When passion, desperation, and the stakes are running high some people go to extraordinary lengths to be heard. What’s important in the moment – these days COVID-19 transcends or at least overlays almost every issue – is in stark contrast to the seemingly mundane tasks of everyday life.
Industries everywhere have gone through a period of questioning their very existence unless they were directly contributing to the priorities of saving lives and livelihoods, supporting care workers and providers of other essential services, and empowering people to look after their own and their dependants’ well-being.
Even sectors which weren’t effectively closed down in the way that travel and leisure were, or that weren’t essential infrastructure in the way that many public services and things like communication and distribution are, have had to search for new meaning. Either that, or they’ve tried to “pivot”, fake relevance, ride it out, or retire.
There’ve been some marvellous attempts to “pivot” – a word I coined from Al Tepper’s 2017 blog, “top 10 Marketing Takeaways from Science Fiction“. I don’t just mean turning your resources to PPE manufacture. You only have to look at the events industry to see that what Gen Z considers an event is now becoming mainstream.
By “search for new meaning”, I’m talking about delving into what’s really valuable, not just to others but to self as well. Those who genuinely care about what they’re doing stand out a mile from those who’re just going through the motions. Why should anyone else care if the seller themself doesn’t care?
We’ve been saying for years that buyers are done with bullshit, that they won’t knowingly be forced to buy crap they don’t want or that doesn’t do what’s promised. Meaningless slogans and straplines are even more worthless now.
Humans are sensitive creatures, tuned to detect the mismatch between how things appear and how things really are. The competition between products has always been as much or more to do with communication as it was to do with reality. The job of the buyer was not just to find the right solution, but to decipher the truth behind the marketing.
And one of the tests is the personal belief behind the seller. If the seller doesn’t care, then hardly anyone will value or even notice what they’re selling unless it’s an essential. And it’s a loser’s game to try to make non-essential appear essential.
The signals we detect aren’t limited to body language, tone, or words. Malcolm Browne’s famous photo of the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức shows the lengths humans have gone to communicate an important message.
You can fake the message, but you can’t as easily fake belief. Progressive selling isn’t getting your story straight. It’s at once knowing your actual story and telling it as it is.
If you don’t care about what you’re doing, you’d better either find meaning in what you’re doing or change what you’re doing.