There’s an old joke that goes something like this:
Two hikers are walking through the woods when suddenly a bear jumps out from behind a bush and starts towards the frightened hikers. Instinctively both start running for their lives, but then suddenly one of them stops and begins to put on running shoes in place of his hiking boots. His friend says, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!” He replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you!”
The story is a classic example of “Compared to what?” All too often we fall into the familiar, the comfortable, and the easy when it may not be the right thing to do. In this story what do you need to do? Easy, try to outrun the bear! But a master persuader knows that’s the wrong comparison. The master persuader knows to outrun the other person is the right comparison because the bear will be satisfied one it catches one of the two hikers. Your goal is to be the one that’s not caught.
This may be a silly, and slightly gruesome example, but it reveals the need to make the right comparison if you want to succeed. When you make the wrong comparison you waste time and energy. Here’s an example that might hit closer to home – sales.
My wife Jane has a golf buddy who also happens to be the sales manager at a BMW dealership in town. He said the toughest sale is the guy who owns a Honda and can finally afford a BMW because making the jump from a Honda to a BMW is steep and the pain of paying is significant.
Trying to sell someone on the benefits of a BMW over a Honda is the wrong comparison to make. If the typical buyer considers the price tag, cost to insure and maintain, gas mileage, etc., they would be hard pressed to choose the BMW over the Honda. But do people who can afford a BMW place more weight on those factors or the prestige of owning a BMW? I think it’s the latter.
The smart salesman will congratulate the prospective buyer on his great taste and good fortune. From that point forward the comparison has to be the BMW versus other luxury automobiles like Mercedes or Audi. Do you see the point here? Too much focus on the move from Honda to BMW might make some car buyers hesitant. It would be like trying to run from the bear – a waste of time and energy that might not end well. It would be much easier to assume the prospective car buyer will want some kind of luxury car so making those comparisons is like putting on running shoes.
Next time you have to make a comparison to drive home your point don’t settle for the familiar, comfortable, or easy, because that may not lead you to the comparison that helps you get to “Yes.”