Selling Kansas City
by Greg Maday
We have all done it. While traveling, you meet someone who inevitably will ask you where you are from. It happens to me all the time. Proudly, I look them in the eye and say “Kansas City,” not Prairie Village or Olathe or Lee’s Summit or Parkville. Maybe it’s just easier, maybe it just sounds better or maybe I really do just think of our community as Kansas City.
It just happened again last week on vacation with my family. We had befriended a very nice family from Connecticut. During small talk, the wife commented that she saw “Kansas City” on the weather map during the morning news show and that it was right in the middle of the country. That was the best she could come up with. Finally, she got around to it and asked, “What’s Kansas City like, what do you do there, and why do you live there?”
Having done it a thousands times before, I started selling Kansas City. At first I was a bit defensive about my town, but then I almost felt sorry for her, as she knew nothing about our great city. Quickly, I was reminded how easy KC is to “sell.” All I needed to do was apply a few simple sales rules to an already outstanding product.
The first rule in selling is to know and believe in your product. Easy enough; I have lived in or near Kansas City for 39 of my 40 years.
The second is to under promise and over deliver. This was easy, as she didn’t even know where our great city was.
My third rule in selling is to know everything about your customer. I used to keep a modified dossier on all my customers. I knew their families, birthdays, anniversaries, and likes and dislikes. It may make the difference in getting the business. Once, I took a vegetarian to Plaza III for dinner on his first visit to KC—needless to say I didn’t get the business. Applying this rule was difficult, as I had just met these folks, but I knew enough to get started.
My last and catch-all rule is simple: let common sense prevail over all other rules.
Applying these basic rules I began selling KC. Knowing she was a mother, I told her of the outstanding citizens and the quality of life we experience in KC, of our suburban lifestyle and the reemergence of our urban core. A family of four can buy a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage on a half acre lot for $250,000, or empty nesters can spend the same and buy a new 3,500 square foot loft in a recently renovated, turn-of-the-century building downtown.
Kansas City is full of award-winning school districts. Our museum and cultural programs are on par with cities many times our size. I told her of our heritage and our 105-year old fall festival called the American Royal that celebrates and promotes American Agricultural education and values. I told of our philanthropic spirit and support for entrepreneurs through the Kauffman Foundation and the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.
Knowing that this would be appealing to her husband, I explained how KC has more highway miles per capita than any other city in America. Yet only a handful of Kansas Citians drive more than 20 minutes one way to work. As a matter of fact, we don’t use the term “commute” in our city. The husband had more than a 20-minute drive to the train station to catch the train into downtown New York.
I talked about the billion dollars that is being spent on world headquarters, a new state of the art arena, an entertainment district, new government buildings and more.
I told about opening day for the Royals; Sundays at Arrowhead and the Wizards; about hunting, fishing and boating nearby; and that there wasn’t a month in which you couldn’t sneak in at least one day of golf.
Apparently, they liked what they heard, as they have pledged to visit Kansas City on their next outing. Even with all that I told them, I am positive that I under promised, and Kansas City will over deliver when they get here.
Greg Maday, is the managing partner of GEM Holding and an Ingram’s 40 Under Forty honoree from 2002. He can be reached at (816) 360-1814 or firstname.lastname@example.org.