The following took place between 09:00 AM and 10:00 AM. Events occurred in real time on the campus of one of the Ivy League Universities neuroscience labs. The findings are critical for every sales person. Moreover, the findings are critical to each and any negotiation and whenever you want to convince someone to follow your lead.
Professor Lombardi was on the faculty for the local university’s department of psychology and neurobiology. Our hero was nervous. Could he communicate with such an educated woman? Was he good enough? Just as he was beginning to drive himself crazy with such thoughts, the door opened and Professor Lombardi stepped into the room. She was an attractive woman in her early forties and wore a confident smile. She shook his hand.
“Hello! I’m Susan Lombardi. Nice to have you here.”
Relieved, our hero introduced himself.
“The StorySculptor advised me to see you for help with my sales technique.”
“Aha — for help with your sales technique,” she nodded mysteriously. He looked puzzled at her and started feeling uncomfortable.
“Is there something strange about that?” he inquired.
“Well, nothing specific. It’s just that yesterday somebody showed up here and wanted to learn specific techniques to manipulate the brain of his customers, but his problem was his product itself. It had so many features that it took literally hours to explain to a potential customer. His features list had hundreds of items to choose from. It just came back to me when you asked for help with your sales techniques”
“Don´t worry, the StorySculptor already told me that facts and figures don’t sell at all. A story needs to be told and I’m here to learn how to create a compelling story that excites my clients. “
“Well, that’s something very different. I’d be happy to help you. Tell me about your customers.”
“Well, it’s mostly senior executives. People responsible for making decisions from managers to directors and board members.”
“No Story. No Business.’
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“I see.” Professor Lombardi said as she leaned back in her chair and gestured to a framed photograph on a nearby table. She spun the frame so our hero could see it. It was a picture of a robot!
“No, no,” he laughed. “No, I do not sell to robots.”
“Good, then we’ve cleared that up. Now, tell me something. What makes people different than these metal boxes?”
Professor Lombardi smiled. “Quite right. And we have a brain, which robots lack. They have an electronic memory, but not the rational and emotional intellect of a human. So if a computer program is able to analyze a potential sale on the basis of the delivery dates and on whether the product meets the necessary requirements, then the robot can calculate whether to buy or not. It’s that simple.”
Our hero listened with rapt attention. The professor continued:
“How is it, then, that people who use a computer for such calculations and comparisons reject your offer, even though your product clearly provides the best performance and meets all of their requirements perfectly?”
“This is exactly what frustrates me!” exclaimed our salesman. “I’ll never understand!”
The professor took out another picture. It was a human brain. It wasn´t terribly nice to look at, but it was clearly a picture of a brain. She tapped it with her finger.
“This is why,” she said. “It’s very simple. The brain is the most complex and highly developed organ in our body. We only partially understand how it works, and we don’t completely understand why it leaves us in a lurch sometimes. But we do know that it is highly efficient and that it always ensures the purposes of survival. Survival has both social and emotional components. These components are responsible for ensuring that your competitors sell, and you do not, even if your product is technically better.”
Our hero listened in silence. It looked like she knew exactly what she was taking about and our friend was patiently waiting for her to reveal everything.
“We know that our brain is divided into two hemispheres. The part of our brain that handles analytical tasks is located in the left hemisphere; the emotions are processed in the right. The hemispheres are connected by a thick bundle of tissue called the corpus collosum, which robots don’t have. It allows the two sides to communicate quickly with one another. Very efficient. “
“Which side of the brain is activated when you inundate your customer with data and facts?”
That question hit him. Of course it was the left hemisphere, he thought, which was attacked and needed to respond. But wasn’t that a good thing? Didn’t a seller want to convince a buyer with superior facts? Hold on a moment. Facts?
Maybe not. He felt like he had just been split in two. One half shouted: No facts; stories! The other was silent and couldn’t find an answer. His insides were in a state of confusion, but he answered very carefully.
“Well, the left half,” replied our hero. “Is that bad?”
Susan sensed a little shaking in his voice and smiled. This smile somehow put him at ease, and he couldn’t help but find it intriguing. The walls around her office were filled with all sorts of academic titles and awards. He was aware that he was listening to a super sophisticated scientist on one count and to a great teacher on the other. But before he could sink any deeper into his own thoughts, she continued.
“Correct. Those who think logically and analytically use the left hemisphere of the brain, almost as if there was a computer in their skull. This presents a problem for the salesperson. Because the left hemisphere pays attention to facts and because it has been configured to be the dominant half to ensure our survival, it automatically searches for problems, lies, inconsistencies and negative details. This means that the analytical brain picks apart the first selling point, then analyzes the initial facts the seller offers, and it is so occupied in doing those things that it is incapable of truly hearing and evaluating the other points the salesperson makes. Therefore, the second or third wave of facts will be totally wasted.”
This made sense. It was not necessary that he present all the facts and all the data because the client’s brain was still busy with what he had said previously. It didn’t matter how impressive his facts were; they were simply not being processed.
Lombardi continued her explanation.
“And if we manage to attract the customer’s attention with the third argument, and force the brain to analyze it, then the first two arguments go unprocessed. Either way, most of the data and facts are totally lost. Plus, with this method we only address half of our customer’s brain. And unfortunately, that part of the brain is not the part that tells the customer to buy anything!”
Our hero shook his head in amazement. He couldn’t believe it. “Please continue. You have my undivided attention,” he told her. She smiled.
“Do you remember being in school?”
“Was physics your favorite subject?”
“Hmm, huh, uh…not really, but I liked it more than most.”
The professor chuckled.
“Haha, don’t worry. Most people shy away from the natural sciences and mathematics. I, however, do not. So now we’re going to dive a bit into the world of quantum physics. This is so exciting.”
He looked puzzled and was wondering if he had suddenly been teleported into a Physics lecture. Why in the world were they going to go into quantum physics now? Our hero couldn’t see how a discussion of physics could improve sales, but out of courtesy he smiled and agreed. What was that all about? he wondered.
“First people thought that the atom was indivisible. That’s why they chose the name ’atmos,’ the Greek word for “indivisible.” Of course, scientists later discovered that the atom wasn’t indivisible at all. Each atom has a nucleus orbited by electrons. Even the nucleus can be divided into protons and neutrons, and more recently physicists have discovered that even those particles can be divided! They are composed of quarks, and there are dozens of varieties. Then scientists learned that the proton and the neutron has a whole family of it’s own, comprised of neutrinos, muons, tau neutrinos, muons and taus. Through an important discovery scientists just recently proved the existence of the higgs boson: A particle which was proposed over 40 years ago but was only detectable now utilizing super sophisticated technology called the LHR large Hadron Collider that they built for billions of dollars in Europe.”
Our hero’s head was spinning. He could not follow her. He felt so stupid and hoped fervently that she would stop, but she did not. On the contrary she sped up and threw more facts at him.
“Then there was the realization that these small particles don’t behave like big clumps of matter — tables, cars, stones and so on. A stone’s throw can be calculated exactly if we know its mass, shape, weight and the strength of the force behind the throw. Our left hemisphere is responsible for those calculations, by the way. Not so with the elementary particles, however, with the mesons, the bosons, and their ilk. With those, the laws of quantum physics take over.”
Our hero was thoroughly confused. Why would he calculate the path of a thrown stone? He wasn’t even selling stones. Should he talk to his customers in quantum language? He was confused but the professor lectured on. It looked like she was on a mission.
“An important contribution to the whole subject was Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist who formulated the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. According to Heisenberg, you cannot simultaneously know the location and speed of a particle.
Heisenberg discovered that the two complementary properties of a particle, for example the momentum and location, are arbitrarily determined simultaneously. The best-known example of two such properties are position and momentum. The Uncertainty Principle is not the consequence of the technical shortcomings of a measuring instrument, but of laws of quantum mechanics. Based on this principle, it is generally not possible to determine the location of a particle if you measure the electric charge as well. If you determine the location a particle you are unable to determine the electric charge. And that goes on and on with the impossible trial to measure two conditions simultaneously at any given time. Best explained in his formula. He published it 1927. He was true genius!”
By this point, our hero was starting to panic. He felt completely lost and still had no idea what any of this had to do with sales. He felt like he was on a star in a far distant galaxy talking to an alien. He had to escape. He needed to get out of this. Why did he need to know anything about quantum physics? He was just a simple salesman.
“Excuse me, Professor…” he began hesitantly.
“Susan. Please call me Susan. After all, you come on the recommendation of my friend the StorySculptor. Please call me Susan.”
Did she want to completely confuse him? Was she out to mock him? He was getting dizzy. He blurted out, “I don’t get it. I’m sorry Susan, but I do not even remember what this is all about.”
He was ashamed.
Susan laughed out loud.
Oh no, he thought. She’s going to kill me. I’m such a shameful disgrace.
“So, was it a good sale or not?” she teased. “I gave you all of the facts, and every one of them is scientifically proven.”
Oh great, now she was making fun of him. Or was she? His brain was spinning. He was starting to get the feeling that there was more to it.
She continued: “Somehow, though, my sales efforts failed. I have the best product; I can prove it, and yet my potential customers just stand there and stare at me. I feed their brains with perfect knowledge, but I’m not getting anything back.”
All of the sudden something clicked in his brain. “Just like what happens to my clients when I feed them data.”
“Exactly! Reciting facts doesn’t lead to learning. It’s like learning a language. Just learning the vocabulary isn’t enough to speak. To speak you need to understand how these foreign words work together. But right before that you need to understand why you want to speak this language and how it will make you happy. If you want to sell something, you need the customer to learn what your product is all about, and why it will benefit them. Only then will your client understand why they need what you’re selling.”
“Aha,” he heard himself say. She smiled.
“I’ve got help from a fellow who knows how to sell. Well, actually not really. He’s a physicist, like me, but he’s also a fantastic comedian and gives the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle quite a different treatment than what I just gave you. Just to recap: Based on Heisenberg´s principle, it is not possible to determine the location of a particle if you measure the electric charge at the same time. If you determine the location of particle you are unable to determine the electric charge. And that goes on and on with the impossible attempt to measure two conditions simultaneously at any given time. However, when my friend explains it, he says:
“Imagine that you went with your assistant to a seminar in Chicago. Your wife knows where you are, but she has no idea what you are doing. Now imagine that in a few weeks your wife finds one of your dirty shirts with lipstick on the collar. Now she knows what you did, but not where you did it!
Viola — that is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle!”
Our hero marveled. When you put it that way, physics almost sound interesting.Our hero smiled. She had just used this whole scientific lecture to illustrate her point. Facts don’t sell because memorizing them is like memorizing a vocabulary list for school. Who would want to spend time cramming like that? People want to be entertained, to laugh, to enjoy themselves. When that entertainment also imparts knowledge, learning happens automatically and is lots of fun. Our hero made a mental note to tell Carl all about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle when he returned to the office.
“Isn’t that a funny way to teach something to somebody?” a much friendlier professor asked. “I am very sure you can you can now teach the Uncertainty Principle to almost anybody else.”
“Yes you’re right. That is exactly what I just thought. I certainly will teach my colleague back in the office about the Uncertainty Principle later today. That’s a very exciting way to teach.”
Susan reached back, pulled out a card, and showed it to him:
Facts bore! Stories sell.
Facts distract! Stories sell.
Facts confuse! Stories sell.
He had to smile. “Thank you Susan! This was a great demonstration.”
He now understood his fatal mistake:
Overwhelming his clients with facts and figures would only make them bored and distracted, just like what happened to him! Could it be that his more successful competitors were making sales by telling stories? Their products were clearly inferior, so they couldn’t have won over their customers with cold, hard facts. If it only came down to the facts, it would be impossible for anyone to buy any product other than his. So if it wasn’t the facts, it must be the story.
“Wow! Where can I learn how to come up with stories like that? I mean, I’m not a comedian,” he worried.
Susan smiled. “Not a problem. Everyone can learn. It isn’t rocket science after all. We are all grateful to the StorySculptor, who has refined these techniques and helped salespeople to use them in every industry. A lot of it boils down to intuition, which he has studied and is now teaching it to anyone seeking advice and who wants to listen. It’s all about learning the craft of storytelling. This is his passion. This is what he does, and I am personally very excited about it and love him for it.”
“I’m confused. As a scientist, why would you ever have to sell anything?” He looked at her in surprise.
“Ha! Do you have any idea how expensive powerful femto lasers are? When our department needs new equipment, it’s up to me to sell the university on that expense. Selling skills are useful to everyone, regardless of their job title. Our needs and ideas have to be sold to our partners, superiors, colleagues, children, and friends, always, anywhere, anytime…”
“…and we can do it more effectively if we pack those needs and ideas into a story!” our hero exclaimed enthusiastically.
It’s all about Storytelling!
“Yes! Who would’ve thought you’d be this excited after a lecture on nuclear physics? Would you have ever thought that could happen before today?”
“Never,” he replied. “This is incredible.”
“Oh, no,” Susan’s iPhone beeped. She glanced at it and made a sad face.
“Please, go if you have to. Forget that I‘m here,” he suggested guiltily. She had spent almost an hour with him, and he knew from personal experience that time is money. He did not want to cost her money or aggravation.
“Well,” she said, “that was my alarm clock. Unfortunately, my time is limited, and I have to go back to my bosons and mesons,” she laughed.
Apparently he was unable to hide the look of disappointment that passed across his face. Still laughing, she said, “What´s the matter, young man? You look like you got hit by a truck!”
“Uh, uh …” he stammered. “I feel like I have so much more I want to know…”
“I am sure you have a million questions. I did, too. You’ll have all of your questions answered, although not by me. That’s a quirk of the StorySculptor; he said that each of us should only explain part of the method: the part for which we are the specialists. The next person you need to meet is Kim Labonte, an excellent executive coach. I’ll give you her contact information. Pay attention to what you hear there.”
“Good luck on your little journey.” With those words she stood up and gave him her hand. He jumped up, grabbed her hand, and started to thank her.
“It was my pleasure,” she interrupted. “At the end of the journey you will meet the StorySculptor again and you, too, will become a StorySculptor. And this comes with a price.” She smiled, turned around and floated out the door. She waved to him again before she finally disappeared for good and left him alone and befuddled.