This weekend I was at my parents' house. While thumbing through my Dad's October 2007 copy of Cycle World, I stumbled upon a brilliant example of honesty in salesmanship.
The article is about Erik Buell's new-for-2008 Buell 1125R. It's a sport bike built from the ground up. The article describes Buell's search for a company to build the new engines.
The project is at least three years old and began with the search for an engine-maker. In meetings, Buell would ask each company about its design process. As you'd expect, each was super-confident – one was described as giving the Vulcan salute while intoning, "We are very excellent!”
Then Buell went to Rotax, in Austria. Their engineers said, "We try to improve our design process but we sometimes make mistakes. Then we fix them." Refreshing! Buell felt these were his kind of engineers – people his team could work with.
This real-life example demonstrates how claims of superiority fall flat with prospects. Saying "We're the best" is just a subtle way of proving you don't have a clue. But admitting your flaws... now that's something else.
There is probably no faster way of building trust than admitting your own weaknesses. And there's probably no faster way to kill a sale than to be cocky and overconfident.
How much humility do you include in your marketing mix?