Use The Familiar to Sell the Foreign

In 25 years of running my own enterprise, I’ve found communicating creative vision to be more difficult than teaching Swahili Sign Language.  If you’re an idea person, you’ve likely encountered this too.  As you explain your creative concept, the people you’re talking to look at you with blank stares of bewilderment.  

The problem isn’t you.  It’s your audience.  They’re human.  The majority of whom are non-visionaries.  They’re also hardwired to resist change because change induces fear, one of the base human emotions.  

So how do you sell your big creative vision to a visionless marketplace fearful of change?  You use the familiar to the sell the foreign.

Familiarizing the Foreign
Imagine if a guy approached you a decade ago to invest in his company.  His company plans to use cell phones to connect people in need of transportation to people who’ll haul them around.  

This is a foreign concept.  Talk about fear — who’d hop in a car with a complete stranger? 

But what if we use the familiar to describe the foreign?  Like this: 
Remember the “ride board” in college?  Where students seeking transportation home for the holidays wrote their name, number, destination, and departure date on a piece of paper then pinned it to a bulletin board on campus.  Other students looking to make gas money perused the ride board to find people heading their way.  

Now imagine a job board.  It’s similar to a ride board but for people seeking flexible employment.  

Lastly, everyone knows what a taxi cab does, right? 

So, this company uses a tool most everyone has — a cell phone —to fuse the ride board with the job board to replace taxi cabs.  It’ll be cheaper for customers.  It’ll allow flexible income opportunities for drivers.  And who can honestly say they wouldn’t prefer an alternative to taxi cabs?  

See how that worked?  We just used the familiar — the ride board, job board, taxis, and cell phones —to explain the benefits of a business idea called Uber.   

Selling Familiarity 
As a budding political comedian I learned the importance of selling the familiar.  Prospects who hadn’t seen my act struggled to envision it (this was before YouTube!).  So I sold them what they already knew:  “Imagine Saturday Night Live meets stand up comedy, in a show delivered by Bill Clinton.”

Referencing a TV show on air since 1975, an art form that’s been around for centuries, and the president of the United States, painted a picture clients could understand.  It was also very effective selling!  

The Confused Mind Doesn’t Buy 
Oftentimes, the marketplace rejects new ideas because the marketplace can’t see the new idea.  If you’re in the idea business you’ll be a lot more successful when you use the familiar to sell the foreign.

Damian Mason is a self made businessman and frustrated idea communicator.  His new book, Do Business Better, releases Spring 2019.  Find Damian at 

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