Never Educate Your Customers

I remember that we were in a coffee shop our first year growing. We had set up with the coffee shop that we would provide a weekly floral arrangement in exchange for exposure (and free coffee!)

While we were bringing in our new arrangement, a woman with a laptop in hand took a look at the flowers.

“Did you make that?”

I turned and looked at her. “Yes, we did.”

“I always thought I would be a good floral designer. Like, it can’t be that hard, right?”

I was blinking hard. Had she really just aid that?”

“I mean, I’ve made arrangements before and it seems really easy.”

I opened my mouth to launch off into a diatribe of how floral design is most certainly not easy, and that we weren’t just your basic floral designers, we were also flower farmers - but I caught myself.

I knew immediately that would have been a losing battle.

I wasn’t going to argue with her, because I knew immediately that her world view was not similar to mine. I knew that by her just talking at me (definitely at me, not with me), she not only did not see the value in the floral arrangement (it’s so simple!) but that she did not see the value in good floral design (it can’t be that hard, right?!)

I’m glad that I wasn’t trying to sell flowers to her. It would have been a nightmare proposition.

How can you help a customer see value in your product? Especially one that voices their opinion that they outright do not see value in your product? That’s the million dollar question, but I can tell you that it’s not about educating.

Too often, I hear the word “educate your customer” and I cringe.

Do you know what you do when you educate? It’s the same thing that we all experienced for a good thirteen years (plus) of our lives - you lecture at somebody. And most of the time they’re duly bored with the lecture and are wishing they were anywhere else or on their phones or just nodding in agreement.

Nobody likes to be educated. Nobody likes to be lectured. So stop doing it.

Seriously. There is a time and place to discuss the value of locally grown flowers, domestic flower farms and the many benefits of your fresh cut dahlias, but it’s never good to go off on anyone.

Have you ever tried to teach someone a concept, before slowly realizing that it was beyond their comprehension? Not that they were unintelligent, but that they just didn’t get it? Maybe they were from a different lifestyle that didn’t lend them the prior experience and knowledge required to appreciate your topic (My favorite example being Lucille Bluth “What could a banana cost? Ten dollars?). Perhaps they didn’t view money or time or work the same way that you did. Whatever the case, their worldview and experiences did not allow them to view the situation or concept the same way you do, and no matter how you try, you’ll never change their worldview - with one exception.

It’s like trying to teach a dog how to do a trick - you can spend hours trying to train and beg and plead and threaten the dog, but it will never quite understand what’s going on unless you put it into terms that the dog can understand.

For instance, if you want to teach a dog how to shake, you can hold your hand out but the dog may never be able to figure it out. It may get excited, jump around and wag its tail, but it won’t figure out what you’re wanting from it because you’re not communicating well.

On the other hand, if you tuck a treat into your hand and place it in front of the dog - now you’re making sense! It will sniff your hand, maybe lick it, and then maybe start pawing at your hand to try and get at the treat. And when that happens, a light bulb turns on in its head once you give them the treat.

Yay, you’re communicating! And more importantly in terms that your audience can understand and is already familiar with.

The only way to change a person’s view on a subject is to present it in a way that relates with their existing worldview.

People are stubborn - they don’t change their views easily. You’re not going to get someone to flip their views 180. But you might be able to get them to shift their view by presenting them information that makes sense to them in their given world view.

Let’s say that we talked more with that woman in the coffee shop.

I could have said “What is it that you do currently for a career?”

Let’s say she said “Oh, I’m a graphic designer.”

And I would say “How long have you been doing it?”

“Three years now.”

“I have some friends who are graphic designers, and they work really hard. What does it take to become a graphic designer?”

“Oh, you have to go to school and get your degree in graphic design.”

“And then are you all set to become a graphic designer?’

“Oh no, it takes a while to build your portfolio and get experience before people will hire you.”

“Ah,” I’ll say, nodding my head. “What if I told you that doing floral design was similar? Like, you have to build your portfolio and work hard before you can do floral design for a living as well.”

“Huh,” she would say, cocking her head sideways. “I guess I never thought about it that way.”

By shifting to meet her where she is coming from, we suddenly have a breakthrough in communication. She understands and now is starting to appreciate floral design as a career, and work in terms of the way she understands the world.

Do this with your customers, and I assure you you’ll get less blank stares and more sales.