Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more.

The phrase “Will it play in Peoria?” has been around for over 100 years. Derived from Horatio Alger’s book, Five Hundred Dollars, the phrase evolved into its current form after being repeated often by Groucho Marx. It signifies that if a show is successful in Peoria, Illinois; it will be successful anywhere. Peoria came to represent mainstream America and its citizens’ adoption or rejection of a show was an early indication of the show’s likelihood for success.

In the 1980s and 90s, famous comedians and musicians perfected and launched concert tours in Peoria. During Presidential campaigns, major TV networks would visit Peoria to “take the pulse” of everyday Americans on national issues and candidates. Peoria is the most common American metaphor for a reliable test market.

People generally respond more positively to ideas that they can put into context. Telling a good story that illustrates a solution is a great way to get a prospective client’s attention. Practicing and perfecting the story for your target audience will lead to improved sales success.

Selling your solution is like putting on a show. The more engaging and entertaining your story is; the more positive the response. Problems occur because we tell our story everyday while our clients are often hearing it for the first time. We live and breathe our solutions – our clients have many other things on their minds. The temptation on the salesperson’s behalf is to take shortcuts and assume that the client has a frame of reference similar to their own. In most cases this is done subconsciously by the sales person a little bit at a time.

Do you have a Peoria that you can use to improve your message? Creating a good story for your solutions is an ongoing process. Many successful salespeople have relied on their business network and their good clients to be their Peoria. Test your messaging on these people and accept honest feedback. The reason shows open in Peoria and not New York is obvious; there are always little improvements to be made and many rehearsals are required before the story flows in the best possible way. Getting all of the lines, lighting, sets and timing correct before opening in the big market is always a good idea.

The next time that you are preparing for an important sales call, ask yourself “Will it play in Peoria?” If the answer is no; think about ways that you can better perfect your message and delivery. Who can you test with to improve your story? As you gain client experience, can you use some of their stories to keep the narrative fresh and engaging?

Shows that play well in Peoria are ready for Broadway.



August 15, 2012

Great analogy.


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