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Win Them With

April 19, 2022

In our business, I’ve often felt tempted to alter our offerings to gain a new customer or client. I’m not talking about a slight customization.

I’m saying that a potential customer comes along, and to gain their business, I commit to building something outside of our wheelhouse and core competencies.

And while that may work in the short term, it’s not a sustainable approach.

I’ve heard it said this way: What you win them with is what you win them to. 

I’m going to share a business example with you, but know this principle applies to churches and charities, as well. No matter the type of organization, mission drift is dangerous.

Consider this scenario: You are great at baking, specifically baking cakes. You launch your new business, and you start making cakes for your friends, and their friends, and before you know it, your business is off the ground. Cake-making is something you enjoy, and it’s the offering you want to build your business around.

One day, someone calls, and they ask you to make a large order of sandwiches to cater an upcoming event. Sure, you know how, but it’s not really what you do. Beyond that, it’s not what your business is about. You decide to do it with the hope of earning this customer’s business, thinking that the next time, they’ll ask you to bake a cake.

Instead, the next week, that customer calls back and wants more sandwiches. Then they’ve referred you to their friends. What do their friends want? You guessed it, more sandwiches.

There’s no problem with making sandwiches, but now, the offering you’ve won their business with, is the offering that they keep coming back to.

Or how about this situation? You own a painting company. That’s your expertise and your passion. A large business calls you, but instead of asking you to paint, they ask you to clean their office space. It’s out of the scope of what you do, but you decide that just this once you’ll do it, hoping to earn their painting business down the road. However, every few months they call you back, not asking you to paint, just asking you to clean again. You’ve made a strategic mistake—the thing you’ve won their business with is unfortunately all they want you to do.

As a business owner, I’ve felt this temptation to alter our offerings to gain an exciting new customer. As my imagination runs wild with all the possible ways this client could help grow our business, I realize how easy it is to stray from the core of who we are and what we do well.

I’m not suggesting we should be unaccommodating to our clients and customers, but I am cautioning against getting the wrong business. When you alter what you do to attract a customer, they will often expect you to continue doing more things that are not central to who you are as an organization. If you continue shifting from the core of your business, your identity as an organization is at stake.

This can take on many different forms. A great example is drastically discounting the rates you charge to get a customer to say yes. It’s easy to rationalize when you’re just trying to attract new business, but it can often be a dangerous practice. That customer who got the deep discount is unlikely to ever want to pay full price.

When you’re willing to say or do anything to get a sale, you cheapen your offering, discount your ability, and sell yourself short.

This week, consider the core of your mission and approach. Then commit to it.

You might need to make some concessions, but you must remember that what you win them with is what you win them to.


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