Taken for a Fool (Issue 605)

In which we are reminded to be a little skeptical about what we hear from our prospects and customers.

The movie, Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is described as a drama/comedy about King George VI’s visit to President Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, New York, home in July 1939.

The film, its producers tell us, is based on private journals kept by Margaret Suckley, Roosevelt’s sixth cousin. Beautifully set and filmed, the movie leads us on a merry, emotion-tugging chase through Margaret’s eyes as we watch her (descend? ascend?) to become one of FDR’s mistresses.

Ugh! We left the theater feeling we’d just seen a hatchet job. Even worse, a MISLEADING hatchet job, if one considered the film an accurate representation of characters or history.

Post-movie research confirmed the feeling, revealing that historian Geoffrey Ward who, after Margaret Suckley’s death, read and published her papers (including letters to and from FDR), found no reference to an affair involving Margaret Suckley and the President. He believes she was chaste throughout her life. Close connection, yes. Affair, no.

In other words, the filmmakers set out to sell us (or entertain us with) a story distantly connected to documented facts… but sufficiently rooted in the facts to make the whole story believable.

Why bother with this? (After all, Nick, it was just a M O V I E !)

Yes, and we are reminded that, as sales people, we can’t believe everything we hear or see. In sales calls as in movie theaters, we must, in four words, “be a little skeptical.”

Many sales begin, like the Hyde Park on Hudson movie, with client “interpretations of history” sufficiently rooted in facts to make their stories believable … but …

clients’ conclusions about their needs and appropriate solutions may or may not be complete, correct, and palatable to our companies. More dangerously, in bank loan discussions, prospective borrowers are attempting to sell bankers stories that will encourage the banks to lend more money at lower rates with fewer restrictions than the banks otherwise might.

For any complex sale: Before going to a client’s ‘theater,’ dig for information, gain some perspective, and plan questions, answers to which will help us assess what we’re hearing and being asked to believe as we watch the client’s ‘movie.’

Then, after we leave our sales calls, with client or prospect ‘movies’ fresh in our minds, check again. Get on the web, check the story line, dig deeper to validate what we’ve heard, particularly when a buyer says, “yeah, we’ve figured this out, we just need you to provide the solution.”

Regardless of product or purchaser, be a little skeptical. Don’t be taken for a fool.


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