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


Metaphor Minute: Whose Job Is It Anyway?

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

May 14, 2015

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

When Maura Schreier-Fleming, a Dallas based sales consultant, wrote and said, “You’ll probably think I’m nuts, but I actually collect metaphors and similes! (I use them in my programs.),” I knew I had to connect with this woman, find out more, and share her examples with you.

Maura’s premise for success with which I totally agree is,“Words are the tools of a sales professional's trade, and metaphors make one's words most effective.” (Anne here: I would argue this holds true for anyone in any function at any level including the CEO where success depends on influence or persuasion.)

It’s Your Job
As readers of this newsletter know, I am an evangelist for metaphor as a means to an end, the end being a desired outcome for the speaker: a signed deal, support for resources, commitment to a strategy, etc. Maura goes one step further and says, “As a speaker in a sale (or in any communication situation),” you have the responsibility to make it easy for others to listen to you. If someone isn’t “getting it,” the problem is not with them, but with you.

Turn No to Yes
In her listening programs, she asks people to write a metaphor for their work or product. One of her seminar participants found himself in a very common situation (asking for money) where the ability to persuade was key to getting a desired outcome. This participant was a manager who had to persuade his boss that he needed an expensive, but important, maintenance item.

Maura encouraged this participant to find a comparison that would instantly click with the boss, one that the boss could see and emotionally relate to. With a little analysis of his boss, the manager tapped into the boss’s love of coffee and framed the need for the item this way, "This item is as important to our department as a good coffee pot is to a great cup of coffee." Perhaps silly to us, the metaphor worked because the boss really loved his coffee and this manager got approval for the maintenance item!

Expedite Explanations
“Some managers are unaware of their responsibility to provide a sales process when they hire salespeople. They typically tell new hires to ‘go sell.’ I am very much against throwing someone into the deep end of the pool. (another metaphor).”

“I tell my clients that their job as sales managers is to provide the sales process. ‘Think of your salespeople as people who work on an assembly line. Would you ask them to assemble your product any way they want to? Of course not. It's the same in selling. You have to instruct them on the process you want them to use for them to sell."
The assembly line analogy makes the issue both crystal clear and acceptable to the managers and then Maura helps them develop their sales process.

“What We Got Here is a Failure to Communicate”
So often, it is easy to blame others for not understanding the value of what we are saying. Blaming feels good, but it doesn’t get the desired results. It is far more effective to take responsibility for that communication failure and create a metaphor to close that communication gap. As Maura notes, “Metaphors are the perfect word tool for doing that, because metaphors add additional levels of sensory impact. They create instantly understood mental images as well as tap into strong emotional associations.”

Bottom-line, metaphors change the way your listener “sees” the situation and that framing shift generally leads to the outcome you seek.

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.

P.S. Maura Schreier-Fleming, principal of Best@Selling, is a Dallas based sales consultant whose work focuses on skills and strategies to sell more. She is the author of Monday Morning Sales Tips and Real-World Selling for Out-of-This-World Results.

If you liked this newsletter, please share it
with friends and colleagues. Thank you! 

Follow up — In the April Metaphor Minute newsletter, Match the Metaphors—Time 100, I asked how would you be known if you were on Time’s 100 Most Influential list? Reader Michael Donaldson responded:

As always, I enjoy these newsletters of yours. This one particularly resonates. About a year ago the prestigious American Bar Association Journal did a profile on me in which they quoted a client as describing me as the “Obi-Wan Kenobi of fair use and the documentary film set." Some variation of that metaphor now shows up in virtually every introduction of me, whether on a panel or talk or whatever.

Thanks, Michael. Maybe we’ll see you on Time’s 2016 100 list!


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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. © 2015. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2015, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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