Different Voices (Issue 1119)

In which we are reminded that even clients that look and feel the same have different voices.

The third stop on my tour of “must visit” Nashville guitar stores was Gruhn Guitars on 8th Avenue South. It’s a BIG store that carries more than 1100 guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, and amplifiers. More than one could get to in an afternoon. In the acoustic guitar category, they carry Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Cole Clark, Larrivee, McPherson, Collings, and others. Many others.

I’m partial to Martin guitars; I like the feel of the neck, the sound, and the Company mythology. One wall of the store’s display included almost 40 Martin flattop guitars many of which were the D-28 model, one of the most popular.

Before I went to Nashville, one of my guitar-aficionado friends said, “The difference between the guitar stores you’re used to and a place like Gruhn is that, instead of one of a particular guitar, they’ll have ten or fifteen of them. And you can play them all and you won’t be able to tell the difference. But a professional will and that’s why they’ll come into a place like that and play all of them.”

While I’m not a professional musician, I’ve played for a long time, so, with a little time to kill, I decided to play all the D-28s in the store, each for a few minutes. I’d pull one down, play a bit, put it back, grab the next one, play the same piece, put it back, grab the next one… until I’d played all of them. And, then I went back to the beginning and started again. I picked out three favorites and played them again and once more after that.

So, when you walk into the store and look down the line of newly made D-28s, they look the same. They’re made from the same types of wood to the same specifications. If you look closely, you can see slight differences in wood grain and color. But, when you play them, they sound different. Each has its own voice due to construction, age of strings, and how often the guitar has been played. After 30 minutes of playing my three favorites, their voices became distinctive. I could look at the three on the wall and ‘hear’ the differences in my head.

A couple of weeks after Nashville, I was sitting with a salesperson friend who was sharing her recent experience. “You know,” she said, “the last several opportunities I’ve had all sound the same – how they describe their situations and the solutions that would best fit. I could pretty much just change the name at the top of the quote sheet and send the same thing to all of them.”

Yep, I thought. Not listening….

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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