I’ve been reading the book, “To Sell is Human,” by Dan Pink. It’s an awesome book and talks about the role of sales in the world economy today…and in all of our lives. Whether we think we’re sales people or not, we are. At some point we all have to sell a teacher on giving us an A, a child on eating their vegetables, a boss on upping our pay, or even a customer on buying web development and marketing services.
One section of the book tells the story of a marketing executive and his friend who were walking through a park in the city. They came across a blind, homeless man, sitting and begging for money with a cardboard sign that said simply, “I am blind.” Unfortunately for the homeless man, his sign wasn’t stirring the sympathy he had hoped it would as his empty cup testified.
The marketing executive looked at the man, his sign, the empty cup, then at his friend and said, “I bet I can fill his cup by adding just four words to that sign.” His friend accepted the wager. With the homeless man’s permission, the marketing executive took out a pen, and in front of what was there, wrote, “It is springtime, and…” The sign now read, “It is springtime, and I am blind.”
What was once a typical plea for sympathy, was now a visual, concrete reminder to all passerby’s of how lucky they were and how unlucky the homeless man was. Reminding people of the beauty of spring alerted them to the stark contrast between their reality and the homeless mans’. Needless to say, his cup was filled.
In his book, Pink says, “Clarity depends on contrast…We often understand something better when we see it compared to something else than when we see it in isolation…that’s why the most essential question you can ask is this: Compared to what?” So, whether it’s an everyday case of persuasion at the dinner table or a corporate sales meeting, remember those four simple words that made all the difference to the homeless man.