Recently a friend sent me a video called “The Story of a Sign.” A short (6 minute) film, it tells a story that teaches an important lesson to all of us who have anything to sell, whether it’s a room at a bed and breakfast or a service. And that lesson is that words matter.
The film open with scenes in a park of a tropical country, kids, birds, fountains, palms, sunshine. It’s a happy place. But we see an bedraggled old man leaning against a wall with a sign that says, “Have compassion, I am blind.” People pass by and some drop a coin into the old man’s can, often with a bit of resentment, but, feeling guilty, they give something. Most simply ignore him. Along comes a well dressed businessman who walks by the old man, stops, and returns. He reads the sign, picks it up, pulls out his Mont Blanc pen, and rewrites the sign. Placing it next to the old man without saying a word, he pats him on the shoulder and walks away.
Soon we see passing people dropping piles of coins and bills into the can, and before long the can is overflowing. Later, the businessman returns, and the blind man recognizes the footsteps. He is so grateful but confused and asks what the man wrote on his sign that made such a difference. The businessman says that he said the same thing, just differently. The sign now read “Today is a beautiful day, and I cannot see it.” Voila! It’s all about perspective and the choice of words.
If an innkeeper is on the phone discussing available rooms with a prospective guest, it’s the difference between saying, “All we have left is our smallest room” and being asked for a discount, or “Our coziest room is still available” and booking it quickly before it’s gone. If you’ve ever heard Don Farrell talk about phone sales, you’ll understand this example perfectly. And then there are those odious “Policies” which often sound like draconian rules of engagement. A little humor can go a long way. How often do innkeepers says (perhaps at their own legal peril) “No children under 12 allowed?” The reason why is understood, but wouldn’t it make the same point, without the legal risk, to say this? “For the comfort of all our guests, children behaving badly will be served for breakfast.” I know, you don’t want children, and your guests may not want children, but be creative! And avoid violating age discrimination laws.
At The B&B Team® we often work with innkeepers to refine the language in their marketing and policies to find ways to say what you want to say but have it produce a better result. It’s about sounding positive and hospitable. Words matter when you’re selling anything. Choose them well!