Thursday, 13 September 2007

Open mouth - change feet

Wow! I understand stage fright, but I don't understand this... Odds are, if you're much of an internet surfer, you've seen this clip already:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=WALIARHHLII

It's a clip of Laura Caitlin Upton, the Miss Teen America contestant from South Carolina, giving her answer to a question about education and geography: "Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?"

Seeing it written out word for word is almost scarier:
"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps. And I believe that our education, like, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere, like such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

Maybe she got left behind, if you know what I mean.
This story is a few weeks old, but I just thought the clip with the subtitles was hilarious and when I saw it, it made me (of course) want to relate it back to persuasion and sales. This comes under the title of "Why talking too much loses the sale".

We're not all on stage in front of thousands or hundreds of people and so, in all fairness, don't understand the pressure the girl was under. On the other hand, there are fifty states (I think, I'll have to send Laura an e-mail to verify this) and I don't see video clips all over the internet and television of the other forty-nine contestants blathering on nonsensically.

When we persuade, (as Ms. Upton was trying to do with the judges - persuade them to choose her above the others), it is not about filling the air with words. It is about aiming our messages straight at what the client or prospect needs.

Regardless of whether or not her physicality was pleasing enough to win is really the issue in this case and the fact that she came in third is truly an indication that this was not a brains contest, but a beauty contest. She appeared poised, at least. I'll say that for her. Also, she's not hard to look at, just hard to listen to.

Without proper training, you may be perceived as a bumbling idiot. If we take a lesson from Ms. Upton's "answer" to the question, it should be this:
Sometimes less is better. If we don't have answers, we need to keep our traps shut unless we are blessed with the gift of gab and can fake it until we come up with something passable, at the very, very least.

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