The Principle and the Lighthouse

This is the transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. The Radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on Oct. 10, 1995.

US Ship: Please divert your course 0.5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

CND reply: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

US Ship: This is the Captain of a US Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.

CND reply: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course!

US Ship: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS MISSOURI; WE ARE A LARGE WARSHIP OF THE US NAVY. DIVERT YOUR COURSE NOW!!

CND reply: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

This is not actually a true story, but has been circulated as such for many years. I’ve heard it and you’ve likely heard it as well. Yet, take a moment to really consider the point beyond the obvious humor. While techniques can change, principles never do. They’re steadfast.

I’ve done sales training for many years now. The most common questions I get are about technique – how to close, how to approach, what to say, how to ask great questions and drill down, how to gain agreement, how to mirror, on and on. All good stuff. Except, if it’s done outside of principle it’s often not very effective. At least not for long term client relationships.

What’s principle? It’s the “why” behind the process. It’s knowing why you’re asking questions, why you’re drilling down, why you’re gaining agreement, why you’re trial closing, why you’re mirroring and on and on. They’re the lighthouses; they don’t change. They’re unmoving, resolute. In fact, if you know the why – and you don’t give up – you’ll figure out the how.

Technique does matter. It sure makes the process smoother and often quicker. So don’t discount it – get it, learn it, own it. But it has to be built on solid principle. I’ll take a person who gets the principles of selling before I consider the one that just has great technique. Given one or the other, I’ll take principle every time. I can build on that.

But give me both – technique built on strong principle. Now that’s a winning combination.

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