Recently my son and I stopped by a car dealership to see a new model that we had been reading about. We love to see new cars, flip through car magazines and watch those shows on TV about car auctions. As we were admiring the cool new model, a salesperson came up. He was very polite and began to tell us about some of the features. We were all smiles.
However, pretty quickly our experience took a turn for the worse. The salesperson began to tell us about other competing makes and models, other engine options and how competitors were coming out with better options. It was strange. He was like a computer with a virus that caused it to spit out a flood of irrelevant data. We really liked this particular car, the one we were sitting in, yet he just kept going on and on about other cars that this dealership did not even sell.
Our salesman had fallen prey to a very unfortunate condition: he lost his ability to think like a kid. He was all data and spreadsheet comparisons. If all the customer wanted was the most logical choice, there would only be one car company making one type of car. Certainly we study the facts and generally make informed decisions - this idea is not in conflict with that. As professionals we should be smart, up to date, knowledgeable, even experts. But do not allow your knowledge of facts to shut down that childlike passion inside. That spark is what moves people to action.
As we left the car lot, we both felt let down by the experience. We had not planned to buy the car, but we were excited to see it. Rather than go straight home, my son suggested we stop in across the street at another dealership and check out the new 2014 pickup trucks. What a great son I have!
As we walked around the competing dealership, a salesperson came out and greeted us. He was positive, said all great stuff about his trucks and welcomed us into the showroom to see a top of the line 2014 model. We laughed and climbed all over that beautiful beast of a truck. I asked the salesperson how long he had been there, and he said he just started selling cars three months ago. He was like a kid. He said his biggest problem was working around such amazing cars made him want a different new car every day. Exactly! He had emotion; he was connected to his product and understood how it impacted his customer. He did not get that from a training program. He got that from allowing his inner kid to be a part of his "job".
I have seen this phenomenon in all aspects of business, the community and non-profit organizations. Regardless of physical age, some people stay young at heart and are very effective at what they do, whereas other people allow themselves to lose that youthful way of seeing the world around them. Having those wide eyes and being amazed by the wonders of design, technology, business, people and whatever you are involved with is such a powerful thing.
If you are in fundraising for a charity, be like a kid and talk endlessly about the people your organization helps, show photos and lead people to an emotional connection with the people you help. If you are a software engineer, buy a bunch of books about the latest techniques and stay up late learning. If you are a carpenter, drive down to the lumber yard and buy some really fantastic species of wood, and make something with your own hands. And if you are a car salesman, start up those new models and listen to the engine purr. Your customers want an experience. They want an emotional connection with a beautiful new automobile and someone who will lead them to that experience.
Be a prepared professional. Be excellent in your chosen field. But be sure to think like a kid, wide eyes and all. There is a secret sauce that only kids have and it is essential for success.