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The Demonstration

My role was to do the demo, which I had rehearsed six times back at the advertising agency and once more this morning. I told the group that I would re-create the demonstration for them in the same way it would be seen in the television commercial we envisioned.

I identified each item on the table, emphasizing that the pitcher contained pure hydrochloric acid, which is exactly the chemical known as stomach acid. This is what causes the burning feeling of acid indigestion when the stomach is acidic. What Bisodol does is cause a chemical reaction that turns burning stomach acid into a harmless water solution, thereby ending the discomfort of acid indigestion.

Tell Them What They Are Going to See

I lifted the pitcher and filled both beakers. I removed four daisies and cut the stems so that each would be seven inches in length. (The attention level was remarkable. They stared as though I were doing an appendectomy.) I explained to the audience that the length was important because we wanted the flower to be two inches above the beaker while it was alive and then sag dramatically as it died.

I put a cut daisy in each beaker. The audience was silent to the extreme. Nothing in the room moved at all ._._. except the daisies, which wilted, sagged, shriveled, and died. The audience gasped.

Tell Them What They Saw

I waited almost a minute before taking the next step, because the audience was so absolutely taken by the death of the daisies, which certainly dramatized how unfriendly stomach acid could be. Then I removed the two dead daisies and said, “This is what we would expect, since the same acid that burns your stomach burned the life out of these two flowers.”

I shook two Bisodol tablets out of their bottle onto the table and then put them in one of the beakers. I used the stirrer to crunch the tablets as I stirred the solution, explaining that both Bisosol tablets had to dissolve completely in order to turn “burning stomach acid into a harmless water solution.” I put a Bisodol nametag on that beaker so that there would be no confusion. Then I took the two remaining cut flowers, one in each hand, and held them above the beakers.

Building Anticipation

I waggled the one in my right hand above the Bisodol beaker, saying, “This daisy should be fine because the stomach acid is now harmless.” I waggled the other flower and said, “This one, however, doesn’t have the Bisodol advantage.” All eyes watched. Silence in the room. No movement.

I dropped the two daisies into the beakers. The Bisodol daisy stood tall and healthy. The other one wilted and died. I thought the demo was over, but the audience kept staring at the Bisodol daisy, the one standing tall in the beaker. The audience didn’t move, no clearing of throats, no shifting in the seats, no sound. Nothing but silence.

One of the product managers was the first to speak. “How long will it stay healthy like that?” he asked. I was a little bit startled. I didn’t expect the question, and I didn’t know the answer. “Until long after this meeting is over,” I answered. They chatted and joked among themselves. The mood was ebullient.

The Client Speaks

Bill Laporte, chairman of the corporation, stood up, shook Henry Schachte’s hand, and said, “I’ve been in this business for thirty years, Henry, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more dramatic presentation. I wish we could put it on television just the way we saw it today.”

Then he shook my hand and said, “Kevin, thank you for pulling all this together. We saw some things today that we didn’t think were possible.”

I shook his hand and thanked him. I was even more grateful for the way he spoke his mind in front of all the others. What a lift that was. Now all the others would feel free to say good things.

But the meeting wasn’t over. I asked Bill if he would sit down for just a minute, explaining that I had something important to say in conclusion.

In a meeting of this kind, it’s important to ask for a specific action, a specific timeframe. Be clear. Don’t assume they know what you want, even if it’s obvious that they do. You still have to ask.

Step 7: End the meeting by telling them what you want. Be clear. You’ve earned the right.

I ended by saying, “We are confident that this advertising approach for Bisodol is unique and will impact the brand in a positive way. It’s dramatic. It’s attention-getting. It will lift Bisodol to the front line of antacid products. It will grow the brand.

“I want to add a personal note. We stand in front of you with great respect for Whitehall and great enthusiasm for what’s to come. We want to be reappointed your agency for Bisodol. We want to continue to serve you. We feel we have shown you that we have the creative muscle to do the job. We want your business.

“I have one final question,” I said. “When will you let us know?” Hank Peterson handled that one.

“Monday noon,” he answered. They filed out with much glad-handing and conviviality. Each of them shook hands with Henry Schachte and thanked him for being there. I removed the nametags and shook hands with each of them myself. Each was complimentary. Some were effusive in their praise. I felt like I was running for office. Once the room was empty of clients, we babbled about how well it went. It was Henry Schachte, our president, who cut to the chase. “If they are still wearing the daisies at four o’clock this afternoon, we’re in,” he said. “And Kevin,” he continued, “you better get over there this afternoon and see as many of those people as you can. We don’t want to give them a chance to change their minds.”

At three o’clock I went back over to Whitehall. I stopped in to see Hank Peterson. He was very complimentary, though he didn’t commit himself, but he was wearing the daisy. I visited each of the special six whom I had invited. They were all eager to talk about how much they liked the idea and how they thought it would impact the brand. Most important, the daisies were still on their lapels. Now we just had to wait until Monday.

Whitehall’s Decision

On Monday, Whitehall announced its decision. We were reappointed the official agency on Bisodol. The unofficial tally was twelve votes for us, no votes for any of the other four agencies. What a heady feeling that was. We had persuaded a whole group to act as one. We had done what seemed impossible.

The example above applies to an advertising situation. But the principles are universal and apply in any business environment.


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