If you saw a winning lottery ticket on the floor, would you pass it by? Of course not!. Who would ignore such an easy road to riches? Yet, sales people overlook winning “business lottery tickets” every day without realizing it.
I’m talking about the winning lottery tickets that are metaphors and analogies. Used strategically, metaphors and analogies have the power to transform your business outcomes because they are the most powerful way to shape, or re-shape, a buyer’s thinking. Ultimately, they reward you with shorter sales cycles and faster money in your pocket.
In fact, in a world of information overload, short attention spans, and commoditization of services, I submit no one can afford to lead, sell, or influence others without a command of metaphors – images created with words.
Tap Into The Metaphor-Mind Connection
Suppose I am selling you on meeting a person who I describe as being attractive, charismatic, and charming–just like George Jordan. Do you have any urgent interest in meeting this person? Unlikely, because you have no experience, no association, no image, no emotional touch point to a “George Jordan.” But, if I replace George Jordan with Michael Jordan, “Aha!” you think. “Now I see why Anne is so excited about me meeting this person and, yes, I want to meet him!.” You know Michael Jordan. You can “see” him. You have positive associations with him.
The name “George Jordan” was a fact that your logical, data-bound left brain heard, but one that your visual, associative right brain could not “see.” The result from you at best, was no reaction, or, at worst, total confusion and you tuned me out. On the other hand, the name “Michael Jordan” was a fact that instantly resonated with your right brain. Even if you were not a diehard basketball fan, you likely have enough associations with the name to be able to see and relate to what I said. The result: Sale made.
The Michael Jordan-George Jordan example illustrates the importance of an overlooked skill that today’s salespeople and marketers need to master to achieve distinction and understanding in a crowded, commoditized marketplace. That skill is the ability to create metaphors and analogies—images—in their buyers’ minds to balance the facts and information they present.
Left-brain “selling by telling” gets lost in general background sales noise. But right brain “selling by seeing” leads to “Ahas!”insights, understanding, comfort that comes from associations, and, ultimately, increased business.
It isn’t that you can’t make a sale talking only to the left brain, but it is so much easier and faster to do when you engage the right brain with verbal imagery.
10 Times to Reach for Metaphor
Create a metaphor when you have to
- Introduce a new idea, product, or service
- Position yourself competitively
- Simplify complexity
- Drive home a point
- Grab an audience’s attention
- Defuse hostility or objections
- Promote change
- Rally the troops
- Raise funding
- Close a deal
Here are three examples:
When asked by an interviewer why he should be hired to sell, one candidate 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.
When asked to characterize the skills needed to succeed in cyber-security, one tech pro got everyone’s attention when he said, “Think poker. Good poker players are known to perform well under pressure. They play their cards based on rigorous probability analysis and impact assessment. Sounds very much like the sort of skills a security professional might benefit from when managing information security risks.”
When asked to describe the target audience, her media delivers to advertisers, this rep provided all the usual left-brain statistics and then brought those numbers to life—and closed the business– by concluding, “Bottom-line, you’ll be reaching the Bloomingdale’s shopper, not the Kmart lady.” –Style, affluence, and sophistication captured in one image.
Strategically used, metaphors and analogies anchor products and services firmly in a buyer’s mind, neutralize objections, make presentations memorable and more persuasive, and get clients to see value over cost in negotiations.
Become a “Metaphorian”
Those who fail to master the ability to use metaphors strategically will find that selling without them will be like trying to race a Ferrari without gas—you won’t get very far. However, fill your sales tank with metaphors and analogies and you’ll fly like the wind into bigger, better, long-term business.