acting like our competitors.”
At Switzer, our motto is always “Guidance you can trust”. I always wanted it to be “The most honest financial planning business in the country” but the law wouldn’t let us say that! But that’s the message I always wanted to sell.
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