Marketing Warmonger – For the Love of Willie Sutton

WillieSuttonIt is very often that we define our own limitations by how we describe the problem.

It’s a shame that in our industry, we describe our business as warfare. I understand the comparison. I have used them myself earlier in my career, but in the minds of our sales and marketing people, we are preparing them for battle. In warfare, you have a winner and a loser.   We set our people (and our customers) to deal from the mindset that someone is going to win…and someone is going to lose.

As a manager of a sales staff, I don’t want the basis for my sales staff’s motivation to be looking for a victory at someone’s defeat.   I want my sales people excited about growing business and building relationships and I want my clients delighted at their service and results.    

What got me thinking about this was that twice in a two week period, I heard the Willy Sutton Story mentioned.   The first time was in a sales training and the second time was a manager’s meeting.    Now these weren’t the first times I heard about him but the proximity is what made it stick in my head (repetition at work).

If you’re not familiar with Willy Sutton, he was a bank robber.  He was wanted in Miami, New Orleans and New York.   He was ingenious in his robberies. His popularity grew.   When he was finally apprehended on March 9th, 1950 a reporter asked him, “Why do you rob banks?” and Willy’s response was “Because that’s where the money is!” It wasn’t the so much the bank robbing that made him a “sales legend” as it was that one line.

Willy’s witty remark bought him a place in sales infamy as this battle cry leaps from the lips of sales trainers and managers around the world.   “Go to where the money is!  Sell! Sell! Sell!”  

When Willy Sutton won, the bank lost.  The people who kept money in the bank lost.   Willy is the quintessential Win/Lose scenario.   Why are we using metaphors that have us stealing?     

I would prefer that my sales people see the relationship aspect of the deal.   I want them to develop a Win/Win from the first meeting through the closing of the deal and beyond.   At the base level when they describe what they do, I want it to be reflective of a positive relationship.   I want the client to have a long relationship with my company, as we grow their relationships with their clients.  

Maybe Willy Sutton just needed someone to love?