When you walk into an automotive dealership, how do you feel when a salesperson approaches? Are you happy/glad, or anxious/agitated? Contrast that with the stories of customer service at Zappos.com. What’s the difference here? According to BMC2014 Speaker and best-selling author Jay Baer (“Youtility“), it’s just 2 measly letters.  By swapping the letters ‘S’ and ‘L’ for ‘H’ and ‘P’ you change ‘Selling’ to ‘Helping’ – and that changes the whole equation.

When shopping for that new car, you know that the second you enter that dealership it is you vs. them. You want the car you want with the options you want for the lowest possible price. They want to make the most money possible. It’s not the salesperson’s fault – he/she needs to make a living, and we understand that. But the whole process is set up to SELL you a car – not to HELP you get the best car for the lowest price.

Zappos, of course, is an easy story of the opposite. We’ve all heard the tales of a Zappos representative helping a caller order a pizza. A pizza! Does Zappos sell pizzas? Of course not. But their representatives are incented on customer satisfaction – not sales. Their philosophy, created and supported by their founder, is that if they HELP people, those people will become customers for life. And it works.

Jay Baer tells the story of The Geek Squad and the hundreds of DIY instructional videos they have provided for free on the web. Jay asked them, ‘aren’t you in the business of selling services to people to do all these things you are providing for free in the videos.’ The answer from Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens was that everyone has a point where they can’t do it themselves. And, when they hit that point who are they going to call? Probably the folks who have been helping them all along the way…

As Jay puts it, ‘Sell something and you make a customer. Help somebody and you make a customer for life.’

So, what is your organization doing? Is it selling? Is it incentivizing its people to sell – through quotas, commissions, and contests? Or is it helping? Does it promote a culture within that rewards people for truly helping customers? Does it celebrate the facilitation of a pizza delivery when your business is selling shoes? Does it say it is ok to teach people for free to do what you make a living charging for?

For sure, these are not easy changes. They are not strategies that translate into short term wins or quick-fixes to profitability. But, according to Jay, it allows you to move past Top of Mind Awareness and Frame of Mind Awareness to the holy grail of ‘Friend of Mind Awareness.’  To Jay, ‘Friend of Mind Awareness’ is where you want to be.  He defines it as such:

“With friend of mine awareness, you seek to have the prospective customer allow you inside their circle of trust, where you become more than just a purveyor, but rather a valuable resource.

Then, when the customer is ready to buy, they don’t have to go find you, because you’re already there.”

I am very excited that Jay will be joiing us at Brand ManageCamp 2014 in September to teach us more about the concept of ‘Youtility.’ If you’ve wondered how you can create customers for life, you won’t want to miss it.