See Things Not As They Are, But As They Could Be!

by Scott Koepf
See Things Not As They Are, But As They Could Be!

United States Army Family and MWR Command Festival of the Arts Man of La Mancha.

The Man of La Mancha
is not only a fabulous show, but also offers exceptional lessons that can be learned from the story. If you are not a musical theatre fan and tend to the more intellectual pursuits, then ignore that first sentence and replace it with, “In reading the most famous novel from the Spanish author Cervantes I realized…” In other words, whether you are right- or left-brain leaning, this column is for you!

The story is about Cervantes, who has been thrown in jail and now stands before the court to plead for his very life. Right from the beginning he knows that he cannot make his case by presenting facts and figures. What he needs is a story that will win over the jury. So he sings,

                “I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha……”

As he sings he pulls in the jury to actually be the stars of the tale he begins to weave. No longer are they listening to information; instead they are drawn into the emotions of the characters and begin to experience, not just observe, the story.

Herein is one of the best examples of what a true travel professional can and should do. Years ago travel agents could make a living by dispensing data to which they alone had exclusive access. Today, consumers themselves can get all the information they could ever want. What they really need, though, is someone to create a compelling story!

You can learn from Cervantes by painting the picture of an extraordinary vacation, by pulling your clients and yourself into the story. Now I don’t mean that you need to describe yourself sitting on the beach with them; that is a bit creepy. But I so often hear agents wax eloquently about a product or destination without making themselves part of the story at all. Even if your role is only as storyteller, you must be so much a part of the yarn that the customer can’t tell it without you being prominently featured!

Product knowledge is only as valuable as what you do with it, and simply dispensing it no longer has value. Get to know your customers so you can craft the perfect story that will excite them and make them see themselves in it. If they love food, your story should feature scrumptious meals. If they like water sports, take them for a swim. And if you are not sure, then go back and ask more questions so you can connect emotionally with them.

While watching Don Quixote I actually tugged on my wife’s sleeve to ask for a pen so I could write down the line that really resonated with me.

                “Facts are the enemy of truth!”

Brilliant! At first it sounds contradictory but when you understand that people do not take vacations because of the gross registered tonnage of a ship or the square footage of a room or even the price of the tickets. They take a vacation to fulfill a specific emotional need. Your job is to determine that need and then build the story just for them. Remember, facts tell but stories sell!

This is a radical approach to selling and I know it is not easy. No doubt you are thinking of various customers of yours and how they might react to this. The two extremes of clients are both characters in the story of the Man of La Mancha.

First there is Sancho. He is like your best clients who trust your every word and wait with utter anticipation for each chapter of your tale. When asked why he was attracted to the Man of La Mancha he sang:

                “I like him, I really like him…”

Pretty simple. But when you tell the story and you are a part of it, clients can get to know you and they will like you!

On the other end of the spectrum are those who will not warm up to you or to your story. They may question your motives, be rude and want to cut to the last page before you even start the prologue. In Cervante’s story that client is represented by Aldonza, a fairly unsavory character who is bitter and not ready to embrace a happy tale. But the Man of La Mancha always saw not what was but what could be. So he changed her name and treated her like a queen:

                “Dulcinea, Dulcinea, I see heaven when I see you Dulcinea…”

While at first she fought being enchanted by the story, with time she, too, saw the beauty of it and was swept away. I don’t necessarily suggest changing the names of your resistant clients but I do recommend looking for the best in them. Turn their focus to the beauty of your story and you will have them falling in love with you in no time!  

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