The kids are on fall break this week and we decided to take a trip to Rome for part of it. One of the major perks of living in the middle of Europe is that we have the luxury of an hour flight to a handful of wonderful European cities. Rome, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin are all just a short, cheap flight away. Very fortunate.
So we chose Rome because this time of year the weather is great, most of the tourists are Europeans also on Fall Break from school, and it’s during the “shoulder months” when tourism overall is a bit lower than normal. So the hours long waits for things like the Vatican or Coliseum are a bit more bearable.
Yesterday was the day we were going to spend at the Vatican. It was a great day, and what a beautiful space. You know it’s small, for a country (the smallest in the world at just 110 acres and about 800 permanent residents, but for a church it’s gigantic.
Since it is literally a small country there’s a wall around the entire thing, and just a couple of entrances for tourists. Staged around each of these entrances, and almost over every other square foot of ground elsewhere are hundreds of peddlers selling guided tours of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
They’re very creative too. Some are dressed like you’d expect: tour guide badges, vests, and funny hats. Some are more discrete, dressed like papal helpers with their mandarin collared shirts and Ray Bans. And almost all are eager to help you understand which way to go, and how to best see Vatican City.
But, what quickly became obvious was that some of them were answering our questions just to funnel us down to the tour guide office to buy their guided tour, and some very genuinely wanted to help you understand their beautiful city and this international landmark.
The difference between the two parties permeated everything: their temperament, how they answered questions, how they dressed and presented themselves, where they stood in relation to public or private entrances (the really good ones actually stood at Private entrances, seemingly telling you that you can’t enter there, and thus establishing themselves as authority figures in a very unassuming, helpful way).
We’ve all been approached by the pushy, card slapping pushers at these tourist attractions. Your immediate reaction is to guard your wallet and tell them that you know everything there is to know, and have a plan in place.
But we’ve all had the pleasant experience of finding that rare species at a tourist hub like the Vatican who seemingly is there just to answer a few questions, point you in the right direction if you’d like, and make no presumptions about injecting themselves in your daily activities.
What a refreshing change.
I didn’t think about it at the time (because I was closely guarding my wallet and trying to navigate the sea of ‘helping hands’), but it dawned on me later that this is exactly the same paradigm that we experience every day with business, and in particular online business.
The fact is there are takers and givers. Those who are offering to help you, always with their hand out, and those who genuinely want to help you knowing that if they serve their audience the choice to buy/opt-in/follow will be a logical next step for you.
I spent some time yesterday thinking about which camp I fall into.
Does the popup form on my site really welcome people and let them explore PodcastMotor at their own pace, without interruption?
What about emails letting subscribers know about a new blog post?
What about how we post to social media….do we really NEED 20 posts a day on Twitter?
I like the idea of guiding principles: simple questions that you can ask yourself in almost any situation which will help you determine if a pending decision is in line with your core beliefs. And I think this paradigm is one of those guiding light principles.
Are you genuinely trying to help your audience, or just engage them in a conversation long enough to convert them into customers?
This is a simple question, and as you look at yourself back in the virtual mirror of business you should know quickly whether a decision you’re facing is in line with your core beliefs, or whether you’re veering down the road of a pushy, scammy salesman.
For me, I’ve always prided myself in being an above average salesman, and even more so have tried to do so in a very unassuming and non-threatening way. For me this has always been easy because I’ve had a strong conviction that the thing I was selling is a great solution for my potential customers. I think this core belief is essential to selling without haste, pressure, and without your customers ever feeling like you’re trying to get something out of the situation.
A good sales exchange should really leave everyone feeling like they “won”. Your customers won because they got a great solution to their problem. You won because you were able to align your solution with their needs, and they paid you for it.