Monday, June 27, 2011


Peter Guber is best known as a movie producer of such movies as "Rain Man," "Batman", "Midnight Express" and "Gorillas in the Mist". He has also gotten involved in a few interesting side issues, such as baseball teams and parks, and teaching at UCLA. I wouldn't think of him as a sales person, but in fact he is a prime example of someone with big ideas that he was able to sell to other people.

The inspiration for "Tell to Win" was his wonder of the story. Facts and figures often get overlooked, but a good story can pack an emotional wallop. Peter realized many of his friends had used stories to win over converts to their idea. He broke down the process and set out searching friends to better understand the process.

His friends including such people as Nelson Mandela, Deepak Chopra, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Dan Siegel, Robert Rosen, Carl Sagan, Tony Robbins, all people who found a story had made a difference in getting something important done. One of the most interesting efforts he made was to go to Papua New Guinea where there is a strong oral tradition.

A lot of factors go into a successful story and Peter explores them one by one with illustrations from the experience of his friends trying to change attitudes. The basic concern is that people are inundated with facts and statistics and often gloss over them. What often compels people to take a closer look is a story with emotional content that they can identify with.

We grow up with stories. The best stories emerge from a violation of our expectations. For instance there is a problem people are familiar with or can at least identify with and the result is not what was expected.

A particular story is not necessarily appropriate at all times for all audiences. A key factor is to know your audience and what they will respond to. Timing is an issue in itself and you need to be sensitive to it. This can only come from careful listening

Stories have been important to me as a salesman. A really relevant story can be hard to dig up. It pays to be patient, but look for the opportunity. One of my favorite stories came when I worked for a cleaning product company. We had decided that a primary target would be veterinarians as we had discovered our product was very effective at dealing with skunk odour. We developed stories about successful de-skunkings and how much impact it had on social settings. My favorite story ended up being how I introduced myself and illustrates many of the principles of Peter's book.

We learned about someone who happened to be a receptionist at a vet clinic, but our acquaintance came through her involvement as a dog trainer assistant. She explained to someone else in the company that as a receptionist she got peed on a lot by dogs visiting the clinic and found our cleaner the best at cleaning up her clothes. I tracked her down to clarify the story and thought about how it fitted into my situation.  I made cold calls and of course the first person I saw was the receptionist. Thinking on it further I realized that they are generally the first to meet the people and the first to meet the pets and I guessed the first person that got peed on by a visiting animal. That was all I needed.

I would start off with something like "I guess you are the first person to meet all the people." They would nod, but not get too involved.  "I guess you are also the first person to see all the animals." Another nod, but still not quite tuned in, maybe even a little annoyed. Then I would say,  "you are also probably the first person to get peed on." At that point many would laugh and others would admit it was a problem.  I then explained that I had been told this by another receptionist who found what I had in my hand to be the best solution. Their interest was fairly keen and they were receptive to the rest of what I wanted to say. Often bringing in someone else with more authority letting me get closer to a decision maker.  I later had help to adapt this approach in French for calls in Quebec and found they reacted pretty much the same way.

Peter has a very interesting website where you can see videos of conversations, his schedule and more stories. Just check out

If you examine your own circumstances you have your own stories about why you do certain things, why you like certain things. You have been told why other people do things. If you are trying to persuade someone to do something they aren't inclined to do, a story about why someone else found it worth their while will be helplful.

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