Show and Tell
"Beg pardon?" he said.
"Well, don't you think it's too small?" the husband asked.
The old man laughed and said, "My competitor told you that."
"Actually, two of them did," the wife admitted. "Both of them are quoting on a bigger boiler than you are."
"Did they do a heat-loss calculation like I did?" the old man asked.
"Well, no," the husband said. "Not like you did."
"They just looked at your old boiler, didn't they?" The couple nodded, and the old man smiled. "Let me show you something." He reached into his shirt pocket and took out a book of matches. "We have this term called a British thermal unit in our business. It's how we measure heat. This is what one British thermal unit looks like." He ripped a match from the book and lit it. He held it up between two calloused fingers and let it burn. "When your boiler fires up on a cold day, it's going to be like thousands and thousands of matches just like this one, all going off at the same time. Not too few, and not too many. Just enough to keep you comfortable, and not waste any of your fuel."
He let the match burn all the way down to his fingers. It went out on a callous. The couple sat transfixed, watching the tiny flame. "I sized your boiler accurately," he said with a smile. "I've been doing this for years. I guaranty its performance. If it doesn't heat your home to your satisfaction, we'll install the larger, fuel-wasting boiler that my competitors are saying you need, and I’ll do it at no cost to you."
"You're comfortable with that guaranty," the husband said.
"I am," the old man said. "I know my matches." And he smiled again. "We don't have to burn more than necessary. That would be wasteful."
They gave him the order, of course. His price was fair. He proved the value of his proposal. He was sure of himself. And he used such a wonderful visual aid to make his point.
I heard a couple of statistics the other day that made me think about salespeople in the heating business. The first was that people remember less than 15% of what they hear, but nearly 90% of what they see. The second was that 72 hours after hearing something, the average adult remembers only eight percent of what he or she heard.
Put these two statistics together and we can conclude that most of us don't pay much attention to what we hear, especially if we have other things on our minds. The Lovely Marianne will often tell me things while I'm reading the newspaper. I'm not hearing most of what she's saying, and she reminds me of this from time to time.
This again makes me think about salespeople. We're all in sales in one way or another. But how much time do we spend talking, compared to the time we spend showing people things. Maybe we should be talking less and showing more. Wouldn't you rather see something than just hear about it? I know I would.
I think this is what makes tradeshows so appealing. At a tradeshow, we get to see the stuff, and touch things, rather than just hear about it, or read about it. And isn't the most interesting tradeshow booth the one with the stuff that moves? Weil-McLain often has a steam-boiler demonstration out in the parking lot at the shows. They pipe a big boiler in glass, and they cut a porthole in the side of the unit so that you can watch the violence of the waterline. You can also see the water leap from the boiler along with the steam as the burner roars, and all of this makes you appreciate the importance of proper near-boiler piping when it comes to steam heating.
At the big ISH show in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the most heavily attended halls is the one that houses the tools. This is where we get to jackhammer, and saw, and burn stuff. It's a wonder the building is still standing.
We'd all rather see things than hear about them. That's why more people go to the movies and watch TV than go to lectures, and you should use this to your advantage when talking to a client. Bring things with you and have a show-and-tell. I once watched a guy sell a cast-iron boiler in just this way. He had brought along a piece of cast-iron that he had cut out of a boiler that had served a building for more than 60 years. He handed that hunk of iron to his prospect as he talked about the long life span of this simple material. He was irresistible. The prospect sat there holding this hunk of heating history as he listened to the pitch. He must have been thinking that his new cast-iron boiler would last for the rest of his life, and beyond.
Buderus, the German boiler manufacturer, makes a big deal about their cast-iron, and its flexibility. They even went to the trouble of casting some of their special iron into a flexible spiral. When a Buderus salesperson hands me that flexible, cast-iron spiral and invites me to play with it, it's hard to think about much else while I’m playing with it. Flexible iron! Imagine that.
What powerful tools visual aids are, and the only thing that limits you is your imagination. Consider the simple service valve, for instance. Service valves make sense because someday someone will have to service the equipment we’re selling today, and these valves will save time and money for years to come. So you bring along a valve, and you explain how you use these on your jobs. And you hand your potential client a one-inch valve while you talk about their new heating system. He sits there, holding that brass wonder, and he starts thinking in terms of years rather than just dollars. You encourage him to heft that well-made valve, and to smell it. It's elemental. You ask him to open it and close it and to feel how smooth the action is.
And then, you might hand him a valve of lesser quality, and show him the difference in weight, and action, and style. You tell him that your company has too much pride to use cheap materials, especially with something as critical as a valve. You're both thinking long-term now. He's thinking of how long your fine work will last, and you’re thinking about how long he will be your client. Beautiful.
And all because you used a well-chosen visual aid.