The Heart of the Onion

I often find myself using a metaphor involving an onion – such as “let’s peel away another layer”.   The onion is is a metaphor for what a business has to sell. Only by peeling its many layers, can one reveal whether it has a sweet heart or a rotten core.

When most business people I meet pitch themselves, they describe the sequentially removable layers, concealing the most important elements of their argument.  Prospects are left cold, being forced to spend their time working their way through the layers of the onion.  The prospects minds become buried beneath a series of issues or arguments never seeing the central concept.  Even if there is a sweet heart, it’s impossible to find.

The human mind sees objects in their entirety rather than perceiving the individual parts.  You don’t read the letters in each word, instead you understand their combined meaning.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in the mind.

It’s the same with a pitch.  The prospect sees what you tell them at the beginning rather than understanding the building blocks of pitch. If you expect them to peel away the layers of the onion, they’ll get lost in their own thoughts rather than absorb and be engaged in what you want them to hear.

The key is to isolate the primary message.  When we get to the core of the argument we expose what we want the audience to hear.  We have the opportunity to create empathy and engage the audience.

The mind is essentially lazy and will take a short cut so that it can be in a resting state.  Take advantage of this.  Presenting the whole onion and expecting the audience to dissect it means, at the best they will think that engaging you will be hard work, at worst they’ll miss the core argument altogether.

Instead do the mental gymnastics for the audience. Control their minds in the direction you want them to go.  Do this by using the core of the onion; the primary message must becomes a continuing narrative. Each point will re-enforce core argument at the heart of the onion. The prospect will think It’s easy to work with you and understand the benefits you products or services will bring.

The onion’s layers can then be built (or grown).  The prospect will become a customer and the pitch won.

  • Howard Amor

    The peeling of an onion’s a great analogy.

    The primary message is key, followed by a SIMPLE explanation of why.

    “Pitchers” (and often so called professional ones, too) get quickly lost in the minutae of their personal knowledge and concern to provide complex evidence of the subject, leaving the receiver of the pitch struggling with detail, instead of making a decision on the voracity of the pitch.

    March 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm
  • A very interesting read, the onion metaphor is something hits the nail on the head.

    ….Isolate the primary message, get to the core of the argument and expose what the prospect wants to hear.

    March 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm
  • There is nothing worse as a client than having to sit through layers and layers of details that are here just just to introduce the subject. I have another analogy for you: do strippers start their show wearing layers upon layers of clothes? No!!! They know the mind takes shortcuts and take advantage of it! Ok, not the classiest analogy, but just think about it for a minute – it’s the same thing.

    Last pitch I had was with a search agency who went on for 45 mins to explain to me the structure of a google results page and tr various signals needed to make it to the top of SERP. Had they spent just one minute looking at my LinkedIn profile, this would have saved everyone a lot of time. I’ll never get these 45 mins back, and since it was our contracted agency I had to go ahead with the search proposal, but I have lost a lot respect for them due to their bad presentation skills and lack of preparation.

    March 17, 2014 at 8:29 pm
  • EMJD

    Like the blog and beautifully written. Well done. I love the subliminal use of dyslexia – that a word is in it’s entirety so it doesn’t really matter about each letter – beautiful. You hit the nail on the head. People can be terribly stupid and need simple images to understand.

    The bulb of a crocus which yields saffron, originally grown in Wexford in Ireland for the British Empire (hence the local term Yellow Bellies and the Purple and Gold (Royal Victory) ) contains at the heart of the bulb – the heart of the onion – all the genetic information need to grow the flower and leaves. The birth is you will. The layers are just food and protection, the outer layers extremely tough….

    Beautiful image and such a catharsis of the analogy of a tear from cutting onions. I wonder does an onion contain an olfactory trigger in the human memory (being the manifestation of the human gene – there is one base gene code after all 😉 The Good Gene.

    March 18, 2014 at 2:29 pm
  • Sam Plugoon

    you slammed it

    October 2, 2016 at 3:21 am
  • overboard

    meditation does have its place in a stable method

    October 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm

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