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  • Bob Burg

“You've basically revolutionized the way we are doing business. . . Your teaching style is very, very effective.”

~ Thomas J. Bartosic, SVP, Career Sales, G.E. Financial Assurance

Positive Persuasion And That All-Important 1/4-Inch Hole

September 14th, 2011 by Bob Burg

The saying is old. The saying is also true.

Each and every year, millions of 1⁄4-inch drill bits are sold, yet nobody buying any one of these 1⁄4-inch drill bits actually wants a 1⁄4-inch drill bit.

Then, why do they buy them? Because they want a 1⁄4-inch hole!

What’s my point, and what does this have to do with influence and persuasion?

People do things/buy things, not for the thing itself, but for the benefit that doing/buying the thing brings them.

What makes this challenging is that those reasons are not always obvious. And, without knowing what they are, the chances of their taking the desired action are considerably lower.

The key is to find out by asking the right questions. In sales, not everyone has the same buying motivation. Some base their decision on price, others on quality, and still others on style or convenience. Your job is to find out in order to help them get the 1⁄4-inch hole they want.

It is the same outside of sales; people act upon their own reasons, which are often different from ours. In order to influence, you must know what their 1⁄4-inch hole is. Not yours; theirs! Once you do that, you’re most of the way there. (Actually, about 3/4-inches there.) 😉

Whether personal or business, how do you find yourself doing in terms of focusing on the 1/4-inch hole? Are you able to do that? Or, are you more often than not stuck on the drill bit? If so, what do you feel would be a good step in the right direction?


Quick note: I’m just about to head to the airport to speak on “Endless Referrals: The Go-Giver Way” in Chesapeake Beach, MD on Thursday. I most likely won’t be back online until Thursday night, so please don’t think I’m ignoring your comments. 🙂

Feel free to download Chapters One and Two of John David Mann’s and my new book, It’s Not About You. It will officially be released September 20th, however you may pre-order, if you’d like.

11 Responses to “Positive Persuasion And That All-Important 1/4-Inch Hole”
  1. Beth M. Anderson said at 8:23 am on

    This is a great visual, thank you. I had never heard it this way before. I am often accused of looking too closely at the client’s reasons, or people’s motivation. Nice to know I’m on track, and now have a story to go along with it!

  2. John Stolfe said at 10:02 am on


    This is a great post! It really got me thinking this morning! So many doors can be opened when we learn to think in this manner. Now once we identify what their ‘1/4″‘ hole is, the next step is learning about the purpose of the hole, correct?

    As a great mentor once stated, “The fortune is in the follow-up!” So, using your example, our role is finding out if the 1/4″ hole was used to hang a picture…a hook of some type…etc. If a picture, the focus (follow-up) goes to learning if the picture is serving its purpose.

    Asking questions about the picture and how it has enhanced the life of the owner, the significance of the artwork to the owner, how the picture has affected the decor of the room in which it hangs, and so on. Future conversations about the artist, the style of artwork, etc. all lead us to further learn about the person who needed the hole in the first place. We have an opportunity to establish value by authentically sharing in the experience of the piece of art with the owner.

    Love it Bob! This post really got me thinking about how to share with my family members, my team and my customers. Thanks for the stimulating thoughts today!


    Am I

  3. Mary Silva said at 1:44 pm on

    Thanks, Bob. Another awesome blog that I feel like you wrote just for me:) Questions, questions, questions…. and genuine interest in finding out keeps me focused on what THEIR 1/4 inch hole is! We can never be reminded enough because it is easy to default to the drill bit. I will share this with my fellow salespeople. Thanks again. All the best in MD today. Warm regards, Mary

  4. Amy Wells said at 3:55 pm on

    When I heard you give your Endless Referrals presentation, last year in San Antonio, this was one of the ah ha questions I took back to my team. I shared your drill bit and hole story and then asked them, besides a gown, what is it that our brides really want? Each girl answered according to her own personal likes, ie sexy, classis, romantic, beautiful, young etc.

    This was an eye opener for me as a leader, because I had no idea that seeking how someone wants to feel wasn’t what every person, who helps people, does. They didn’t have it naturally, that we have to ask the questions that will bring the bride to that choice, not put our choice on her.

  5. I’ve learned that, beyond the direct benefit of purchase, what we all want is the way we’re going to feel as a result of having that direct benefit of purchase.

    For example – a guy might want a 1/4-inch drill bit to drill a 1/4-inch hole so that he can finally hang up that picture he promised his wife he’d hang up because she keeps busting his chops. Buying that drill bit means she’ll finally quit busting his chops.

    Or another guy, like my Father, would want that drill bit because he needs it to finish something he’s working on – who takes pride in the things he’s made “with nothing but these hands and these tools.”

    Or, the guy’s wife from earlier, so she can put up the picture herself – so that everytime her husband looks at the picture she can bust his chops about it. Hahah

    As always, thanks for the stimulating post, Bob!

  6. Bob Burg said at 5:24 pm on

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Always very appreciated! Interesting where the focus needs to be, isn’t it?

  7. Brian said at 7:29 pm on

    Especially when you have a technical background its hard to think from the perspective of wanting a hole when you are so in love with all the little intricacies of the drill bit (insert Bob’s new book name here!)

    One of the nine principles of “How to win friends and influence people” is to look at things from the other persons perspective. One way I do that is to create a “avatar” or profile of my typical customer and write all their fears, desires and what they value. This helps to focus on their concerns in your marketing.

  8. Bob Burg said at 11:04 pm on

    Thank you, Brian. What a great idea!

  9. Great analogy and similar to the way that I think about networking and referrals. I like to think that a great referral business it not built on sales, it’s built on solutions.

  10. Bob Burg said at 11:05 pm on

    Thank you, Steven. Much appreciated. The only suggestion I might have is that if sales is being done right, then it IS about solutions. I realize, however, that is just semantics. 🙂

  11. Amy Wells said at 11:25 pm on

    Wow “A sale is a solution.” A new note to post at the office. LOVE IT!

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