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Always Smile at a Crocodile!

The essence of persuasion is about getting predictable outcomes from normally unpredictable situations. In other words, it is reactive – therefore sales scripts are the road to hell.

There is an old classic in the sales world which states, “The sales people have got a great script, it’s just that the customers keep forgetting their lines”. I love to see complacency shattered and I delight in that look of horror that comes over the smuggest of faces when the promised outcome spins out of control.

I once saw a documentary about saving some huge crocodiles from a dam project. For once the crocodile was the victim, for its own good of course. This huge brute had been shot with a powerful tranquiliser gun and was now being carried to its new home by an earnest team of zoologists. There were two men at the jaw end, two on each leg and two on the tail, yet even so they were struggling. The man on the far end of the tail was the team leader and he was calling out commands in a reasonable imitation of Bob Newhart.

When the creature reached its new lake home, the coolness of the water immediately revived it and it awoke in a mood of some malice towards those who had messed about with it. The jaw-men were the first to see the wicked eye snap open and without a moment’s hesitation they were off, followed in short order by the leg men, all of them running in that peculiar high-stepping way one does in shallow water. At this point of course the chain of command had failed completely, but our man on the tail continued to shout “OK guys, I’ve got him!” The crocodile realised that it still had a tormentor on its tail and in fury it lashed wildly. Our hero, for his part, realised as he took off in a huge arc at about ninety miles an hour, that his grip on said tail was now his only hope of survival. The monster found that by bending double he could almost reach the interloper with his teeth. His jaws would snap shut microns from the man’s bum. In fury at missing, the croc would lash again – snap, scream, lash, snap, scream, lash, with the rest of the team (by now safe on the shore) shouting for him to let go, whilst adding to the confusion by taking pot shots with the stun gun. Eventually the professor was thrown to the shore having illustrated to perfection the danger of thinking you know in advance how any other intelligent life form, be it crocodile or customer, is going to behave.

This is an excerpt from Resistance is Useless