A few weeks ago I had a business lunch at a restaurant. I was with four people and I ordered soup. The rest ordered sandwiches. We were chatting when the waiter arrived with the dishes.
He looked at me and said ‘You look like a soup guy’ and handed me my plate. I was impressed and didn’t understand how he could know.
I finished my soup and when the waiter approached again I asked him how long he had been a waiter and how he learned to recognize ‘soup’ people.
He smiled and explained the obvious: he just looked at which plate had the spoon next to it.
For a moment I felt very stupid as it was such a simple trick. But then I realized he played it well, and I gave him a good tip.
Surely the same thing often applies to doing business. The obvious things are often very powerful, and easy to dismiss. But package them well and they can appear like magic. The trick isn’t just to know how to look for the spoon, but also how to deal with that knowledge.