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14 questions to unleash your secret potential

There is a spark of greatness in you.

You already knew that, of course. The hard part is finding that spark and using it to light a fire. You may not know what your spark is, but it’s already sitting there in plain sight. Or else it’s just underneath the hood.

I’m about to show you how to find it.

Some 50 years ago, a guy named Bud Robbins discovered the power of looking under the hood. He got a job trying to promote the Aeolian Piano Company. Ever heard of them? Neither has anybody else.marketing capo d'astro bar aeolian piano company

Robbins had to persuade the average starving musician to buy an Aeolian piano when they could get a well-known Steinway for the same price.

He took a tour of the Aeolian factory and found out that their piano weighed more than a Steinway because of a metal part known as the capo d’astro bar.

The capo d’astro bar is useless until the piano has been in use for 50 years. After 50 years, the capo d’astro bar prevents the aging instrument from warping.

The manufacturer saw this as a simple engineering fact, but Bud Robbins saw the potential story. A little bit of further research led him to the discovery that the New York Metropolitan Opera was using an Aeolian piano, and the extra longevity was starting to pay off.

When the Met relocated to the Lincoln Center, an opera singer told Robbins, “About the only thing they’re taking with them is the piano.”

Saying the piano was “built to last” wouldn’t be such an extraordinary tagline for an instrument which lasts generations. But the quote about the Metro taking the long-lasting piano with them–well, that became the headline for a full-page ad in the New York Times.

The outcome: Thanks to the story behind a hidden metal bar, the Aeolian Piano Company had a 6-year waiting list for their product.

Bud Robins later wrote about this experience and what it means for every business, every product: “No matter what the account, I promise you, the capo d’astro bar is there.”

Finding your bar

If I opened this post by telling you about the lifespan of a piano, you would have moved on within a few seconds. But you’ll listen to a story. A story about the underdog piano company, and the hero Bud Robbins who has to save the day.

Everyone loves a story. The most popular video games involve a story. We’ve been telling stories around the campfire for thousands of years.

Find your story, and you’ll find your greatness.

When I meet with a new client, one of the first things I do is try to figure out their story. Here are a few of the questions that will help you uncover yours.

  1. What were your dreams as a kid? What did you enjoy doing most in your spare time? What did you worry about?
  2.  What was your first job? What was your first entrepreneurial effort?
  3. What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
  4. Who was your business’ first client? What was memorable about the experience?
  5. Who was your worst client? Why? If you could teach them one thing, what would it be?
  6. Describe your first year in business.
  7. When did you know you were going to make it? What was the decisive event?
  8. What is the first thing you do when a new client is interested in doing business with you?
  9. What is the last thing you do for your customer or client?
  10. What, if anything, do you do to follow up/keep in touch with past and existing clients?
  11. Why should I do business with you, instead of all the other alternatives, including doing nothing?
  12. Who is your most valuable partner or employee? What makes them so valuable?
  13. If you could put up a billboard anywhere, where would you put it and what would it say?
  14. What habits or outlook do you attribute to your success?

You should try to write out the answers to all of these questions. Better still is to actually talk to someone about these answers. More spontaneous ideas will come up, and you can test their power by the other person’s reactions.

I don’t want to give away my clients’ secrets, but here are some interesting quotes I’ve dragged out by using these questions.

“Many real estate agents are lazy parasites who only do the minimum amount of work for easy money.” (A member of the California Association of Realtors)

“I’m always talking to people who might be five or ten years younger than me, and I’m telling them about some new useful app or software that they’ve never heard of and they don’t want to use. You have to keep learning or you’re toast. I’m always testing out new tech for my clients.” (A 47-year-old video editor)

“I’ve been trying to find out why I’m still alive, what I’m meant to do on this earth. Helping you might be the answer.” (A business owner who nearly died a dramatic death when he was 24)

Any of these quotes could easily lead in to a compelling story that would make eligible clients want to do business with this person.

Now it’s your turn. What is your story?



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