When what you’re selling isn’t what you’re selling
Yesterday I skipped the early gym session, packed up my MacBook and headed out to the hair salon. This particular salon runs a no-appointment-system; it’s first-come, first-served. So I got there almost an hour before they opened, sat on the ground outside and worked. Ten minutes later, another lady arrived; twenty minutes after her, yet another, who I’d seen before. With fifteen minutes to opening time, a grandmother showed up, excitedly chatting to two little girls about how they’d be talking to Carmel and she’d know what was best for them to do.
By 9:00 a.m., there were six of us all queuing for the same stylist. By 9:05, there was a three-hour wait for a $20 trim with Carmel, even though there were at least four other stylists available right away. A couple of people chose to wait, and some were reluctantly bumped to other stylists.
I watched Carmel work all morning. The first question she asked, before she even picked up a pair of scissors, was, “Is this for the graduation, and if not, when is that?” The next client was asked how long before her three-month trip overseas; it was apparently important not to put too much colour in this time round, so that the timing would be just right for the last colouring before her trip. Carmel explained to the elderly lady who couldn’t cope with a two-hour wait that she had a couple of colour clients already, but she’d tell the other stylist what to do. I heard her reminding her colleague about the frailty of the hair and how she needed to use the mildest possible products.
The granddaughters were having back-to-school trims. They were done in five minutes by another stylist, while the grandmother came to have a chat with Carmel as she mixed bleach.
Of course there are others in this salon who can cut and colour almost as well as Carmel can, but that’s not what people who are willing to wait for an hour or two, maybe more, are buying. She’s not selling a $20 haircut; she’s selling something people crave even more than looking just right for their son’s graduation: caring, connection, belonging, and yes, even love. All of which take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.
Your business needs people who care this much. Often your products and services don’t need more bells and whistles. They just need a little more love.
Bernadette’s book is available to buy here:
“A little book with a very big message.”
— SETH GODIN
Very well done, Bernadette.