The smile behind the statement

It’s not a lie if YOU believe it. — Carol Leifer, via George Costastanza

When I sold homes, there was no more important phrase for me to keep in my head. I joked about it; I told people that it was a definitive part of my personality. And when I did, they’d grimace a tad, or say that’s not the way they did things or something slightly dismissive and morally superior.

If I were in the mood, I’d explain the point. The key to the sentence isn’t the first clause, it’s the second.

What I find in a lot of things I edit (or read) is that the writer hasn’t bothered to find a reason to believe. They haven’t spent the time to get themselves excited about it. Information presents well — the writer can put words together — but the inherent smile behind the statement is missing.

Whenever I’ve sold anything, I answered every question they asked to the best of my ability, and I didn’t sugar coat difficult answers. Yes, this lot is close to the highway. Yes, the schools fall into the lower percentile in the rankings. No, that land won’t remain undeveloped. No, you probably won’t be okay with the standard features. It was just easier to tell the truth rather than lie to anyone.

The sales training I’d gotten called that Overcoming Objections. I tend to think of it more advanced lying. The key to dealing with client objections isn’t to overcome objections; it’s to tell the story of why they don’t matter. And to do that, you have to start with believing it yourself. The key to any narrative is to find a way to convince yourself what is great about what you’re presenting. Not just great, but overwhelmingly outstanding. If someone doesn’t buy your home or your point of view, they’re just an idiot. But doing that involves not just writing it down, but learning to believe it yourself.

That’s the key to it; if you’re trying to sell or you’re trying to convince someone, you start with believing in your position. I looked to find the specific reason why the community I was selling was the best possible place for people to live. It could have been the schools, or if the schools stunk, it was the square footage. If we were overpriced for the area, then I focused on the benefits of this specific neighborhood. There has to be something — anything — for you to base your optimism for the project or the point or the message on.

In other words, you want to find a way to make yourself an evangelical preacher about what you’re presenting. Once you get to that level of excitement, you can tone it back down to not overpower the client or the conversation. When you do that, you find yourself with the smile behind the statement because you can honestly tell yourself you’re doing good with the conversation. Once you do that, making the sale or convincing the reader become much easier.

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