How to Connect with Justin Bieber (and Anyone Else)

Most of my blog posts relate to current events and practices in marketing. However, as someone who has spent the past 25 years involved with marketing in some capacity, I cannot help but see parallels between everyday situations and marketing practice. Today’s post is one such observation.

My friend, Mark, is a TSA agent at Nashville International Airport. In his position, Mark encounters many different kinds of people, including celebrities. One day last week, he realized a celebrity was passing through airport security- one Justin Bieber. The teen heartthrob quickly drew attention among travelers in the security lanes, as one would expect. Mark found himself near Bieber, and he did something that no one else was able to do: he made a connection with Justin Bieber.

What was Mark’s secret? Was it the fact that Mark’s teenage daughter is a huge fan, and he used that fact to get Bieber’s attention? No, in fact, Mark said others were trying to get Justin's attention with the expected “I’m a big fan” type comments without much success. Apparently, they did not know something that Mark did. He engaged Justin by asking him if he still played hockey. What? This guy is an international singing sensation, and Mark wants to know if he is playing hockey! Justin took a moment to answer his question and have Mark tell him about his hockey playing son before going on his way. Mark had succeeded in doing something that most young girls at the airport would have loved to have done that morning- get Justin Bieber’s attention.

Mark’s ability to connect with Justin Bieber is similar to what effective salespeople practice: develop knowledge about customers and prospects as people. A buyer is more than a party to a business transaction; he or she is a person with family, hobbies, and interests, most of which are more interesting to think about and discuss than the business at hand. One of my favorite examples of "know thy customer" comes from author and business expert Harvey Mackay. He developed the Mackay 66, a comprehensive questionnaire that salespeople complete on a buyer that captures information personal interests and their business. A foundation of understanding buyers and their needs is instrumental in building trust to advance a business relationship.

Want to connect with your customers and prospects? Make it a point to know about them and their organizations- who they are and what they do. As John Maxwell says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Salespeople can demonstrate caring by taking time to learn about the person across the table. If it works with Justin Bieber, it will probably work with the clients and prospects you interact with on a daily basis.

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