One True Sentence

Getting and holding someone's attention can be as simple as speaking one true sentence.

One True Sentence
Capital Thinking | One True Sentence

Capital Thinking • Issue #1103 • View online

People respond to a personal story. We all know the truth when we hear it.

Settling into his seat for the long plane flight, the man snapped open his leather briefcase and grabbed a couple of file folders. Catching the attention of the flight attendant, he asked for coffee. Black. No cream or sugar. He knew he was going to need it.

Just before takeoff, a well-dressed woman slipped into the seat next to him handing her carry-on to the attendant. Clicking her seat belt, she glanced at him and smiled. Pointing to the folders laying in his lap, she asked " Getting in a little work in this trip?"

"Plan to." said the man without lifting his head from the letter in his hand.

"What do you do for a living?"

"I run a marketing team for Caterpillar Equipment and I'm on my way to see a couple of large clients. They may need a little hand-holding, you know?"

"So, you're in sales?" the woman asked.

"I guess. I don't really think of it quite that way, but yes, I'm in sales."

Turning a bit more to face him, she replies "Me too! Well, I think so, anyway."

"Really?" said the man.  "What exactly is it that you do then? And who do you do it for?"

She looks directly at him and he is a bit surprised to notice she is actually younger than he first thought.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes. You started this conversation. Let's hear it."

"Well, OK. When I was nine, I made myself a promise ..."

And so it begins.

If you read or watched any of Bo Eason's story yesterday, you already know where this is going. He nearly always starts with "When I was nine, I had a plan."

Why does he go there? Why can't he just answer the question of "What do you do?"  directly?

He could.

But the reason he doesn't is much deeper.

You see, we all like to label things. We especially like to label people; to pigeonhole them, more or less. After all, that way we don't have to think. Or feel. Or look beyond our own experience.

If you were to ask me what I do and I respond with "I'm in sales", usually the conversation ends there.

Dead in its tracks.

But when I open with a story, you want to know the ending to that story. You need to find out where it goes.

And without meaning to, you begin to learn. Something about me. Something about yourself.

And maybe, just maybe, if you're paying attention, you might learn something about the world.

That's the beginning of a real connection without which you are never going to go very far.

People respond to a personal story. We all know the truth when we hear it.

So when that young woman begins to say that when she was nine years old, she came home from school to find her father drunk on the living room sofa and her mother crying in the kitchen because he's lost all the family's money, we begin to really listen.

We learn that little girl - without knowing anything about money or even that there is such a job as "financial advisor"  - makes a solemn promise to herself that no one should ever have to live through that type of event again.

We hear the pain in her story.

We can also see her determination to make good on that promise.

Today, on that plane, she shares her story with the businessman and he sees her as a human being - and not just the passenger in the next seat - for the first time.

Would it surprise you to learn she used to keep that story from clients and from prospects?

It's true.

She felt that it would make them view her as less likely to be successful.

It wasn't until she learned about the power of a personal story and leading with her one true sentence, that she began to change her mind. Better yet, she began to believe in herself when she landed her largest client, who handed her 20 million dollars to manage, the first time she told her story.

Our stories make us unique. And they can make all the difference when you're trying to connect with a client, a friend, or a colleague.

More on this to come.

PS - don't just think this about "sales". It's not.

At least, not in the usual sense of the word.  At the same time, Dan Pink (To Sell is Human, A Whole New Mind, and others), says "we all in sales" whether we know it or not.

PPS - the story is true. And the 20 mil? It was just the beginning. :-)