Image by RMTip21 via Flickr
Thanks to my move to the wrong time zone for watching national sporting events, I’m dragging today after staying up late (almost midnight!) three nights in a row. The two Red Sox/Yankees marathons were par for the course, but the event that had me yelling at the television was the flat out riveting NCAA championship game on Monday. Like every sports fan that isn’t from East Japeepi, Indiana, I assumed that the NBA development program Duke would stomp on this year’s Cinderella Butler and that would be it. Boy, was I wrong. If you are really interested (and have been boycotting ESPN due to the endless loop of Tiger footage) you can go to any sports website for the game recap. What I am going to try and tackle is why I hated Duke and loved Butler – and how a good salesperson can harness that phenomenon to their advantage.
First off, the hating Duke part comes pretty naturally. GQ rated them the number 2 “douchiest college” (my alma-mater was number 1) for a reason, namely that everyone knows someone that graduated from there who thinks they are God’s gift to the world.
I was lucky enough many years ago to work at company filled with Dukies and I used to describe in great detail to my cube mates about how I was going to order up a wrecking ball and crane from Acme to destroy the building Willie E. Coyote – style. As far as basketball, their Aryan nation, academic all star team seems to always be a top seed in the NCAA tournament, which means all they can do is bust up your bracket or predictably win. Then there is that Christian Laettner shot in 1992 that we have to relive every 15 seconds on CBS – what a whiney, insufferable prima donna that guy turned out to be. Now that I live in Carolina Country, I even know a bunch of reasons that Coach K sucks.
But why love Butler? They are anchored by a kid with the cheesiest rodent moustache of all time who defines ugly white basketball. Their other hero has the squeaky clean, bright eyed Ron Howard (from the Andy Griffin days, certainly not now) look that just makes you want to slap him. Their 33-year-old coach could be easily mistaken for a player, except that he came off like a smug Monchichi doll as Butler was upsetting their way to the Final Four. They played the least entertaining type of basketball: low scoring due to tenacious defense and a horrendous shooting percentage – even in the final. This is not the profile of a team that most would pick in a blind taste test to root for on just any day.
The reasons are as follows, which I have matched with qualities that salespeople should try to highlight to make themselves more likable to prospects.
Everyone loves an underdog. This works better in the NCAA tournament, where even the hoops purists pile on the bandwagon for much smaller schools than Butler every year. But as long as “all other things are equal (or you can make them appear so),” your customer will be attracted to you as David fighting Goliath. IBM, Microsoft, Google, Oracle are all competitive candidates for this strategy – the hard part is being even remotely equal from a product point of view.
We’re just regular people. Coach K is so recognizable he is almost a caricature of himself, like Dick Vitale or John Madden. His team is made up of nondescript robo-giants, efficiently dragging down rebounds and knocking down threes with perfect form. Butler had a collection of rustic paperboys (and one cute–as–a–button twin sister in the stands) with Pookie from the city center Y playing point guard. I’ve leaked out fact that I lived in a trailer park until I was 6 to the point where I almost have convinced myself that it was the ideal childhood playground. Showing your “down home” background makes you seem less threatening and thus more easily relatable to many prospects.
Before I stretch this analogy into the completely absurd, I’m going to cut myself off here. There are times when I really want to be a sports blogger (oh, if I could be half as cool as Bill Simmons I’d have the world by the short hairs), but I’ve got this Jigsaw/sales thing paying the bills. Tune in next week for more sales related talk – unless I give in to my pop culture fetish and bust on this year’s crop of American Idol finalists….
Oh – and register for Sales Jam already – you definitely do not want to miss out.