I was looking back on past holidays recently, realizing that any holiday that provokes intense emotion is also filled with fascinating, memorable stories. Today I offer a holiday story, and how I might use that story to influence someone else in a sales situation. And when I say a “sales situation,” I mean any opportunity to influence someone.
Why do stories function as a point of influence? Because. . .
Let me tell you a story. One Christmas, when I was 8-years-old, I had a substitute teacher in my third grade class who told us all about elves. She swore that every Christmas Eve tiny little elves, accompanied Santa (who was also tiny, and that’s how he got down the chimney) and helped him eat any desserts that were left by the homeowner. She swore that she had seen these elves herself. . .and that one year one of the elves ran away too quickly when he saw her and left a tiny little shoe. She then showed us that shoe. I was amazed and delighted. I never suspected that the tiny little elf shoe came from a Barbie. This Christmas, I would see an elf!
You can imagine how thrilled my mother was that this woman had told us this story as “fact” and that I now wanted to stay up all night waiting for the elves to come. I’m sure she was ready to clock that woman. Instead, she told me that she doubted the veracity of the story, but she would help me discover the truth. She told me the best thing I could do was leave a tray of cookies and see if we discovered any evidence in the morning. We put the plate of cookies on our piano bench and sprinkled powder around it to check for tiny footprints. We placed a single piece of thread around the perimeter of the plate that they would have to break to get to the cookies. It looked more like a tiny crime scene than a Christmas offering, but I wanted evidence.
I woke up the next morning ready for my proof. What I found was simply a plate of cookies, uneaten. And thread unbroken. And powder undisturbed. Luckily the delight of Christmas morning with my family soon overcame any disappointment, and I moved on but it was the last year I checked for elves. What I appreciate most about that incident was that my mom never said “I told you so.” She didn’t lecture me about the fact that tiny little elves don’t exist. Nor did she mock me. She didn’t give me any reason to battle her or object. She helped me discover the truth on my own.
How I would use this story: When dealing with salespeople, remind them that sometimes allowing their clients to come to their own conclusions is more powerful than providing a list of facts as to why something isn’t going to work. If a client wants to try an initiative that you feel is not going to be as effective, but they’re passionate about it, dow what my mom did:
Let me know what you think about this story – or tell me your own. Happy Holidays!