Croissants & Cabernet

Lessons from Paris about YOUR Prospects

We’ve all heard the European travel stories…Those French are just plain rude!

My wife and her mother enjoying a Parisian sidewalk cafe.“Not so” says my wife, Nickie who recently spent 12 days in France.  While nibbling croissants and sipping Cabernet, Nickie and her mother found the French to be absolutely delightful.

Traveling to France is a cross-cultural experience… It’s like they speak a completely different language over there!  OK, let’s admit it. They do speak a different language.  The pace of life is different and what they value is different.  Often times, your prospects speak a different language, are moving at a different pace and value different things than you do.

What You Need To Know About the French
– No one expects you to be fluent, but most of the people my wife met responded very positively with her sincere but amateur effort to speak French.

Pace – As a culture, the French enjoy a leisurely paced meal in the evening.  Excellent waiter service is defined as minimal interruptions to your table.  Don’t expect the manager or waiter to visit your table multiple times to ask if “Everything is OK”.  From their point of view, that is poor service.

Value – Most small business owners in France feel that their shop or boutique is an extension of their home.  The expectation is that upon entering or leaving a store that you will say “Hello” and “Goodbye” just as if you were visiting a friend’s home.  And they expect it in French.  Anything less is considered rude.  I think that is reasonable given that you are a guest in their country.

Application To Your Business
So what do insights into the French culture have to do with business in America?  Plenty. 

Language  – I’ve found business owners and sales people that don’t speak the language of their prospects and therefore don’t communicate effectively in their advertising or presentations.  Their version of “industry-ese” language makes them sound intelligent but often alienates the prospect.  This is an easy trap to fall into.

Pace – I’ve personally experienced the pace of the sales process as either too fast or too slow.  When I am ready to buy, often the sales person keeps throwing out more options to upsell which then pulls me away from my initial motivations.  This tends to confuse my buying motivations.  There is a right time for upselling and an appropriate number of options to offer.   I think everyone has had the experience of being stiff-armed through the sales process.  No one ever buys a second time after that experience.  Have you looked at your sales pace from your prospect’s perspective lately?  Does it need to speed up or slow down, get more options on the table or be simplified?

Value – Do you really know what your prospects value?  The French don’t hang signs outside their stores that say “This shop is an extension of my home.  Please act appropriately.”  You have to dig to find this information.  It is rarely on the surface.  Have you asked your customers why they chose to do business with you instead of one of your competitors?  The answer may surprise you.  It may also disappoint you.  Often cited reasons for selecting a physician are because they are included in the prospect’s  insurance or the doctor’s office was close to home.  That’s disappointing news after investing $400,000+ in education and spending a decade of your life getting ready to practice medicine.

Nickie (r) and Mary Lou (l) enjoying the benefits of a well planned trip.

It takes Work
To insure a great trip my wife walked around our home with French language flash cards, had two meetings with her mother to discuss their itinerary, watch multiple episodes of Rick Steve’s European Travel Show, searched online for wi-fi hotspots in Paris, learned to use the iPad, Facebook and how to download photos.

Recommendation to Business Owners
I know you are busy, so pick one thing to do from this list in the next 30 days to improve your communication with prospects and your effectiveness:

Talk to a recent customer in depth.  Find out the bottom line reasons on why they bought from your company.  “Why did you choose us? What do we do well? Where do we need to improve?”” Ask these questions and then truly listen.  Don’t get defensive.  Find the golden nugget in their response. This is especially effective if you were not involved in the sales process.

Review a presentation that you gave recently.  Is it full of industry jargon and lots of abbreviations that your audience may not understand?

Learn to use one technology effectively.  There is a lot of power and opportunity with technology today between smart phones, iPads, Facebook, Twitter and so on.  Quit playing with technology and learn how to use it effectively to maximize its potential.  Choose one technology (just pick one phone app!) and improve your effectiveness with it in the next 30 days.

Let me know what you are going to do in the next 30 days and I will send you an email reminder.  Let’s do it together!

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