The desire to fit in

April 18th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I am not a tough guy or a macho man or particularly strong.

But what if that’s what you need to be to fit in with your
colleagues, customers, or coworkers?

While I was going to college, I worked summers and Christmas
breaks in the warehouse of a company that distributed potato
chips, pretzels, and other snacks.

It was a minimum wage job doing mindless manual labor, and I was
the only college student — and the only employee who worked just
seasonally. Everyone else in the warehouse was full time.

About two-thirds of the crew were adults stuck in a low-pay,
dead-end job; one-third were younger guys about my age who were
either high school drop-outs…

…or, if they had graduated, had gone as far as they were going to
go in their education. And they all knew I was in college
studying chemistry.

Naturally, spending 40 hours a week working side by side with
them, I wanted to fit in as best I could.

Well, the toughest guy there was “Big Hank,” an incredibly strong
forklift operator who stood about 6′ 2″ and weighed around 300
pounds — almost all of it muscle.

One day, on the lunch break, Hank got into a challenge game with
the guys one at a time.

Hank and his opponent would shake hands, and both would squeeze
the other’s hand as hard as he could — until the victim couldn’t
take the pain anymore, cried out in agony, and was declared the
loser. And Hank never lost.

Worker after worker could not withstand Hank’s grip — and begged
for release.

After Hank made Chris, the second-strongest guy in the warehouse,
yelp in pain and plead with Hank to release his hand, I calmly
stepped in front of Hank, looked him in the eye without smiling,
and held out my hand — shocking everyone on the crew.

Hank grinned. Then he gripped my hand. But no matter how much he
squeezed, I stared right back at him, and my expression never
changed.

Amazed, he clamped down with all his might, intending to cause me
maximum pain — but to no avail.

Finally, realizing he could not beat me, he released his grip,
shook his head admiringly, and said out loud, “Fellas, this
college boy is the only tough guy in the room aside from me.”

Now the truth is, I never tried to squeeze or crush Hank’s hand.
I was strictly on defense.

And, I have this odd thing in my right hand: no matter how much
pressure someone applies, the bones move or slide in such a way
that they do not break or bruise, and I feel virtually no pain.

Hank and the crew did not know that, and so after the contest,
they liked me better, because I was more “one of the guys.”

The next day, a younger coworker, with whom I was already
friendly, wanted to show me his martial arts fighting prowess
during lunch.

So he leap off the ground and lashed out at me with a karate kick
— designed more to dazzle than to hurt me.

He was slow, and I easily caught his foot in my hands and held it
there — putting him in an embarrassing position with his leg
extended parallel to the floor and him unable to move it, which
amused the onlookers.

To get free, he leapt up to kick me with the other leg, and as
that leg went airborne, I released the first leg.

With both legs in the air and nothing to support him, gravity
took over and he fell hard on his back and ass — to uproarious
laughter aimed at him and some congratulatory pats on the back
for me.

I have to admit, these two victories felt kind of good!

Anyway, after that, all the guys became my pals — and on Friday
nights we often went to a bar or a pool hall to hang out. I was
accepted as part of the gang.

The lesson for you as a marketer is: People like people who are
like them.

So the more you can show the prospect that you are “one of his
people,” the more open and receptive he will be to what you tell
him.

One example is that if you are doing direct mail to doctors, you
get a better response if the letter appears to be written by and
is signed by a doctor.

Same thing for lawyers, CPAs, farmers, and construction workers.

Whatever you can do to show the prospect you have something in
common with him or her, as long as it is both true and sincere,
the better the relationship — and the greater your chance of
making a friend … and the sale.

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