Make What You Say Pay!

This week’s guest author is Anne Miller, a popular speaker, seminar leader, coach, and author specializing in sales and presentation strategies and skills. She helps people in high stakes situations win millions of dollars of business every year.

Think of the best business and political communicators: Jack Welch, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs. One key thing they have in common is their ability to make the abstract meaningful and the meaningful simple. They do that with metaphors and stories. Similarly, in a world of information overload, it’s critical to make the complexities of your products, services, and ideas simple and the simplicity of your points meaningful to your clients/listeners.

Metaphors are the imaginative tools of poets (Juliet is the sun), but they are also the sharpest strategic tools used by persuaders everywhere from presidents to savvy salespeople. Why?  Because we remember what we “see” more than what we just hear and we have a raft of associations with what we have seen and experienced. Those emotions move us to act.  Even Einstein said, “If I can’t see it, I don’t understand it.”  Compare the following information with the image that follows it and you’ll see why metaphors are powerful “weapons of mass understanding.”

An advertising sales rep for a women’s magazine scored with a media buyer with this imagery.
“Our reader has a household income of $63,000, has 3.4 years of college education, 2.1 children, a median house worth $267,000, and owns 2.2. cars. In short, we’re talking about the Bloomingdale’s shopper and not the K-Mart lady.”

What an impact that last sentence has on us! We “see” the two shoppers. We have associations with each of these stores that speaks volumes about the likely buying habits of each shopper. We “get” the stronger buying power of this magazine’s reader because of the image that passes through our right brain rather than through the cold numerical facts which our left brain processes.

When challenged as to his expertise in computer sciences, one seller reassured his prospect, “Like Eskimos know snow, I know computers.” Experience, knowledge of nuances, and wisdom—captured in a single image.

When asked by an interviewer why he should be hired to sell, Cliff C., now Senior Account Executive at a leading recruitment firm, replied, “I‘m just like Rocky. You knock me over and I come right back for more.”  Determination, persistence and energy–everything a sales manager wants in a new hire, expressed metaphorically to win a job.

Imagery is Everywhere
Creating imagery is not unnatural. You use it every day in conversation.

1. We avoid putting all our eggs in one basket, build a nest egg, save for a rainy day.
2. Some of us are road warriors working in a dog-eat-dog world.
3. Is your company the 800 pound gorilla of its category or is it only a blip on your customer’s radar screen?
4. Stock markets have bulls and bears, poison pills, white knights, and spiders
5. You score a hit, ace a call, or drop the ball in business

When Do You Need a Metaphor?
You need a metaphor (or analogy, metaphor’s cousin) when you encounter any of the following: Resistance, Negativity, Indifference, Confusion, Hostility, Skepticism, Fear, Controversy. In all cases, these are issues of perception, how people “see” a thing. Metaphors and analogies literally change the way a person “sees” that thing.

Outstanding salespeople use carefully thought out, hard-hitting imagery to achieve  emotional, visceral, gut understanding:

  • To position their products and services vs. the competition
  • To neutralize objections, resistance, fears, skepticism, negativity
  • To help buyers “get” the story

They know that the toughest sale is frequently won, not only with the tools of a logician, but with the techniques of a poet.

Purchase your copy of “Make What You Say Pay!” here.