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


Metaphor Minute: Automobile or Horseless Carriage

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

December 12, 2012

Automobile or Horseless Carriage

Elissa Sungar and her co-founders have created a site for the parents of pre-kindergarten children that has the potential to transform early childhood education. It equips parents with hundreds of learning activities offered in a unique systematic way to help kids get ready for kindergarten. Parents are given ideas that correspond to a child’s developmental stage to promote a child’s social, emotional, language, motor, math, science and thinking skills.

As Elissa took a deeper dive for me into the research behind these activities and how it is different from other parent sites, I found myself listening less and less to the details and instead working harder to see what I could compare their site to that I already knew. And then, it hit me. This service for parents is a lot like the online game-changing Khan Academy* for older kids. I then blurted out, “Oh! You’re a ‘Khan Academy for pre-K parents!’ Elissa paused for a moment and then said, “Yes. Yes! I guess we are!”

Work with Listener’s Brain
Let me suggest that my processing experience with Elissa is very similar to what your listeners, prospects, and colleagues go through when you propose any new idea, solution, or change in direction. As you are pitching and explaining your heart out, they are looking to put your new information into something old that they can relate it to from their experience.

That is how we make sense of something new.
We compare it to something that we already know.

For example, when the vehicle that we all know today as the automobile was invented, it wasn’t originally called that. People would not have known what to make of an “automobile.” But, knowing what a horse and carriage were, the new vehicle was easily understood as a “horseless carriage.” Fast forward nearly 100 years. When Apple introduced its iPod, it didn’t sell it as “a portable music player with huge capacity, long battery life and fast transfer speeds.” It sold it as “a thousand songs in your pocket,” again, based on something we could all relate to, and therefore instantly, and easily, understand and get excited about.

Selling the New? Compare to the Known
Elissa and her co-founders may very well do for the critical pre-kindergarten years what Salman Khan is doing for elementary and high school students. I suspect the next time she is asked to explain, she will begin with, “Think of us as the ‘Khan Academy for pre-K parents’” and then go from there with a now much more engaged listener.

In Your World
What are you selling that is new? What metaphors are you using to create interest, understanding, and excitement for it?

*You have probably read about The Khan Academy, a not-for-profit site with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. It began when then hedge fund manager Salman Khan helped his niece online with a math problem. Soon after he was helping her friends. That initial family assistance has morphed into a full time organization with some 3000+ free courses online with Khan as its CEO. He is revolutionizing the way kids learn all across the country.

As the year winds down, I wish you all a very Happy Holiday season with friends and family!

Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
Anne Miller

Metaphors in the Movies
Lots of reasons to see Steven Spielberg’s fascinating movie, Lincoln – great acting, dramatic story, wonderful direction. Another is to notice how often, with other techniques as well, Lincoln used stories, metaphors, and analogies to make his points and to ultimately persuade the naysayers in Congress in 1865 to pass the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

See my letter in The Wall Street Journal about the power of metaphors to ultimately trump story-telling because of increasingly shorter and shorter attention spans of listeners.

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Links I Like:

Great Resources:

"The best arguments
dazzle with metaphor"

Gerry Spence,
Media Commentator & Lawyer

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7 Signs You Need A Metaphor (Visual Language)

  1. Your listener is not paying attention
  2. Your listener is stuck on an objection
  3. Your listener is confused
  4. Your listener sees no difference between you and your competition
  5. You want to drive home a point vividly and memorably
  6. You have to wiggle out of a difficult situation
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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. © 2012. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2012, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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