In which we are reminded that there ain’t no such thing as a commodity if we consider buyers’ preferences and their buying experience.
The golden New Hampshire morning sun was three hours old. Under a perfect sky, the campus and her students lay still on a Sunday morning. And, then, we were awake.
The powerful opening strains of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor played at Led Zeppelin volume. I’d never heard it before.
Down one octave.
Dee-dah-dee. Dah dee dah dee. (Which lunatic, I wondered, is playing this at 9:00 am on a Sunday?)
Down one more octave. A little slower.
Transfixed, I threw up the window and stuck out my head. I drew a deep breath. It was magical, churning powerfully as if campus pines, maples, and oaks had become enormous organ pipes, projecting Bach’s arpeggios roofward in some great North Woods cathedral.
So…. I went shopping this week. For some reason, I had not downloaded Bach’s bounty onto my laptop. Had not listened to the piece in years. So, I went shopping.
Clicking through to my on-line music provider, I discovered that there were more than twenty versions. My favorite is the E. Power Biggs performance, recorded at Harvard University (listen here: http://guideforthearts.tv/?p=11883 ).
I did not see it. So, uncharacteristically desperate to download and listen, I sampled a few others for the 30 allowed seconds.
I found one, purchased it, downloaded it. Started ‘er up. Within 10 seconds, I knew it wasn’t right. Not nearly enough sustain on the opening chords. Weak. No guts.
I went back, sampled more, down loaded one. Started it up. Again, not right. Way too fast and staccato. Lots of technique, no soul.
Unbelievably, I went back a third time and repeated the process. Again, not right. WAY too timid.
So, I went looking again…. And FOUND MY HARVARD BIGGS!
Remember, we’re talking about a 300 year old piece of music, same notes, same composer? Right? Nothing could be closer to a commodity than a 300 year old piece of music, yes?
No! The differences lie in interpretation. Style. Tempo, technique, phrasing, volume and crescendos, ferocity of attack (and boy, he does attack in this piece!).
The value for me in Biggs’ rendering is the way his particular “style” lifts me, sustains me, strikes deep in my gut, and takes me back to the wonder of that New Hampshire Sunday morning.
Now, if you were “selling” me a recording of the Toccata and Fugue, you’d know there are dozens of versions, all including the same notes, played in the same order, largely on the same instruments.
If I didn’t tell you that Biggs were my favorite so you could “take the order,” you would need to ask me enough questions and test enough of my responses to understand to what I respond to and why. Speed? Do I like it fast? Long, slow, and lugubrious? How about sustain? Volume? Dramatic pauses? It’s the same piece of music, notes on paper or a CD, but as a buyer I can easily differentiate one interpretation from another.
And so it is with any “commodity” we might be selling. In almost all cases, there are subtle nuances in product or service style, packaging, positioning, content, and delivery.
Further, buyer decisions may be not so much about the thing itself as the feeling that whatever it is will be exactly right for them. And, the more alike is one product version to another, the more discerning we must be as sales people to understand why people may buy and what experience they want to have while buying or owning/or using whatever we’re selling. And that… is the sales job.