Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: What Inning Are We In




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 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?” (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 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 to move the prospect forward to a commitment.”

Home Run
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 fan

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.

Anne Miller

Masterful Metaphor Maker Comedian Robin Williams
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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"The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2009. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2011, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"

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