Just Like Yours

In which we learn NOT to use the expression "just like yours" unless we KNOW that it's true." "Yes, Mr. Miller, and I've worked with dozens of companies just like yours." Just like mine. I know that, in an enthusiastically ingratiating way, he intended me to feel a great, swelling surge of confidence in his capabilities. He missed.

Perhaps, in my advancing stages of disillusionment, I’ve grown more cynical than most of my fellow business owners. My response was anything but positive. I wanted to say, “Yeah? Name ten…. And, while you’re at it, tell me how they were just like mine.”

Maybe he could have done it. But it seems to me he would have needed to know a lot about my company and the others to say that they were “just like mine” at any level beyond “highly focused, creative, privately-owned consulting firms.” Beyond that, it’s likely that there might be significant differences.

But I digress. Had my enthusiastically ingratiating friend said, “I’ve worked with six privately owned consulting firms roughly your size,” his statement would have been more believable.

Had he waited until he knew something about us, he could have earned more credibility with a statement like, “You’ve described some of your challenges with managing your document flow. You need to provide access to the documents for many users while maintaining security and version control. We’ve had good experience with that. For example, we worked with another consulting firm. Their challenge, much like yours was ____. In that case we were able to ____. The outcome was ____. ”

This approach, based specifically on issues developed through his questions and our conversation, would go a VERY long way toward building his credibility. I don’t take much confidence from “dozens of firms just like mine.” That’s old mass-market mumbo jumbo. I take confidence in, “I’ve seen this challenge before, and here’s how we were able to deal with it.”

So, early in a conversation, a brief description of capabilities is useful – “I help companies reduce the time required to find, use, and store critical documents in shared servers.” Or, “I help owner-managed companies reduce the time and cost of managing their payments systems.” After that, identify your customers’ challenges and build your credibility with specific examples that demonstrate your capabilities to address them: “We have experience with that. For example…”

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