Harvey Mackay, owner of Mackay Envelope, is widely known for his books and speaking engagements on sales. In his weekly column, he recalls the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” to make a point:

In the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady,” Professor Higgins has driven his prodigy Eliza Doolittle to exhaustion teaching her how to speak proper English. The professor shows little acknowledgement of her hard work, even when her pronunciation improves markedly.

Later in the play, Eliza is again frustrated when her would-be sweetheart Freddie talks about his affection for her in romantic phrases– but keeps his clumsy distance and doesn’t kiss her.

“Words! Words!” Eliza explodes. “I am so sick of words! I get words all day through. First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?”

Then she admonishes him: “Don’t talk of stars burning above; if you’re in love, show me! Tell me no dreams filled with desire. If you’re on fire, show me!”

There is a profound lesson here for sales people, as well as lovers. Or, for that matter, for anyone trying to persuade someone to their point of view. An old proverb says: Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.

There’s a profound lesson here for marketers, as well. He goes on to suggest that the four Ps of marketing–product, price, place, and promotion– should be supplemented with a fifth: personal, as in make it personal.

I couldn’t agree more. Across the marketing continuum, we’re seeing an ever-increasing move to make products and communication more personal. And, in this case, it goes beyond just personalizing a message with a first name or embroidering monograms. Mackay continues:

Plenty of products out there can have a name or monogram stenciled on, from jewelry to towels to furniture. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. businesses offer some level of personalization for their products. And this trend is certainly not slowing due to our ego-centric marketplace.

But to really hit close to home, I’m talking about making things personal by helping people understand how they will be affected. Showing people what a product or service will mean to them. Taking the pitch right to their level, so that it seems the product is made for them and no one else. Because in reality, it is.

How can your products adopt this personal approach? How can your messages take the listener into consideration and truly make it all about them? How can your sales efforts follow this same success strategy? The solution is simple, and it’s the one thing we’re all designed to do: Listen. As the old saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in proportion to one another.

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