Bus or Car: Which Self Marketing Vehicle Are You Driving?

What was your favorite PBS show growing up? I loved Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers as much as the next kid, but my favorite program was 3, 2,1 Contact. Remember that show? I can still remember munching on Little Debbie snack cakes while being mesmerized by their science skits and reoccurring stories, like the Bloodhound Gang.

One of 3, 2,1 Contact’s best pieces was a simple but brilliant math lesson about efficiency. Shot documentary-style, the setting was a school parking lot. Parked in front of a group of 60 kids was a school bus and a hatchback car. A young lady asked the viewer which vehicle could transport all the kids to the destination on a very small, specific amount of fuel (I don’t recall the exact volume). 

As a kid, I thought the car would use the gas more efficiently. It’s so tiny! Both vehicles attempted the task. The hatchback, which could only hold 3 passengers, ran out of fuel on the 6th trip after transporting only 18 kids. The bus, which could carry all the children in one trip, successfully completed the challenge. 

To my surprise, the bus was the more fuel-efficient method of transportation.

This illustration applies to the current Sales Automation business trend.

Sales Automation is the “set it and forget it” process of acquiring new customers. Email blasts and search ads drive prospects to landing pages, which then capture their info, score them, and queue them for salespeople to contact. The salespeople complete a call or demo and re-score the prospect, which triggers a whole new set of emails or higher tier calls.


That’s the bus at work. It’s fast. It’s efficient. And guess what, it creates customers who have no loyalty to you or the company.

Thinking back to the 3, 2, 1 Contact bus/car test, let’s ask a different question. Instead of "which vehicle was more efficient?” what if they were testing "which driver made more of a personal connection with their passengers?" The bus driver could never get to know the children they carried. But the car driver could have chatted and connected with each car load on a personal level - a few minutes to talk to each kid.

As you decide how to gain efficiencies in your sales process this “spring cleaning” time of year, protect the customer relationship!

Perhaps you route support calls back to the same sales rep the customer spoke with first. Maybe you send a printed thank you card with a unique message to every new customer. Try sending at least one unsolicited referral to one of your customers each week. Once a customer has been contacted, all templated messages should include a personalized intro.

Automation may dominate the current conversation in sales, but heed this warning:

You can automate a sale, but you can’t automate a relationship.