Lessons from the Lion Tamer: Power, Bearing, and Why Johnny Can’t Sell (Part 1 of 5)

Do you remember watching the lion tamer at the circus when you were a kid?

Alone he would step into a cage with several wild cats. Twice his weight, they flashed their teeth and claws. Yet when he cracked his whip, the big cats jumped on the boxes and stayed there. When the cats are on the ground, they have some control. When they are on the boxes, they must pay attention to him.

How does the lion tamer gain power over carnivores?

The answer to that question can help your salespeople tame your customers as well.

After all, humans are wild animals too.

How to Get the Cats on the Boxes
Power is ultimately very simple: What you have or can do is important to people in some way. If you make a product they need and can’t get anywhere else, you have power. As an employer, your ability to send them a paycheck, or not, gives you power.

The lion tamer caused the lions to believe they better pay attention. How?

A while back I read an interesting story about how young elephants are tied to a stake as part of their training. Squirming and straining against the rope only teaches them that it won’t come out of the ground. Years later, after they’ve grown by twenty thousand pounds, the elephants still “know” the stake won’t come out of the ground, so they don’t even try.

The lion tamer uses a similar technique. He has taught the cats that he is important to getting what they want, and avoiding what they don’t want, when he is around (wielding his whip). He has conditioned them (whips sting; do the trick and get a snack instead).

How can you apply this to your sales team’s advantage? By knowing what your prospect wants and what they are afraid of. And by conditioning them.

Dan Kennedy (www.dankennedy.com), who calls himself a “millionaire maker,” attracts all manner of small entrepreneurs to his direct response marketing workshops. He almost always begins each session by asking some of his (successful) clients to tell their story. One by one, people who look no different than you or me stand up to describe how doing what Kennedy told them to do caused their small business to double or triple in three or six months.

It does not matter that most people who buy Kennedy’s information don’t achieve those results. There is some truth to their stories, and they give Kennedy the credit. After these people finish giving their live testimonials, there is no doubt why everyone is paying for the privilege of being in the room when Kennedy is on stage. Reminding the audience of his power to (potentially) make money for them gets his “cats” on the boxes.

Next week in part 2, I’ll describe some areas where your salespeople can gain some power over their prospects.

Michael J. Webb
June 24, 2008

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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