A Simple Customer Philosophy: “Meet Me Halfway”



Posted: In: Blogs Musings

Two people stand on opposite sides of a two-lane highway, separated by a four-foot wide, one-foot high, concrete median. Cars fly past them at nearly break-neck speed. They need to figure out a way to reach one another to exchange a backpack (which is full of vital information), but the noise from the highway makes it nearly impossible to communicate. An additional caveat: they only have one minute.

Person one, let’s call him “Joe,” waves furiously motioning for person two, let’s call her “Jenny,” to come over to his side. He’s ultimately asking her to make 100% of the journey. She balks, knowing that she’s a clumsy, slow runner and the chances of her being side-swiped by a quickly moving car are high, not to mention the fact that it would probably take her at least a minute to cross the street while dodging cars.

“No way,” she shouts, and motions for him to come to her side. He remembers his heavy backpack and realizes he’d probably be able to make it 70% of the way before he’d need a break, but the last 30% would be tough given the weight of his bag. This would put him squarely in front of a moving car just past the concrete median.

Meeting halfwayHe shrugs, and shouts back, “It’s too heavy. I can’t make it all the way over in less than a minute. No chance.”

They both pause, somewhat stubbornly, then Jenny waves her hands to snag Joe’s attention. “Hey,” she calls to him excitedly, “Just meet me halfway, on the median. We can do the exchange there!”

This concept of “Meet Me Halfway” came to me a few weeks ago when I spoke at the RetailROI fundraising event in New York as part of the National Retail Federation Conference. During that event, keynote speaker Jimmy Wayne recounted his story of growing up in the foster care system, making his way to the top of the country music charts, then dedicating his life to raising awareness for foster kids’ needs. As part of his mission, in 2010 he walked halfway across the U.S. in a campaign called (you guessed it) “Meet Me Halfway,” then subsequently wrote an NYT bestseller called Walk To Beautiful.

His goal for “Meet Me Halfway” was to shed light on the fact that it’s not about giving people (in this case, foster kids who are aging out of the system) handouts, but rather giving people the opportunity and resources they need to have a shot at stable, secure lives. In other words: meeting them in the middle and giving them a fair chance to thrive. I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment: no one wants to feel like a charity recipient.

How often do we operate like this in life? How often do we really ask ourselves the question “Am I meeting this person or situation halfway, or am I over-giving or underselling myself?” I’m all for being of service, being a giver, and showing grace, but at some point over time the scales must balance.

So if we use this idea of “Meet Me Halfway” in terms of how we treat our customers, or how we prospect customers or clients, what would change?

Last week, I caught wind that a competitor (I use that term loosely) had offered to buy out one of our customer’s contracts in order to win the business. They were willing to go 100% to our customer’s side of the road. Our customer wouldn’t have to budge an inch. But you know what happened?

We’d invested so much time and energy into meeting the customer halfway along the journey thus far that our customer told them to take a metaphorical hike. We’d never over-offered anything, nor had we ever asked the customer to completely come over to our side of the road. With every twist and turn along the way (from prospecting to closing to retaining), we’ve brought our customers what they’ve needed and they’ve brought us what we’ve needed in order to have a successful engagement.

Now, I understand how business works. I understand competition is fierce and that often times in order to thrive, you believe that you first must get what you need to survive. (There is a level of truth to that.) But when you’re surviving, you don’t think about things in terms of the “Meet Me Halfway” principle; you’re only thinking about how to get what you need at any cost.

The result can go one of two ways…

#1 – You overcompensate. You don’t ask the other person, customer, or client to budge; You just waltz on over to their side of the road and throw it all in. While it may seem like you’re being generous, it actually makes the customer begin to question your intentions or even your credibility. It can even look desperate.

#2 – You become detached from your customer or client’s needs in order to get what you need and want. They come all the way over to your side of the road, dodging dangerous traffic in order to do so. They may not even realize they’re doing it at first, but after a few brushes with death, they will wise up and get the heck out of Dodge.

As we think about the best way to operate, not only in business but in life, this concept of “Meet Me Halfway” goes a long way. This isn’t about tit for tat or give-and-take because “Meet Me Halfway” doesn’t pre-suppose immediate reciprocity or restitution. It merely invites each party to offer as much as they can while both do their best to find a solid and even playing field on which to mutually thrive. Meet them halfway.