I heard an interesting conversation at the store the other day.  A few employees were standing around a cash register, idly discussing the salesmen at Best Buy:

They're afraid of me.  They don't understand me or what I like, and that scares them. I left them just run around in their own little world while I laugh at how stupid they look trying to sell me something.

This attitude, really, describes that of many of my friends towards big-box retail.  It's a bit funny how so many people will think the exact same way at the same time assuming they're unique.  It's a bit depressing how so many people think being unique - in a consumer context - is a good thing.

You Are Not Unique

Whether you're shopping for clothing, a computer, a car, or fast food, there are only so many options.  If you're really in the market for something customized 100% to your personal tastes, you won't be shopping at a big box retailer, outlet, or chain brand.

There is no advantage for a mass-market retailer to deal in one-off customizations.  Ultimately, if they look at you and can't match an off-the-shelf stock product with your needs, they'll move on to the next customer.

When it comes to retail, being like everyone else is to your advantage.  Being unique doesn't scare a retailer.  It doesn't make them scramble to suit your needs.  To a large-scale retailer, you are a commodity.  You are a walk-up customer; you are not a unique sale.  Walk-up customers are a dime a dozen and, rather than spend more than that customizing a solution for a hyper-individualistic hyper-unique one-off sale, they will quickly move on to the next guy.

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.
- Tyler Durden, Fight Club

You are an Individual

In a consumer context - where you are trying to select from a finite number pant sizes, computer configurations, car models, or burger selections - individualism is futile.  No one wants to sell to a mass-market of individuals.  They want predictable market segments to which they can sell a finite number of goods.

In a sales context, however, individualism is vital.

Customers have hundreds, or thousands, or millions of service providers from which they can purchase goods.  What sets you apart?  Why should they buy from you rather than the guy on the left?  Or the girl on the right?

Find your competitive advantage and make sure you stick out.  Highlighting your individuality - from a sales perspective - is important.

Hyper-Individualism is Dangerous

Too many of us fail to separate our consumer selves from our sales selves.  In business, we are so used to highlighting or uniqueness as a selling proposition that we forget to switch sales mode "off" when entering a buying situation.

Said another way, we often think of our money or customer loyalty as a product to be sold to a retailer and set ourselves up for failure when we come to the table as a customer.

The gentleman who owns this article's opening quote was a salesman who, just moments before making this statement, tried to sell me on how much better his store was than the competition.  He was correctly speaking from a position of individualism, highlighting his store's competitive advantage.  When he switched into consumer mode, however, he maintained this position.

I have no doubt the sales team at Best Buy are actually the ones laughing.  While he is enjoying the fact that they "don't know how to sell to him," they've already made a sale to the next customer through the door.