Showing vs. Telling: How to Convince Anyone

December 28, 2012 - Get free updates of new posts here

I want to share a story about two girls I dated. Don’t worry, I confirmed they unsubscribed a long time ago.

I’ve NEVER cared about clothing since high school, hence much of my wardrobe up until this year was from high school. The best part is seeing old pictures and I’m literally wearing the same outfit.

One girl I dated for quite a long time kept mentioning / nudging me to dress better.

“You look SOOOO good when you put on nice things or try to match colors.”

And I continued to wear baggie jeans (when did they go out of style?) and hoodies, so often my own accountant called me “Hoodie Noah.”

This continued for 3 years.

Enter new girl I dated…

“Noah, put on this jacket, pants and shoes that I bought for you.”

I don’t know about you but about 3 seconds after I get into a clothing store I get anxiety and very tired. It’s like an emotional workout for me. Always has been.

But this new girl’s approach removed all obstacles. She made it easy to say yes.

All I had to do was try on the clothing and look in the mirror.

Guess what? I looked pretty damn good.

Then it really “clicked” with me that dressing makes me look better and even more importantly FEEL better.

Now I actually have Pinterest #shame

The key takeaway between these two women is:

Showing vs Telling

One was telling me what to do and the other helped me experience the results. Clearly one method works better.

This is a great lesson for business. One of my favorite stories about selling (and a great example of showing vs. telling) is about a salesguy who went door-to-door selling hammers.

At first he brought a piece of glass and broke it infront of the customer. This guy sold a TON vs every other salesperson who just talked about the benefits of the hammer.

Then every other salesperson was doing the exact same thing 🙁

So this salesguy started giving the hammer to the customer and asked them to smash the glass. Instant-gratification. This is for another email but you get the jist of it.

The next time you really want someone to understand, buy what you are selling or be convinced of your opinion figure out how you can show them vs tell them. That is how you can easily sell anything to anyone.

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16 responses to “Showing vs. Telling: How to Convince Anyone

  1. Tim Grahl Reply

    Hey Noah – I know this isn’t the point of the post, but for any guys that want to dress better without the anxiety of shopping, give a try. I love it

  2. Aaron Wulf Reply

    Great, simple example, Noah. Makes perfect sense.

    And I agree with the sharp dress = sharp mind mentality.

    Keep adding to the wardrobe little by little; it’s a fun process.

    Aaron 🙂

  3. Shir Aviv Reply

    My favorite teacher in high school taught me this lesson long ago. “Show, don’t tell.” I couldn’t agree more.

    I love the way you illustrated it with a short, and succinct story. Great stuff Noah!


  4. beaux Reply

    The real story is not about hammers. Rather it was about tempered glass that does not shatter. The sales person was wildly successful showing how the glass was unbreakable. Then, after a slump, he gave the hammer to the prospects and let them try and break the glass.

  5. Jose Lira - An entrepreneur who loves to travel! Reply

    Good point, I hate shopping for clothes as well. It just feels like a waste of time. Whenever I HAVE to get something other than sportswear, I usually take a girl with me to help me choose what looks good.

    I think the sales approach you mention, ends up letting people convince themselves about how good a product or service is. I think free trials are a good way to accomplish it, but you gotta stay creative with the giveaways, not just give away another useless ebook, find a way to actually create value “Napoleon Hill Style”. Provide a lot of valur and/or fun, and then let people decide how bad they want your stuff.

    Good blog dude, I dig it. Keep the book recommendations coming.


  6. Michael Costuros Reply

    Incase you are a service provider, rather than a glass salesman, I will share what works for me.
    I’m an executive coach who specializes in working with co-founders who are pissed off at each other. I get their relationship back to the inspiration that lead them to partner in the first place.

    What works is exactly what Noah shared.

    The first time I speak with a prospective client, rather than a sales conversation, I treat it like a coaching session. In 15 – 25 minutes give them the experience the benefits of what I can do for them, and working together, at that point, is either a no-brainer, or not.

    So regardless of your service, figure out how to give them the experience of working with you in 15-20 min, and provide that before you talk about any professional commitments.


  7. Andrew Kinzer Reply

    This is something we’ve begun to realize internally. There are a hundred ideas a week that come up about one thing or another. Could be product, user acquisition, whatever. But it’s become painfully clear that until you show the value of an idea, it’s bound to be a pinata for all practical purposes. Everybody has a counter opinion and wants to take a swing about how it won’t work, etc. So we’ve gotten into the practice of keeping our ideas quiet until we’ve collected enough data to present something more tangible. You have to be able to demonstrate value in an idea rather than tout it.

  8. Ben Wagar Reply

    Reminds me of a great Confucius quote … “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I will learn” (aka “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember; I do, and I understand”)

    Thanks for always dropping knowledge on me

  9. John Kasmark Reply

    As a NASA software manager and a new owner of a DJ business, it can be a great challenge to break through to people. It’s great to be reminded to speak less and take action to show more….thanks Noah!

  10. Manana Reply

    I personally like the first girl’s “suggestion” too, if not even more. I will probably need a long speech to explain it, but trying to keep it brief, I’d say that the first girl is not directly telling to put on this or that, but states it indirectly – as a compliment. e.g. “I like it when you do this and that”, or “this would make you look even so much hotter”…. In fact, this is the best way to communicate with men (I’ve learned from experts and experience). The second girl’s “offer” has a premise – she’s already bought those clothes for him. Some men (maybe more insecure) may even find it little rubbing-in-the-wrong-way to their ego: she is trying to make me look and be someone else I’m not. Just my insight.

  11. Troy Reply

    The first time I heard this story was from Brian Tracy in 1984 in his recorded series “The Psychology of Selling” The guy was not selling hammers. He was selling a brand new invention – plexiglass as an unbreakable substitute for transparent glass. He never broke any glass first. But he outsold everyone first year by demonstrating the unbreakable plexiglass using a hammer. The company then bought all the salesmen hammers and framed pieces of the product that looked like windows to carry with them. Then the next year he outsold everyone again because he put the hammer in the customer’s hand.
    Like you Pinterest fashion post!