My Best Advice on How Not to Be a Commodity

There will be very few who will follow the idea in this post. Most will ignore the directive I recommend here, doing exactly the opposite, believing it both wiser and more efficient. Those who read it with an understanding of how things are shaking out in business will profit for practicing what follows.

Pulled by the Poles

The business world is being pulled in two directions:

The most potent forces in the history of commerce are driving people and companies to become ever more transactional, removing friction—especially the friction that naturally occurs wherever you find Homo sapiens engaged in any activity, including commercial relationships. The gravitational pull here is difficult to avoid, as technology has allowed for ever more clever software to do work that not long ago belonged to human beings.

We might call this strategy “super-transactional,” marked mostly by lower prices and a reduction in human interactions.

There is another strategy pulling people and companies in an entirely different direction, and increasing friction one might describe as “caring” to create a different level of value. Unlike its polar opposite, there is no drive to lower prices or automate client or customer interactions. Instead, there is increased communication, increased advice, and a process that lends itself to important decisions. It requires more time, more energy, and more caring.

You might call this approach “super-relational,” in that a large part of the value is created by and through human interactions.

Communicating Your Strategy

Because I am a bibliophile of the first order, I like Amazon.com. Their algorithm is exceptionally adept at showing me books I am certain to love—and buy. The 1,600+ books I have purchased from them is a large enough data set to predict what I will buy. Sometimes I buy books from Amazon.com, and other times I buy the hardcover book from my local Barnes & Noble, the Book Loft in German Village, or a local book store in any of the many cities I visit each year (my favorite place to spend time and shop).

Amazon only communicates with me over email. I don’t know anyone who works there, and no one who works for them knows me. Our relationship is super-transactional.

When you allow email to be your primary form of communication with your prospects and clients, you have chosen a medium that, as useful—and useless—as it is, is more transactional than other choices. Your prospecting email is less effective than a phone call because it is an inferior form of communication for meaningful conversations and outcomes. It is more valuable as a follow up to conversations had in more effective mediums.

When you communicate face to face, video face to video face, or by phone, you are choosing a much richer form of communication. You can hear more of what is communicated, and if you can see the person with whom you are speaking to, you see more of what is communicated. This is true even when your subconscious mind is receiving the communication your conscious mind cannot pick up.

If you treat people like they are a transaction, they are likely to reciprocate in kind.

Make Your Choice

If you want to create a preference to work with you and your company, you are not likely going to develop any partiality to choose you by sending an email, and sending an automated chain of emails is almost sure to have the opposite effect. When everyone has chosen a communication method only because it is efficient, differentiation cannot be found in doing the same.

You can choose to show up. You can also decide to pick up the phone, avoiding email when it is the wrong medium for the outcome you are pursuing. You can get from behind the screens that dominate so much of our lives and engage in more effective forms of communication, the kind that gives you a competitive advantage.

If you are not a commodity, it is foolish to behave like one.

Filed under: Relationships

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