Haircuts and Sales Pitches

8 September 2021

I’ve just had my hair cut, an experience I never particularly enjoy. The bit when the barber asks the dreaded question, “how would you like it today?”.

I never have any idea what to say. Perhaps, I need to take a photo of a previous cut I liked and stick it to the mirror and point like a caveman.

Eventually, we navigated this hurdle in an awkward exchange that had the cape around my neck tightening as I tried to remember if I usually have a number 5 or number 4 around the back and sides. It was like being asked a starter question for ten on University Challenge.

This particular barber was not overly accepting of the prowess (or lack of) I showed describing my perfect cut. Still, I was counting my lucky stars that I’d chosen the first appointment of the day, shuddering at the thought of what she would be like if she’d just had to grapple with a highly annoying young child before me.

As she started to razor the back of my head (number five, it turns out), she suddenly went into a 20-minutes monologue, giving me a brief overview of the state of her life. How she is looking to move to Wales; had spent the day there yesterday so was very, very tired (especially after popping in to see her mum on the journey home); and how her ex-husband is currently her lodger. Just three out of the million or so things she bombarded me with during my cut.

Even after ten minutes, when I shut up completely, she just carried on sharing. Safe to say, I was glad when it was finally over, and I could take my leave; my hair pretty much the shape I’d hoped for. No doubt I’ll finish it off in the mirror when I’ve had one too many beers later tonight. (This is something I know I shouldn’t even attempt, as previous ‘tidy-ups’ have taught me that when it comes to hair and mirrors, I can’t seem to grasp forwards, backwards, left or right, which usually results in some sort of scarring.)

So what has this got to do with marketing?

Well, firstly, if you can avoid discomfort for a customer, do it. You do not win by making things challenging, leaving someone feeling stupid for not knowing answers to the stuff you take for granted in your day-to-day work.

Secondly, if someone is paying you for a service, they don’t want to hear about you; they want to hear about them. That service you are trying to sell (and that includes you selling yourself), forget about why you think it’s excellent. Offer an idea of how it will impact the customer. Ask about them. Talk about them.

Ultimately, no one wants to walk away from any transaction feeling bad about themselves.

While marketing has to work harder than ever these days to start a conversation, your second conversation could be make-or-break. Choose your words wisely.