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Clichés Can Help Us Recognize Mistakes Before We Make Them

by Kevin Daw
Posted On: 1/27/2014

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TAGS: Vending Times columnist, vending, office coffee service, OCS editorial, coffee industry, coffee market, coffee roasting, Heritage Coffee, Kevin Daw, Cliches, meaning of cliches, NAMA Coffee Tea and Water Show, Never discuss politics and religion in business, Practice makes perfect, Better safe than sorry, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar

The NAMA Coffee Tea and Water Show was a solid success, with a great cross-section of the industry turning out to learn, discover and network. I once again pursued one of my goals, which is to meet as many young industry professionals as I can. It is quite refreshing to get their perspective and hopefully disprove the old cliché, "youth is wasted on the young."

Spending a few minutes with some smart up-and-comers gives me a comforting feeling that everything might just work out fine.

I have, of late, been pointing out to my son (who turns 20 this month) how very true most clichés are, and recommending that if and when he hears a new one, he should take it to heart and practice it in spirit.

Whenever we are together and one of these nuggets pops up, I like to point it out and discuss why it is so true. I hope that some of the lessons clichés convey will leave him a little wiser, and bulletproof him against some of life's tougher challenges.

Clichés are usually denigrated, sometimes deservedly so, but it's worth keeping in mind that something becomes a cliché because it is true, has stood the test of time and so has been repeated for generations.

The Wikipedia definition of cliché states: "A cliché is an expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel." And the Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers the definition: "phrase or expression that has been used so often that it is no longer original or interesting."

I beg to differ. The expression may be unoriginal, but the sense is true and often valuable. I find most clichés to be words so wise that one would be remiss to ignore them. Let's look at a few, and how true and applicable they are to our business and our sales success.

Never discuss politics and religion in business.

My dad's favorite story that demonstrates the truth of this told of a sales call he made to a certain prospect. He had been recently taught to always find something of the prospect's to compliment as an "ice breaker." In this case, there was a large, lovely painting of Jesus hanging prominently behind the gentleman's desk. My father exclaimed, "why, what a beautiful painting of Jesus" -- to which the prospect exclaimed, "I hate the **** thing, my wife makes me leave it there." The mood, and the sale, soured from there.

Practice makes perfect.

Okay, so it may be hard to define "perfect" (let alone achieve perfection), but the point is clear. You can only improve at something by putting more time into it. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posits that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at anything. Talent and natural ability have less to do with mastery than just putting in the effort. Remember that next time a sales call is unsuccessful. It is just a bump on the road to perfection!

Better safe than sorry.

Words that all entrepreneurs wish they had heeded at one time or another. This is the antithesis of the cliché "with risk comes reward." There needs to be a balance between these two. Both ring true, but need to be applied with due consideration of the cliché, "everything is fine in moderation."

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

I use this one every single day. The fly might not get caught either way, but it feels good to be nice to people. The more you remind yourself to do so, and discard preconceived notions, predjudices and the bad mood a personal matter may have left you in, the better-received you'll be, and the better that may make you feel. It will also open more doors, and lead to more leads.

The above segues nicely into what I believe to be a very important part of the Wisdom of the Ages:

Put yourself in their shoes.

I could write an entire article on this sentiment because I think it is not done often enough, and with our ever-expanding culture as communication becomes global, bringing your own goals and preconceptions to the table without first understanding and considering the other party's goals and preconceptions will prevent your picking up many subtle signs that could lead to a sale, and will open you up to overstepping verbal boundaries such as "never mix politics and religion with business."

People are the sum of all of their experiences, and those experiences will almost always differ greatly from yours. You might not be able to literally put yourself in their shoes, or even to pull it off metaphorically, but when they say something that causes a negative reaction in you, try to consider what experience they may have had that would lead them to say that. This process might just help guide you towards a productive reply, instead of the sarcastic beauty you were about to lob their way.

Kevin Daw KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries. A 30-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past two decades.