In his wonderful book, Magical Words of the Wizard of Ads: Tools and Techniques For Profitable Persuasion, Roy H. Williams relates the oft-told story of the six blind men of Indostan and the elephant. As they each experienced the creature from a different viewpoint and felt different parts of its body, they naturally came to six different conclusions regarding the pachyderm's essence.

One, feeling the elephant's broad side, proclaimed the animal to be like a wall. The one feeling the tusk heartily disagreed: an elephant was clearly more like a spear. The third, feeling the trunk, thought they were both crazy: obviously an elephant is some sort of snake. The other three all had their own opinions--all equally wrong, though, as Williams points out, "In [his] perceptual reality, each of the men was correct."

He goes on to say, "Most efforts at human persuasion are little more than one blind man urging another blind man to 'see' the elephant as he does."

Nowhere does this apply more than to our belief systems. Not only do we each see the world from our own set of beliefs, but we also tend to assume that everyone else sees the world the same exact way.

Most of us slip into this pattern, and not just now and then. We know it's wrong. Unfortunately, we don't remember it's wrong until after the fact, while doing a post-mortem on our presentation as we attempt to figure out why our prospects didn't seem to do what we wanted them to.

"Normal Is What I Am"

Have you ever presented your opportunity to qualified prospects and been baffled as to why, after you had explained all the incredible benefits it had to offer, they were no more interested at the end of the meeting than at the beginning? Or worse, even less so?

Perhaps, just perhaps, you were presenting benefits that you find valuable, exciting and exhilarating...but never found out whether or not they felt the same way.

"But," you may ask, "how could they not be rapturously taken with the opportunity to travel? How could they not be transformed with excitement at the idea of leading thousands of people out of the desert and into the promised land of financial freedom? How could Bill not be totally fired up about getting to own a Mercedes? What could possibly not turn Anne on about introducing the world to the best health-care products that have ever been invented? I mean, everybody cares about these things. I know I do!"

Yes, you do--and chances are, they don't. It's that old belief system: "I think that way, so everyone else does, too." I say life is shaped like an elephant's trunk...doesn't everyone? As my friend Judi Piani, author of Trait Secrets: Winning Together When You Don't Think Alike, puts it, "Normal is what I am."

Why People Move to Florida

Years ago, shortly after I had moved to Florida, I met a guy who definitively stated, "Everyone who moves to Florida comes here either to fish or to boat. Anyone who says anything different is lying." Hmm. I must have been lying. I've never been particularly fond of either...yet here I was. But this didn't matter; my presence did not disturb his belief system; it was too well rooted. To him, "Normal is what I am."

Now, had he asked me about golf, that would have been different. (I don't actually like golf, either, but it would have been different.)

About ten years ago, I spoke with a man who was thinking of moving to my area; he asked if a particular home a realtor told him about was near the ocean. I said, "No, actually, it's pretty far away." He told the realtor he wasn't interested. When he and his wife arrived, they asked me to take them to that home, just to see it. When we arrived, he turned to me accusingly and said, "I thought you told me it wasn't near the ocean!"

"Well, it isn't," I replied, baffled, to which he replied, "It is too!"

The "truth"? The home was seven miles from the ocean. To me, living two blocks from the ocean in Jupiter, Florida, seven miles is "far away." To him, being from the Midwest, seven hundred miles from the ocean wouldn't have been "far away." Two very different parts of the elephant; two very different belief systems.

(Yes, we are still friends. Why did neither of us think to mention the exact number of miles? I dunno.)

Find the Other Guy's Elephant

When introducing someone to your opportunity (and/or products or services), the typical belief system is to assume that her beliefs (regarding her goals, dreams, wants, needs, etc.) are the same as yours. They might be, but probably they aren't. Here's an effective way to work with these disparate beliefs.

During your presentation, ask yourself:

1. How is my personal belief system distorting the way I should be presenting?

2. How is her personal belief system different from mine?

3. What questions can I ask this person that will clarify my understanding of her belief system (what she wants, what's important to her)?

4. What information can I give that will help her see where my opportunity/product/service meets her needs (not my needs)?

In the book I mentioned earlier, Williams went on to say, "Have you ever paused to consider that your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your customers [and we could add, your prospects] live in their own private, perceptual realities? Instead of expecting them all to see the elephant as you do, why not try to see what they're seeing? If you're patient, you will finally see enough of the elephant from different perspective to finally make sense of it all.

"And then," he concludes, "you'll have something to say that will really be worth hearing."

And that can create a business that's worth a good deal.

BOB BURG is author of Endless Referrals, Winning Without Intimidation and the just-released booklet, The Success Formula: Three Timeless Principles That Will Turbocharge Your Success and Dramatically Improve Your Life.