June 23, 2011
What Inning Are We In?
How many times have you walked out of a sales call and you weren’t quite sure
where you stood in your chances for winning the business?
Chris Hogan, a recent presentation seminar participant, has a highly effective
way of solving this problem. Chris’s internet firm has a longer than usual sales
cycle and he calls on media buyers at advertising agencies in New York,
“I was out meeting with clients from Bristol Myers Squibb,” Chris relates, “And
our client is a big Yankee fan. We had been negotiating 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
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?” (I always use 7, as most
sales forces use a CRM tool on the % likely to close business, so 7th inning
could be 70%)
“More like the bottom of the 7th,” he said, “But you are definitely in the
“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
“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 to move the
prospect forward to a commitment.”
The baseball metaphor works for Chris at each point in the relationship. In a
first meeting, he says, “I see us in the first inning of our relationship. By
the next time we speak I hope to have more information that will move us further
into the game.” It is non-threatening to his prospects and provides momentum
towards action for everyone.
Like the disclaimer on daredevil commercials, I must add to this example, Do
not use this metaphor if
A. The top and bottom of anything
only makes you think of fashion, and
B. Your listener is not a baseball
Metaphors and analogies work only when the source of the comparison is familiar
to both speaker and listener.
Make what you say pay — with metaphors.
Masterful Metaphor Maker Comedian Robin
in an interview with Charlie Rose:
Rose: (Referencing Williams' earlier bout with alcoholism in
2006) "And yet you own a vineyard."
Williams: "I do, actually, which is weird, It's like Gandhi
owning a delicatessen."
In Case You Missed It...
"Good Stuff" (well-done video by emarketing
guru Ardath Albee on using stories, a type of metaphor, to connect with people)
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