About a year ago, I shared a thought from Blair Enns where he stated that when it comes to sales, price is only a tie-breaker. It seems he considers a handful of things to “only be a tie-breaker”, as a recent episode of his 2Bobs podcast talked about how being well-liked is only a tie-breaker as well. To be clear, I agree with both of those statements.
I encourage you to listen to the entire show, but here’s the piece that matters. David and Blair are talking about marketing firms that have a desire to be liked and what that means:
David: It’s not bad to be liked. It’s just bad to try to overcome other things with it.
Blair: It’s a tie-breaking variable. The only meaningful variable is the client’s sense of your ability to solve problems, create value relative to the other firms under consideration. I think we all intuitively understand that if you are leaning on personality and likability in the sale, then the implied message is that you yourself see your ability to create value is no greater than the other firms under consideration. Because if you are a low-affinity person and you really thought “we’re the only option here”, you could show up however you want.
The thought that being well-liked is a big factor for a client relationship stems from the degree to which creative firms value their internal culture, which I think includes companies like ours as well. Our culture is very important to us, as it leads to a healthier work environment and a higher quality output for our clients. That’s all true, but it shouldn’t matter much to a wise client — they have specific goals to reach, and they simply want the firm that is best equipped to help reach those goals.
As David said, it’s not bad to be liked, and if all things are equal then being well-liked will serve you well. However, if other companies can show a better understanding of the customer needs, and a better solution to help reach it, your likability becomes pretty much meaningless.