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Opinion: Why these time-tested values still win in business

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In uncertain times like these, it’s important to remember what’s important. While economists and pundits try to predict when the next recession will hit and how bad it will be, we can still depend on a few faithful constants. Certain values – specifically simplicity, honesty and competence – can help you through tough times, professionally and personally.

Here are some ways to stick to these three time-proven basics.

  1. Simplicity creates confidence and sales with customers. Customers are tired of being bombarded with choices and options; they want something that works. This is why simplicity is such a significant value in business. When you can offer a product or service that’s easy to use and understand, you will have a loyal customer base that keeps coming back for more.

Here are three mistakes to avoid: First, never pretend you’re an expert when you’re not. People pick it up quickly. Second, don’t overdo it with data. Instead, engage people and give them information in layers, not all at once. Third, don’t make personal promises or assurances you can’t keep because they sound suspicious and mean nothing.

When my wife and I were looking for a new car, we encountered a salesman with a bombastic style. It engaged my low interpersonal trust traits, and I started questioning things.

When he said, “Mr. Holmes, the engine runs so smoothly you can balance a quarter on it,” I nearly laughed. “I want to see that,” I responded. He chuckled nervously. I said, “No, I’m not kidding. I want to see you do that.”

After several moments of his hemming and hawing, I let him out of his futile attempt to impress us with something that would have failed. We left the dealership and bought another car.

People gravitate toward businesses that offer simple solutions when everything around us seems chaotic.

  1. Honesty earns trust, but spinning the truth to gain an advantage destroys credibility. A salesman for a medical manufacturer client of mine once lost his objectivity when trying to impress a surgeon decision-maker. During a product presentation, the salesman stated, “Our surgical tool is unbendable.”

Looking questionably at the salesman, the surgeon grabbed the tool, slid it under the corner of his heavy desk, pulled and lifted it several inches. As he held the badly bent surgical instrument, he said, “It doesn’t look unbendable to me” and escorted the overzealous salesman away.

In another instance, shopping for a suit, I experienced one of the most remarkable customer experiences. After trying on a suit, I asked the salesclerk, “How does it look?” He said, “Honestly, I think it looks awful on you.” He explained that he thought I might be better off changing styles, but first, he asked me several questions before making recommendations. An hour later, I walked out with a suit, a jacket, two pairs of socks and three ties. I spent more than planned, but his honesty made me trust him completely.

There is so much fake information and fabricated customer testimonials out there that people are looking for businesses and individuals they can trust. They want to know that the information they receive is accurate and reliable. You will build lifelong relationships if you can provide unbiased information to your customers and truly listen to their needs and concerns.

  1. Competence creates believability, allowing the customer to feel comfortable buying from you. A few years ago, I accompanied a salesman on a coaching call. It surprised me when he asked a prospective customer twice within the first 10 minutes, “What keeps you up at night?” The prospect looked bewildered, but he graciously answered – and the process cast doubt on the salesman’s listening comprehension and competence. Then, when a lack of preparation caused him to bungle more of the customer’s discussion, the customer abruptly ended our meeting less than halfway through.

People want to work with competent businesses and individuals who won’t waste their time. If you can show your customers that you are capable and will come through for them, they will prioritize doing business with you.

Simplicity, honesty and competency may seem old-fashioned in today’s fast-paced, aggressive business world. But make no mistake, they are as crucial as ever.

Consultant, professional speaker and author Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and He can be reached at


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