Send In the Clowns
As any company that uses distributors knows, it's one thing to get them to take on your line and another to get them to sell it. Distributors' sales reps typically have many products to pitch to retailers, and as important as your line may be to you, it's just one of many to them.
Part of what determines how much of their attention your products command is how well the reps know them -- which means not just what you've taught them but how much they remember. "That," says Anita Creasi, director of channel marketing at Viteq Corp., a Lanham, Md., maker of uninterruptible power supplies for computers, "is what I mean by 'mind share.' "
To help train one distributor's telephone-sales reps, Creasi hired a magician, Lisa Menna, who was paid not just to entertain but to help teach.
The 50-minute presentation opened in a darkened room. Menna materialized from a puff of smoke and did a couple of tricks to set up Creasi's entrance. Then they alternated: Creasi presented the lecture and the usual transparencies; Menna performed stunts to illustrate Creasi's points. They'd worked out their routine during several weeks of phone calls and rehearsed it the night before.
"Left-brain and right-brain access are different," says Menna. "You hear something at a technical event, and it goes into a storage space in the math side of your head. The next time somebody asks you about TWX-transfer twisted pair, you go to that storage space and try to retrieve it. But if you have a second note card, filed in the creative side of your brain, that says, 'Hey, I understand twisted pair. That was when that girl did the trick with the plastic bags, making herself into a twisty' -- then you have access to both sides of your brain for the same information."
Whether you use a magician, a comedian, an artist, or any other performer, the idea is to put the information across in more than one way. " 'Sesame Street' is more interesting to kids than Miss Crabtree is," says Menna, "because it offers such a variety of input -- which is kind of what I do."
Creasi's a believer. "I know it worked," she says, "because the reps say they remember -- and they're selling the product." -- Tom Richman* * *
Lisa Menna's company, Magic Touch, is in San Francisco at 415-399-1133. For other sleight-of-hand artists, try these agencies: Bob Snodell Associates, Chicago, 708-388-1539; Magical Productions, Riva, Md., 301-721-0515; and Corporate Shuffle, Houston, 713-977-0026.* * *