They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Why is it, then, in our conversations, in our written correspondence, and in our presentations, we act as if the opposite is true - that a thousand words will create the picture we want?

Metaphors and analogies are two similar but different word tools you can use to better communicate and create a connection with your prospects and clients - and to persuade them to your way of thinking. A metaphor is "an expression not using `like' or `as' that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to possess similar characteristics." An analogy is "a comparison of two different things that are alike in some way." An example of a metaphor, using my sales training business, is "Sending your reps out in the field without being properly trained is a recipe for disaster." "Just as this high-rise in which you work needs a deep, strong foundation to support you, so too do your reps need a deep, strong foundation in basic selling skills to support the revenue goals you've committed to," is an example of an analogy.

Metaphors and analogies are effective at making abstract or difficult-to-understand concepts understandable. They are used in sales to tear down barriers between you and your prospect that have been inadvertently built by your use of language that is technically correct, but incomprehensible to the prospect. By painting a picture with metaphors and analogies, you create a visual image of your concept; in doing so, you ensure that it sticks with your prospect better and far longer than would a litany of industry- or product-specific terms. You can also use these tools when facing objections: the images that metaphors and analogies create cause prospects to pause and think, and to see the situation from a perspective different from their own (yours).

Action Item:

Write down the names of three prospects with whom you're currently engaged, or are trying to engage, and who are having difficulty "getting it." Next to each name write down the aspect of your offering that prospect is having the most difficulty understanding, and, hence, buying into. Then make a list of all the things you know about this person that could serve as the basis for a metaphor or analogy. Your list could include the industry they're in, their personal interests and hobbies, family situation, achievements, challenges, news and facts on them that you might find in trade journals, on blogs, or on social networking sites such as Linked In. Pick one of these and relate it to the obstacle you're facing - the concept you're having a tough time getting across. If you're having trouble coming up with ones that work for you, go to a bookstore and leaf through any magazine, observing the advertisements you see. The best ads make use of both metaphors and analogies - and other tools - to both pull in the reader with something memorable, and make themselves stand out in the crowd. If you're not near a bookstore, check out this site, or this one, which give examples of different metaphors. Then get to work creating a few of your own. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes.

Good Selling!

Author's Bio: 

Sales Solutions Founder and President Craig James has over 12 years' experience in sales and sales management, primarily in technology and software. He's helped sales people from Fortune 500 companies to small business owners and entrepreneurs improve their sales results. Craig has been published and quoted in several business publications, including Business Week, Sales and Marketing Management, and Selling Power, and has been interviewed by Sales Rep Radio. Craig earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and his MBA from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business.