‘People buy People, not Products & Services’


This story dates back to 1996, when I was part of the Automotive tyres industry. As a branch head then, I used to toy with ideas, which many would not have agreed with me. Also, I used to be part of a company which was really not in the ‘encouraging mode’ as far as independent thinking is concerned.

During these days, I came across this very enterprising dealer, a retailer aka the channel partner, who wasn’t appreciated much amongst the echelons of decision makers as he was too very blunt. Straight-forward, maybe, not a sycophant. Not too very educated and by no stretch of imagination someone who could trade discussions about management and neo-marketing techniques, which these neo MBA converts were in the habit of appreciating. Nevertheless, when I took over, I ran through my distribution base, and identified this one channel partner to mould into an asset.

I sat with him one day at the office (remember, there were no mobile phones to intrude into conversations) and had a frank chat on expectations. I spelt out my expectations, and he spelt out his aspirations, professional and personal goals and his preferred way forward. As was the practice about three Ws (wine, women & wealth) in that sector, I spelt out my aversion for all of the above three, or even the need ever for any kind of reciprocity, in return for professional decisions taken by me.

Nevertheless, I had mentioned the subject of this post to this particular agent and had advised him to continually work on his own brand name, parallel to building the corporate or product brand of his principals.

My thought was – “People buy People, not Products & services”. Essentially, what I really wanted to convey was that principles might change, product lines may move over, business entities might change course, but, in a small town, people go to people to buy products, rather than the brand pull of products making the ‘people meeting people’ incidental.

I was in this city for about two years, and then I moved on. During my stay I tried to intersperse the management and statistical tools to think through the market dynamics and formulate strategies. While my team was clocking 100% year-on-year growth, this particular agency (mentioned above) was clocking double than this.

This particular gentleman has been in touch with me, off and on, since my exit from the city. I have been supplying him with some acquired and realized thoughts on how he could consolidate his personal and retail outlet brand. Re-affirming my thoughts that “People buy people, not brands“.

I received a call from him a few days back. He mentioned how this brand is one of the foremost in the country and how people recognize their family name in the city. Also, he has been able to secure the future of his family as most reputable institutions and families want to associate their brand name with his.

Another fact to peruse is our individual shopping traits. Most often when we enter an apparel store, a multi-brand one, the individual courtesy and demeanour of the salesperson determines our duration of the stay in that store, and this in turn determines how much money we splurge. Consider this, it is our money, and we are spending on ourselves. Even the products offered in these stores are not unique in nature. It is available in every branded store. Haven’t we bought the “People, not the Product?”

Let me give you another example. Most of us spend 2-3 days a week in some of the upmarket restaurants, five-star hotels and rendezvous points for work or for pleasure. Is there a quantum of tip defined? Is there a benchmark of how much do we sign on the dotted line? Don’t we like to be pampered by the waiting staff? Would we not welcome the chef venturing out of the confines of the kitchen and trade our ‘ill-informed’ pretence about Somali or Mongolian or even Nawabi food? Let’s admit it, most often, we are governed by the pleasant demeanour of the staff and that determines about how much we leave as a tip. Another re-affirmation that “people by people, not products”.

In my line of work, which is real estate in India, there are hundreds of real estate developers operating across Delhi-NCR. Each of them makes similar products, at different prices, with cosmetic changes. When clients approach us they want us to certify what to invest into. More often than not, many would place their trust in us to invest their life’s savings in a product recommended by us. Are they not buying people, rather than the product?

Don’t our colleagues and team mates buy us as people, rather than consider our designations and positions before accepting us as their leaders?

Our surrounding always buy and sell. They buy people and sell people. But whatever the product, service or story one might be marketing, we need to remember that “People buy people, not Products”. The underlying management principle should be: “Sell yourselves, sell your service ability and then sell the product.”


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