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metaphors & analogies

It’s not a wheel. It’s a carousel.



By Tim Riesterer

If you’re a fan of the megahit TV show Mad Men, you’ve seen Don Draper, creative director at the Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce advertising agency, deliver some brilliant pitches for iconic American brands.  And you’ve doubtless heard many a real-life marketing, advertising and sales professional wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days and equate the Mad Men ways to modern-day business life. At the risk of doing the same, I can’t help but call to your attention one of my favorite scenes, in which Don vies to win the Kodak slide projector account.

Don pitching Kodak.

So, why does it resonate with me? On the surface, I’m nostalgic and it’s a clip of an entertaining television show with well-written dialogue featuring a product I remember. But it’s much more than that.  It’s an excellent example of visual storytelling and the power of personal stories to help you connect with prospects in sales conversations.

Don manages to take one of the oldest man-made inventions — the wheel — and reinvent it as a magical carousel that brings to life all of one’s cherished memories, in gorgeous color. He then goes one step further and uses his own personal story – slides from his own family – to illustrate his point.

Don doesn’t launch into a description of features of the slide projector. He doesn’t talk about how the new design locks the slides into place, stopping them from falling out of the projector. And he doesn’t point out that once the slides are placed in the carousel, there is no need to manually reset the slide tray for each show.  He doesn’t need to because those features are evident in the story.

The pitch is visual storytelling at its best.  The execution looks effortless, but in reality it was carefully planned and mapped out.  Just look at poor Harry Crane running from the room in tears and the stunned looks on the Kodak executives’ faces. The story is a powerful weapon.

Next time you prepare for a conversation with a prospect, channel Don Draper and consider how to use one of your personal stories to create an emotional connection. And just imagine being able to close all of your sales meetings with the confidence to say, “good luck at your next meeting.”


From Russia, With Love

Recently, I conducted a Power Messaging workshop in Moscow, Russia.  I am aware that Power Messaging techniques are sometimes looked upon as “western ideas.”  It usually takes some time for our techniques to soak in and be accepted.  This normally happens soon after a student is exposed to the Old Brain research and begins to understand what influences the Old Brain and helps it make decisions. By this time in the workshop, students understand that it does not matter what part of the world you are from; we are all wired the same and make decisions through the same process.


On day two of my workshop, I covered the Power of Stories; along with Objection Reframes, concentrating specifically on Stories, Metaphors, and Analogies.  I know that Stories are embedded in every culture, and I felt that my new Russian friends would adapt quickly to this technique.


The stories they shared were wonderful and fun to hear at the same time.  One of my students, Olga, was introducing a new technology that was going to have a huge impact on her customers, while at the same time being difficult for them to comprehend because of this impact.  She was challenged with how she could introduce this to her customers without them being overwhelmed and immediately push back on something so innovative.


Olga began her presentation with a story about when she was a child during the winter in Russia.  She explained how bitterly cold it was every winter and how frustrating it was to bundle up for simple tasks like going to school or just going outside to play.  She explained the many layers of clothing that her mother would put on her:  long underwear, trousers, shirt, sweater, two pairs of socks, snow pants, heavy coat, mittens, scarf and cap (and a few other things I couldn’t quite understand).  Every time she would go back inside, she would have to remove each layer which was quite an undertaking. Next, she said to the audience:


Do you remember when coveralls were introduced? Do you remember what an unbelievable breakthrough that was?  Do you remember how warm they were and how easy it was to slip them on and off without having to go through the frustration of the layers of clothing every time you wanted to go outdoors?  Well, that’s the same level of advancement in technology you are about to see today.  The technology you are about to see will have an equal impact on your business as the coveralls had on all of Russia.

They understood and relived the pain that she had described. They were captured by the story and the relevance and impact on their culture.  They were all well prepared for, and looking forward to, the impact her new technology was going to have on their business.

Stories are an incredible way to deliver value, open closed-minds, change perceptions, and sell without resistance anywhere, anytime, with any audience… even in Russia.


By David Lane, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.


Accelerate Understanding

Recently, my wife and I went to visit our financial advisor, David Hawkins – a necessary meeting to ensure that I don’t have to work until I’m 80-years-old.  We currently have two children in college and two more to go, so we definitely need to plan well. We want to take care of our children and help them as much as possible to get a good start in life.

In our meeting, David focused on our life insurance and our retirement account. My wife was concerned about some of the changes he wanted to make in reference to where to put our money.  She kept saying, “So what if something happens to us; what about the children?” It was obvious that David wanted to make some changes that my wife perceived as counter-productive in planning for our children.

Finally, David leaned back in his chair, looked at my wife and said, “You’ve flown in an airplane haven’t you?”  My wife answered, “Yes.”  David then asked her, “What is the first thing the flight attendant tells you to do in case of an emergency and your oxygen masks are deployed?”  She answered, “That you need to put your mask on first before helping others.” “Exactly,” David exclaimed.  “You need to take care of YOURSELF first, so that you are capable of taking care of others.”  “You also need to set a good example for your children by showing them that they need to take care of their financial future first.”

As I watched my wife’s brow unfurl and a smile cross her face, I thought – wow!  What a great example of using a story in the form of an analogy to simplify the complex. My wife was not able to see what was already so clear to David.  By using the simple analogy of the oxygen mask, David quickly accelerated my wife’s understanding of his point.

In a sales presentation, your audience is often lagging behind in understanding the meaning of your message, especially when your message is highly technical.  Stories, metaphors and analogies are effective ways to simplify your complex technology and accelerate your prospects’ understanding.

Now, in case you didn’t notice…this article is also an example of how a personal story can be used to effectively articulate your point.

-David Lane, Corporate Visions’ Consultant


Bringing Value to Life

A large computer accessory company was looking to streamline their processes and move away from an in-house platform to outsourcing. Their goal was to free IT and staff from monthly manual reporting while adding workflow for the lacking division of duties. The company was looking for ways to eliminate as many manual tasks as possible without sacrificing ease of use. They wanted one easy-to-use system with proven functionality that streamlined as many Payroll, Time and Attendance, Recruiting, and HR functions as possible. My company sells such a one-stop service. They looked at us and several of our competitors. While many of these competitors offered similar benefits, no single competitor had the breath and depth we had. The challenge was getting the buyer to clearly understand our value and trust a single-source approach.

I used a story analogy in my presentation to explain how the iPod has transformed me from someone who did not read books, work-out, or take care of CD’s to an avid reader (via books on tape), fitness fool, and music connoisseur – all because of the convenience and the power of having it all together.

I presented this story in the first few minutes of the presentation while showing slides illustrating their current situation contrasted with what life would be like under our SINGLE SOURCE solution. I wanted them to understand the difference between our solution and our competitor on this deal. I ended the story by asking to remember the power of iPOD when they think of our solution.

We closed this $165K deal in July.

Houman I.
National Accounts Manager


Poor Past Experience

Do you ever get the objection that the prospect/customer had a bad service experience with your company in the past?  For some salespeople, it’s an occasional objection.  For others, it’s a daily challenge. What do you do if your business delivered bad service to a broad swath of customers in the recent past?

First, let’s assume that your company has made investments in fixing your service group (if your company won’t address an obvious deficiency, you may want to look for an employer who will). You could then try to provide your customers/prospects with data around how your company has improved service (i.e. customer satisfaction ratings, industry reports, etc).  In many cases though, that data won’t be enough to convince a person to trust your company again, especially if they were personally burned by your company in the past.

What you need to do is Reframe the Objection.  Get the customer to see the situation in a different light.  Here is a Reframe to which most people can relate.

(Acknowledge the Problem) I understand that it must have been frustrating to have had that experience with our company.

(State the Truth)  Unfortunately, your experience wasn’t unique.  A couple of years ago, we had problems in our service area, and it impacted a lot of customers.  However, since then, we’ve made changes to the management of that group, and it’s made a big impact on our overall service levels.

(Reframe the Objection)  Have you ever gone to a new restaurant in your neighborhood and had a bad experience and decide you weren’t going to eat there again?  And then, a couple of years later, you hear from a bunch of friends that new management has taken over and it’s a really great place to eat now?  After hearing it enough, you decide to check it out for yourself, and you have a great meal and great service.  What’s different?  It’s the same restaurant name, same menu, same prices, same building.  What’s different is the management.  That’s the same thing that has happened at our company.  We recognized that we had a problem, and we realized the way to fix it was by bringing in new management.

(Give Proof)  You know… Jane Doe over at XYZ Company has been with us through the good times and the bad.  She’d love to talk to you about how much things have improved since we made these changes.  Would you like me to put you in touch with her?

The above Objection Reframe is powerful, IF delivered effectively.  The key to delivering it effectively is your own personal beliefs.  Have you had an experience at a restaurant similar to the one described above?  Is it a good analogy to the changes you’ve seen happen within your own company?  If you can answer yes to both of those questions, you will see this Reframe do powerful things for you.

-Erik Peterson
Corporate Visions Inc.