Stone Soup – In the Portuguese city of Almeirim, many restaurants serve a very special dish known as the sopa de pedra, or “stone soup” in English. Literally, it is a soup in which you can find some hard, inedible stones along with other ingredients. So why do the Portuguese have such a strange soup on their menu? There is actually a story behind it.
Once upon a time, a monk traveled to a village during horrible weather. He had no money with him, and he was very hungry. When he came to one of the houses in the village to ask for shelter, a woman answered the door, and when she saw the poor traveler, she said:
“Go away! Don’t bother us!”
The monk wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, so he begged:
“Please, I just want to dry my clothes near the fire!”
The villager thought that it wouldn’t cost her anything, so she let him in.
However, the monk had other plans in mind. Once he was done with his clothes, he had a very strange request for the villager.
“Please,” said the monk, “Please give me a small little pot.”
“What do you want that for?” She asked.
“I need it to make some ‘stone soup.'”
“Stone soup?” asked the villager.
“Yes, I am hungry, so I want to make some ‘stone soup’ for myself. It wouldn’t cost you anything. I just want to borrow a little pot from you.”
“That’s a very funny idea,” thought the villager, and since she had never heard about ‘stone soup’ before, she was curious what it was like, so she lent him a pot, and asked him to show her how to do it.
The monk collected some stones from the street, washed them, and put it into the pot of water. As the water began to heat up, he asked the villager:
“It will taste better if I add some salt, so can I have some please?”
“Sure.” The villager gave him some salts as he requested. Then the monk asked again:
“Actually, to make good stone soup, you’ll need some meat as well. Do you have any leftover in the kitchen?”
So the villager gave him some meat as well. Gradually, the monk asked for other stuff like beans, corns, and carrots for the soup, and the villager threw a little bit of everything she could find into the pot. Finally, when the cooking was done, the monk and the villager shared a pot of delicious soup, something that the villager would have never granted to the monk in the first place… had he asked for it directly.
If you know that your listeners have a different opinion from yours, then expressing your idea directly to them is not a very bright idea. Instead, you shall try to lure them into doing what you want, just like the monk did in the story. As an example, you may look at the famous American Army General, George S. Patton.
According to historian Ladislas Farago, whenever Patton’s proposals for offensive operations were rejected by his superiors, he would find a way to get around the disapproval. For example, he would send a small group of troops pretending to be on a reconnaissance mission, and wait for the moment when they met resistance, because only then he had the excuse to turn it into an all-out attack by giving them full reinforcement.
So, how can you efficiently bypass rejections and lure your listeners into doing what you want? You can follow these three simple steps:
1. Find out what he likes
In order to persuade a person, you must first find out what he likes. You may not have known him for very long, but you can somehow predict it from his background. For example, if he is a business owner, then he is very likely to be an aggressive person who wants to make more money; or if she is a housewife who has not worked for 15 years or so, then her only concern is very likely to be her children. You can fact-find your prospects as much as possible before you persuade him.
2. Link your products to what he likes
Look at the stone soup story again. The monk didn’t ask directly for the soup right from the beginning. Rather, he began with an empty pot, and then he asked for some salts, and then a little meat, and then gradually more and more ingredients until he got a full pot of soup. This is how you should proceed: start from a comfortable point, and slowly work towards your goal.
Here is a little exercise. Suppose you are an insurance agent and your prospect is a poor single mom, how can you begin your selling session effectively?
A possible start is to begin with what she cares about most – her children. If she tells you that her son has just been ill and spent a few days in the hospital, then you may mention the rising medical expenses over the past 3 years, and cite a recent example where you saved a client big money on a hospital expense because he bought a hospital benefit policy from you. This will appeal to your listener because, firstly, she cares about her child, and secondly, she does not have a lot of money.
3. Don’t dwell on your point for too long
If your prospect show positive reaction immediately, that’s great, but don’t push too hard if he doesn’t. If you get too aggressive, you’ll be come across as annoying. Try to go back to his favorite subjects again before looping back to the topic you want to talk about. In this way, you can slowly reinforce his perceived need for your products.
There is no one who can’t be persuaded as long as you have the right method. It is not some voodoo that can change people instantly, but it can effectively alter people’s attitude if you know where to start working.
To find out more about how to influence people effectively, please get a copy of my book, the Art of Influencing Anyone.