By: Mason Gray – CEO – Gold Lion Digital

As a kid, I had a stuffed dog that I took with me everywhere I went; his name was Bogart, after Humphrey Bogart. I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents and had to watch a lot of old movies. Obviously, Casablanca got plenty of rotation. Don’t get me wrong; I loved that movie then and I love that movie today. I wanted to be Rick Blaine. He drank his bourbon neat, he kept people around him and never let them know they mattered, and by God that man rocked his suits – Rick was cool. Rick Blaine owned a business and the way he interacted with customers is the logical trajectory of this post, but a real Sales Professional knows to never bet on logic. With that said, I want to talk about suits.

I love suits. I love how I have trained myself to unbutton my jacket when I sit down and button it again when I stand. I love the silky smooth motion of grabbing a pen out of my jacket pocket and signing the check. I love the way people look at me when I am in an otherwise casual setting, but rocking a Super 150 three-piece patterned suit with the pocket-square and socks to match the silk lining of the jacket. What do I love the most? The feeling when you put that suit jacket on, straighten the lapel, correct the shirt collar, and then shoot your cuffs so they sit that perfect inch past the sleeves of a tailored jacket. Whooooo! Someone, pour me a bourbon neat – I’m on my Rick Blaine tonight.

The first suit I purchased was from Express. I was headed to Las Vegas for the first time and fell into the same trap as most Vegas first-timers. I went to the most Vegas-ey store in my town and paid the most Vegas-ey price. Sure, the suit was just photo-fodder for the pictures in front of Caesar’s Palace where you make the “I am rich” pose, but damn I looked good. I felt good too. It felt so good that when I flew home, another suit had to be purchased.

Vegas didn’t treat me very well and I was a little short on cash so Express was not going to work. JC Penny’s was having a sale on Men’s suits that worked better with my budget and I made my first “OTR” suit purchase. For all you layman’s, OTR is an acronym for “Off the Rack.” I walked up to a bunch of suits and found something that I thought looked good and fit right so I decided to purchase it off the rack. This is always a terrible decision. I repeat, BUYING SUITS OFF THE RACK IS ALWAYS A TERRIBLE DECISION. Rick Blaine never goes OTR. I needed help.

When I was in college, my Mother gave me a $100 gift certificate to an at-home haberdashery. After learning what a haberdasher was, I was a bit concerned about why my Mother felt like a college kid needed a $100 gift certificate to get fancy clothes from some guy that is going to have me come to his house and take my measurements in his closet. In all reality, that probably wasn’t the situation, but I wasn’t going to find out. The gift certificate was never used and life went on. Side Note: Harry S. Truman was a Haberdasher before he became the 33rd President of the United States. Also, nothing sounds cooler than saying you get your clothes from a Haberdashery. Write that down.

Fast forward a few life events. It’s time for me to purchase a real grown man’s suit. I don’t know where to start and by now I have learned that Express is too expensive and OTR is a terrible decision. My Mom tells me that the Haberdasher she tried to send me to back in college is still in business, but now he has a retail location in the nicest part of town. Todd’s – Clothier – and – Tailor – Shop. Personally, I would’ve kept Haberdashery. The moment I walk in, I am greeted by one of the cleanest looking cats I had ever seen. I am talking a fine business-blue silk suit with a notch lapel, light windowpane pattern, and a paisley pocket square that just took all of your attention until you noticed the socks; which perfectly complemented the wing-tip Brogue Oxfords that were so shiny you could see your own reflection. This man had style. This man was Rick Blaine.

He takes me in and has me sit down on one of his leather sofas. There are flat-screen TV’s all around me. “Is ESPN cool?” “Would you like a beer?” “I have spirits too or soda if you have to get back to work.” What is happening? I’ve had three NBA discussions and a half of a beer before I ever even tell him why I am in the store. I explain my situation and he starts laying out the suits that I had pictured in my head. He didn’t just have me try on the jackets. He had me try on the jackets, alternate matching pants, different styles of shirts, and then went through all the different tie and pocket silk combinations for each ensemble. I had never experienced someone give that much consideration to my comfort while listening to each word I spoke. To top it all off, I am cashing out and explain how back in college my Mom gave me a gift certificate to him back when he was still selling suits out of his home. Todd makes the connection, opens a box on the counter, and pulls the other perforated half of my long-lost gift certificate and takes $100 off my total. Wow!

Five years later. I have his name saved in my phone as “Todd Suits.” I am not going to forget his name. I’ve just referred him to so many people, it’s easier to send his contact with the word “suit” attached so people remember why they saved his contact even if they don’t remember what they saved it under. I’ve spent a considerable amount of money with him and referred even more. I became a walking billboard for his business. There is no other place I would ever even consider to buy a suit. If one of my friends were to get engaged and ask me to be a groomsman, it’s Todd’s or bust. Even to this day, I get the same level of treatment as I did on my first visit. Todd knows my personality and how it matches with my style. I hardly have to take the time and describe what I am looking for as he already knows. I became his marketer and loyal customer all because he took the time to develop a relationship instead of settling for a simple transaction.

Todd recently reached out to my company for a website and a custom digital solution enabling him to sell suits and collect measurements without anybody walking through the door. I am not going to lie; this idea irked me at first. I would equate the feeling to finding out about a new app that notified you when the ice-cream truck was coming by as opposed to hearing them approaching and racing to grab your money so you can catch the truck in time to order your Bugs Bunny ice cream with the gumball eyes. Todd was right though – he wasn’t taking the experience away from buying a suit; Todd simply wanted to provide a different type of experience for a different type of customer. We need to be like Todd. Things are changing and we have to keep pace.

There is a new breed of customer that already knows what they want and as sales professionals we have to accept that the “selling” part is already done. The digital age has transformed the way we do business. Nobody can deny that. Consumers have the ability to shop for anything imaginable from the convenience of their phone. Never in the history of sales have prospects been as educated as they are today. Is the information accurate? To them. But we all know the perils of starting a conversation with a prospect that involves explaining why they are misinformed. You stand there while they search through their phone for an ad they “just saw the other day” and get more and more frustrated because they can’t seem to find it. Now you’re the enemy and don’t know what you’re talking about. If you have been in this situation and are nodding your head in agreement, it’s time you reevaluate the way you engage with prospects. You have your customer in front of you and you haven’t let them know they matter – You are being Rick Blaine.

When it comes to showing your customer they matter, nobody does it better than TECOBI. Their technology skips cumbersome steps and texts you the moment you click an ad. The customer experience happens when you want, how you want, and all in the palm of our hand. I’ve followed TECOBI for a while and I’ve developed a relationship with their CEO, Jason Girdner. I look at Jason both as family and as a mentor. He was right there rooting me on during some of my hardest days as an entrepreneur. We established the other evening that our relationship began shortly after TECOBI was up and running. I tried to sell him something, he turned me down, but we still managed to cultivate a relationship out of the situation. That is the key!

We’ve maintained weekly communication for almost two years. I’ve developed a rapport with his Partner in life and business, Scarlet. We’ve discussed everything from management techniques to helping her track down one of Jason’s old cars to buy and give back to him as a surprise gift. I wasn’t ready for Dan Webb, his Business Director, Partner, and Right-Hand-Man. There is not an hour in the day I haven’t talked to Dan about the grind. Recently we had a 30-minute conversation while we were both still working at 10 o’clock on a Friday night – 25 minutes to talk about the importance of hustling and being available for any prospect at any time and 5 minutes of Dan congratulating my successes and motivating me to keep after my goals. There is no monetary incentive for my promotion, but that’s not the point. I know from the relationship we have, that there simply isn’t another company out that can match their dedication to clients. It’s the same type of relationship I have with Todd’s.  I have grown with these people, I care about these people, and I will always be a billboard for TECOBI.

Rick Blaine brought Isla Lund’s eyes up to meet his and spoke the line that would later become the representation of Classic American Film, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” My favorite part about that iconic line is the fact it was improvised by Humphrey Bogart. The line was not in the original script. In fact, Bogart’s improvisation happened earlier while filming one of the Parisian scenes. The line worked so well the director decided to use it again later in the film. The line itself had even been used by Bogart in a previous film, Midnight. The phrase doesn’t even originate with Bogart. In 1932, 10 years before Casablanca was released, Eddie Cantor signed the same phrase in the cement outside of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: “Here’s looking at you, Sid.” Just like those famous words, the relationship with your customer should develop over time and may require a little improvisation in order for it to be truly effective.

Casablanca ends with Rick sending Isla on her way. After years of feigning political indifference, pushing people away, and even reuniting with his Paris flame, Rick knows that deep down the cause is what matters to him the most and he must go fight. At the end of the day, it’s all about your customer. The best customer is always going to be one that you have built a relationship with and not all relationships are the same. The new era of customer engagement hasn’t killed relationship sales; it’s helped it evolve – you need to evolve with it. It’s time to stop pushing things away and realize that your customers are all that should matter deep down and you need to go fight – You need to be Rick Blaine.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

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