Sunday, July 24, 2011
Selling Power Tools to the Amish
While driving through Pennsylvania Dutch country, I watched an “old fashioned” barn raising. A barn raising is an event during which a community comes together to assemble a barn for one or more of its households, particularly in 18th- and 19th-century rural North America. In the past, a barn was often the first, largest, and most costly structure built by a family who settled in a new area. Barns were essential structures for storage of hay and keeping of horses and cattle, which in those days were an inseparable part of farming.
The Amish, the Pennsylvania Dutch sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and – the reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.
Watching several dozen men successfully raise a massive structure in a single day, and all without the use of power tools (100% by hand and “real” horsepower) is a sight to behold.
I have spent my life using technology, selling technology and loving technology. Who would not want a phone in their car? Who would not want a personal computer, a tablet PC, an HDTV in their living room or a GPS in their car? From voice mail to touch-tone vs. rotary phones, who does not want to trade-in and upgrade their widgets or gadgets to live better through technology?
Answer: The Amish.
Travel back in time with me: what self-respecting businessman would not want to trade-in their old manual typewriter for an IBM® Selectric?
The IBM Selectric was a highly successful model line of electric typewriters introduced on July 31, 1961. Instead of the "basket" of individual typebars that swung up to strike the ribbon and page in a traditional typewriter, the Selectric had a type element (frequently called a "typeball") that rotated and pivoted to the correct position before striking. The type element could be easily changed so as to print different fonts in the same document, resurrecting a capacity that had been pioneered years before. The IBM Selectric also replaced the traditional typewriter's moving carriage with a paper roller ("platen") that stayed in position while the typeball and ribbon mechanism moved from side to side.
If you had an IBM Selectric typewriter in your office, you were deemed to be working in a “modern office”. You were viewed as cutting-edge, you were cool, and you were to be respected and admired. And, it was proven that an IBM Selectric will double or triple your work production, so the ROI of upgrading to this super cool office tool made it an easy sale. IBM made a fortune, and the modern office had a new must-have gadget.
As I write this blog in air conditioning (on a very hot weekend) I reflect back on my sales and marketing efforts of the week. I think of how I started my Monday with all the energy in the world, convinced that everyone that I meet, everyone that I will come in contact will want to save money, and they will want to make more money – they will want to be more profitable through technology. “Wait until they see what I have to show them! They will buy my (fill in the blank with new widget or gadget) like hotcakes, just like they bought the IBM Selectric years ago! How can they say no? It’s a no-brainer!”
The (not so obvious) lesson is that just because YOU love it, just because YOU see the vision, just because YOU have the solution and the answer to the puzzle – this does not mean anything to anyone who does not believe what you believe.
You cannot force anyone to do anything, or get them to buy anything from you, if they do not believe what you believe.
So, to all power tool salesmen out there – you can save yourself a lot of time and energy, and just skip Pennsylvania Dutch country. They do not believe what you believe. They will not be buying what you are selling.
Unless of course, the power tools that you are selling are of the “one horsepower” variety.