Take Them Out To The Ballgame

This is a guest blog from Anne Miller, a colleague whose work I very much admire. Anne is the author of Metaphorically Selling and an awesome presentation coach!  She is a master at helping her clients paint memorable pictures that help close sales.

What inning are we in?

How many times have you walked out of a call on an advisor and weren’t quite sure of your chances for winning the business?

Chris Hogan, a recent presentation seminar participant, has a highly effective way of solving this problem. Chris is in the media business, but his strategy can be used effectively with advisors as well.  He, too, is in a very competitive market and has a long sales cycle as well. He recalls: “I was out meeting with clients and our client was a big Yankees fan. We had been talking for the past couple of months and I wanted to know where we stood in the decision buying process vis-a-vis the competition. So, I asked, ‘If we’re on 1st base, is anyone on 2nd and 3rd base?’”

He responded, “No.”

(If he had said yes, I would not have liked it, but at least the game would have gotten interesting. Knowing others were “on 2nd or 3rd base” would open the opportunity to refresh the client on why we were better.)

“Great,” I said, “So we are currently leading the game. It sounds like we are in the top of the 7th. Is that an accurate statement?”

“More like the bottom of the 7th,” he said, “But you are definitely in the lead.”

“When I hear that,” continues Chris, “I can continue the metaphor in different ways. For example, depending on the situation, I might say, ‘So how much longer to this game until it ends?’ or, ‘Glad we are in the 7th inning. My team and I are focused on getting to the end of the game and would like to do the following, etc….’”

“Putting the developing business relationship in the context of ‘innings,’” says Chris, “makes it easier to gauge where I am in the sales cycle and how to move the prospect forward to a commitment.”

A Wholesaler's Best Friend
Metaphors are communication tools that create instant understanding.  People literally and instantly “see” what you are talking about. Metaphors are also associative and carry a raft of feelings with them, in this example, those would be all the excitement of a game.  The baseball metaphor was also non-threatening, because Chris’s client was a baseball fan and it provided a framework for creating momentum towards action. This works for Chris at each point in his relationship with the client.

Do not use baseball metaphors if:
      A. The top and bottom of anything only makes you think of fashion, and…
      B. Your listener is not a baseball fan

Metaphors and analogies work only when the language and imagery are familiar to both speaker and listener. When should you use a metaphor?

  • To handle objections
  • To position your firm/recommendations
  • To drive home a point
  • To simplify complexity
  • To close business

In a world of seemingly infinite fund choices for advisors, if your success depends on sales, influence, or persuasion, you need to become a master of metaphor.