Don’t Shoot Your Food! – A Marketing Lesson Learned from John Wayne

Don’t Shoot Your Food! – A Sales and Marketing Lesson Learned from John Wayne

Even the most experienced Salespeople can forget where their bread is buttered.

I watched an old movie this weekend, Rooster Cogburn and The Lady. Maybe you have seen this one. It stars John Wayne and Kathryn Hepburn. It is safe, won’t offend and is full of funny banter between the two stars.

About halfway through the movie, John Wayne’s character (Rooster) gets drunk. He begins taking target practice at something known as corn-dodgers. They are food of some kind he keeps stored in a sack. As a friend throws them in the air, he shoots at each piece.

Kathryn Hepburn (The Lady) plays the daughter of a murdered preacher. She finds his behavior disgusting and tries to stop the shooting and drinking. John Wayne responds with an answer that seems logical only to him. Finally Ms. Hepburn says, “Marshall… alcohol has made you stupid. You are shooting at your food.” Even the drunken Marshall can see this is absurd behavior.

Now…we do this don’t we? I’m guilty too. Every time we show our disgust to a client, we are shooting at our food. Every time we fail to cooperate, we are shooting at our food. Do we allow our service providers to shoot at us? I bet we don’t allow it for long. Neither will our customers.

As an older salesperson, it is very hard for me. I remember customers that were experts. I remember big differences in quality and service from printers. I remember plenty of business to go around and clients that were grateful and loyal. It is difficult for me to adjust to the new marketplace. It is full of people that don’t know I’m a genius. I have to sell all over again. I had rather take shots at my food.

From what I hear in the marketplace, I’m not alone. I am frequently disturbed when I hear about lectures given to customers. I wonder how they feel when they hang up the phone. Do they feel enlightened or abused? Does our condescending tone cause them to share our name with others? If so, what context is it shared in? I wonder.

The same thing goes for production employees. How do they see each order or estimate? Do they appreciate the opportunity or do they go into “guarding the end zone” mode? Are they loading their guns so they can shoot at their food too?

Now I’m sure this seems silly, but it really isn’t. Our work is identical to most competitors in the eye of the marketplace. They can only evaluate price and how we make them feel. They want to hear something that makes them comfortable.

Now take this from an old dog that has run off more customers than most of you have. If you resent your customer you are about to fail. If you look for problems instead of solutions, you need to be an accountant. If you sell or accept instructions like a hockey goalie, you will sell 10% as much as the guy that is fun and easy to work with.

Don’t shoot your food. Not one of us is on the payroll because of our charm, brains or looks. We are here to write orders. We can’t do that if our customers avoid dialing our number because we might make them feel foolish.

Every question from your customers and prospects is an opportunity to show you can be helpful. And it starts with showing that you are listening. Their questions can lead to further conversation and those careful conversations can lead to sales.

Kathryn Hepburn was right. Shooting your food is stupid!

So that’s my sales tip for the day. What’s a lesson you’ve learned from listening to your customers lately?