By Barry Maher
Here’s a simple truth: There may not be any simple truths. Yet whether you’re selling your ideas, your vision, yourself or your products or services, persuasion is often a matter of supplying shorthand ways of thinking about complicated problems, allowing people to quickly evaluate a complex situation and come to a decision. That’s why stories, analogies and metaphors work so well.
As former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh said, “Simple messages travel faster, simple designs reach the market faster, and elimination of clutter allows faster decision making.”
Wyatt Technologies, a former client of mine, manufactures light scattering equipment for measuring absolute molecular weight in polymers. It may require a Ph.D. to fully explain why their methodology is superior to their competition’s. Many of their prospects and at least one of their consultants—me—couldn’t understand it even from a Ph.D.
But everyone could grasp the shorthand metaphor they came up with: “It’s like using a speedometer to measure the speed of your car rather than an altimeter. The altimeter will do the job—roughly. If you’re willing to do some complicated figuring. The speedometer gives you the exact speed immediately.”
Former San Diego Charger defensive tackle Norman Hand wore a pair of Miami Dolphin shorts under his Charger shorts. Hand was cut by the Dolphins. “Every time I’m tired,” Hand said, “I raise up my Miami Dolphins shorts and they remind me.”
I once watched a top level executive completely de-motivate an assistant with a few harsh, astonishingly ill-chosen words. I noticed he was wearing a pair of shoes that probably cost more than the assistant made in a month.
“In your business,” I asked him after the assistant left, “your shoes are more important than your attitude, right?”
“No, of course not.”
“So what exactly do those expensive shoes do for your business?”
“They help my attitude.”
“Good. Switch them on, will you?”
Fortunately he laughed, and his mood lightened immediately. From that point on, he would talk about switching on his shoes when he needed to adjust his attitude.
Salespeople used to say they sold on a smile and a shoeshine. Nowadays too many executives—too many of all of us—are all shoeshine and no smile. We wouldn’t think of wearing shoes that pinch and bind but we’ll wear an attitude that chafes ourselves and everyone around us. You can change your attitude even quicker than you can change your shoes. That can change your entire day and the day of those that have to deal with you. A visualization like switching on your shoes—as silly as it might be—can be an effective shorthand way of recovering the attitude you want.
Were Your Last Motivational Speakers Truly Motivational?