“If I told you what it takes to reach the highest highs, you’d laugh and say, ‘Nothing’s that simple.’ But you’ve been told many times before, Messiah’s pointing to the door, and no one had the guts to leave the temple.” – from “I’m Free” by The Who Let me start by saying that I’m something of a heretic, especially when it comes to business. Some would say that I’m outrageously opinionated, and that listening to my crazy ideas could get you into a lot of trouble. I say bring it on, because I’m here to set the business world on fire and liberate the masses from the clutches of an insidious conspiracy to keep them under control. Call me Kilroy. The leaders of the conspiracy, the Bishops of Big Business, want you to believe that their sacred cows of traditional, interrupt-driven marketing and fast-and-hard selling are alive and well. They want you to believe that they know what’s best for you, the consumer. They want you to believe that you as a consumer should be grateful for the fact that they as a business would condescend to serve you. And their arguments must be pretty convincing, because I see you perpetuating the fallacy on your customers. In blind imitation, you shout from the rooftops about how great your product is and expect that everyone in hearing distance will beat a path to your door, waving their money over their heads and clamoring for more. And when they don’t show up, you climb back up on the roof and shout it louder, then louder still. Hey, it’s always worked for the big guys, right? Why change now? Maybe what you really need is a bigger ad in the Yellow Pages! Dr. Phil called; he wants to know how that’s working for you. It’s time for a reality check folks. The old religion of demanding your customers’ attention is dying; its followers are slowly starting to wake up to a new day, the dawn of customer engagement. You can be a leader in this movement. Following are four badges that will help you shed the robes of the Cult of Othodox Business Doctrine and become one of the enlightened. The Badge of Humility Repeat after me: I do not know more than my prospects, and I will no longer treat them as if I do. Take a deep brreath, and repeat it again. This will become your new mantra. For decades, the Bishops have encouraged salespeople and marketers to treat their prospects like children that needed to be led to the proper decision. Look around though, and what you find are savvy consumers who do their homework and are often better informed than the person who is trying to sell them a product. That being the case, why not start with a little humility? Acknowledge the intelligence of your customers, and, as a humble servant, help them find exactly what they’re looking for. The Badge of Ethics The old religion taught us to make the sale at any cost, and the results have been disastrous. Look no further than your local neighborhood and see the devastation brought on by this predatory practice. All those foreclosures on your block? That’s what happens when you make the sale at any cost. To earn this badge, you have to commit to doing what is right for your customer…even if that means walking away from the sale. If you have to ask yourself whether a particular action is really ethical, err on the side of caution. If you’ll always do what’s right, you’ll not only sleep better at night, you’ll see more success in your business as well. The Badge of Responsibility It seems that the favorite game of Big Business is the Blame Game. You know the one, right? It’s like Hot Potato: a customer complaint comes in or a defect is revealed, and everyone scrambles to make sure the blame doesn’t get pinned on them. Just have a look at the way Toyota is handling their current fiasco. Rather than say “Hey, we know something’s wrong and we’re doing everything we can to fix it,” they seem to be more interested in proving that nothing is wrong with the cars in question. They’re taking the engineers approach and digging in to the “operator error” position. If you want to earn the Badge of Responsibility, learn from Toyota’s mistake and own your customers’ problems and complaints. Don’t point fingers; say “I’m sorry, and I’m going to make it right.” Then, do everything you can to make it right. The Badge of Optimism Let’s face it: the Bishops are a cynical bunch. They don’t have a very favorable impression of the intelligence of their customers. They think that in order to win, someone else (i.e. their customers or competitors) has to lose. They believe that there is a limit to the resources in the world, and they scramble to get theirs before anyone else does. It’s a pretty pessimistic outlook, on the whole. You, though, must strive to be different. You must decide now to choose optimism, each and every moment of each day. You must choose to see the world as a constantly improving place of abundance and unlimited opportunity. I know it won’t be easy at first, but it will be worth the effort when you start to appreciate the perfection in the world around you. The effect on your customers will be remarkable, too; people will want to be around you. They’ll look forward to their opportunities to interact with you, and you’ll do more business than ever before. Blind adherance to the traditions and practices of the Cult of Orthodox Business Doctrine has been killing your business, and you have to act with urgency to free yourself from its shackles. Work hard to earn the Badges of the HERO listed above, then go out and evangelize these ideas! It’s up to you to bring an end to the dying old system and usher in a bright new future of enlightened business practices. Business is broken, but together we can fix it. 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