Could Coach Jimmy Johnson sell you an iPad?

There are a number of funny stories about Jimmy Johnson, Coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90’s.  Johnson was famous for being able to go instantly berserk when he spotted ineptitude or lack of commitment.

One day on the practice field he noticed that a rookie kicker was not participating fully in a drill. He asked the kid, “Are you with this program?”  The kid said, “I have asthma.”  Johnson exploded, “You have asthma?  Get your *ss over to the asthma field and have some asthma!  The asthma field is over there!”

It’s been said that fear of the coach’s temper drove the players to those Super Bowls in those days. And now that he’s retired and works as an analyst for Fox Sports, he hasn’t relaxed a bit.  A few years ago he went off on a rant during the halftime show when a player took a stupid taunting penalty. Take a minute and see him in action here.

It got me thinking of our behavior when we speak and the words we choose in different situations, as I write of these topics all the time.  I’ve posted about helpful and unhelpful words to use in negotiation, how to position difficult topics, euphemisms we use in sales and other advice on word choices.  I doubt Jimmy Johnson ever considered substituting one word for another when he was hopping mad at a player.

Imagine if he got a job in an Apple store selling iPads.  Some guy comes in and complains about a recurring problem with his device.  “The keystroke sequence is right on the $#@%$ website, but because you’re an idiot you can’t find it, so you come in here and start bothering me with a lot of stupid questions!”

What made me think of this? When I go out to run I like to listen to music on my iPod Shuffle, one of the crappiest and most temperamental devices made by Apple. This year I’ve been to their Dallas store 5 times to get the device repaired or replaced.  It struck me one day how the Apple store employees are so guarded and careful with their language in front of the customer, and of course they have been well-trained in this skill.  Here are some ways you can talk “Apple” and not “Johnson”:

Jimmy:  “That was a stupid thing to do.”    Apple:  “That’s not recommended.”

Jimmy:  “You got any more questions?”    Apple:  “What questions do you have?”

Jimmy: “Unfortunately…”                                Apple:  “As it turns out…”

Next time you’re in the Apple store, notice how carefully the staff speaks to you.  It’s not an accident.  (And if you still can’t get your device to work, maybe take it on over to the asthma field.)

No Fable Friday this week

I’m taking some time off for Thanksgiving, and I assume you are too, so there won’t be any Fable Friday. Hope to see you here next week, and meanwhile Happy Thanksgiving.

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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