The Disbelief-Based USP

suspension of disbelief usp chicago

Allow me to summarize the Belief-Based USP report, for which this report is the natural counterpart:

Your selling proposition will be most powerful when it 1) aligns with a deeply-held and strongly-felt belief your ideal client holds and 2) offers something that he wants to believe is possible, and believes he can attain – with the right assistance.

The same way that the USP isn’t about being primarily about being unique, a belief-based USP isn’t focused on being believable, although it needs to be credible. Rather, it’s focused on matching existing beliefs and attaching itself to them.

Example: Many people believe Wall Street insiders know secrets the average investor doesn’t. Companies that sell financial newsletters bank on that belief – literally.

“Doomsday Preppers” believe disaster is right around the corner, and they can’t trust the government, their neighbors, etc. But they do trust their preferred source of information. (This is a booming industry, in case you didn’t know.)

Steve Jobs believed alternative treatments were superior to traditional Western medicine for fighting pancreatic tumors.

We believe police officers are hate-filled racist bullies…or everyday heroes.

Belief is human nature. Your beliefs determine your actions, including your buying decisions and “brand loyalty.”

“If you are not reminding your prospective customers of the existent foundation of an accepted fact that supports your proposition, you are missing out on something important.” ~ Chip Kessler

The Flip Side of the Belief Coin

You USP has to both inflame the desire to believe AND the willingness to suspend disbelief as necessary.

Consider this. Whenever you step into a movie theater or turn on Netflix, you engage in a subtle volitional activity: you flick off the unbelief switch in your brain — or at least put it in standby mode. You know you’re watching a movie…you know parts of the plot are totally unrealistic…but for the sake of enjoying the story, you accept what you see as truth.

Sales, marketing and copywriting experts often repeat the idea that people make decisions emotionally, then justify their emotional choices with their rational minds. And that’s true.

Let’s take it one step further.

If your USP generates a strong enough desire, if it hits the right emotional sweet spot, your ideal customer will, of necessity, explain away any disbelief.

I’m told that a surprisingly high number of medical doctors purchase “male enhancement” pills. A good story about a scientific breakthrough or the discovery of ancient herbal formulas mixed with some testimonials overpower 6+ years of higher education.

“The strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you’ve got them. AT MTV, WE DON’T SHOOT FOR THE 14-YEAR OLDS, WE OWN THEM.” ~ Bob Pittman, “MTV is Rock Around the Clock.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 3, 1982

Your USP has to strike at the emotional heart of the hearer/reader and create a vision in his mind. For a moment, he has to dissociate from the “real world” and see himself enjoying the benefits he’ll receive after buying from you.

Self-Sabotage

If you’ve ever tried to sell anything, especially belly-to-belly, you’ve seen it happen. Your prospect obviously sees the value in what you’re selling. It’s clearly the solution to his problem. But something is holding him back from saying “yes.”

So you explain your risk-free guarantee. He STILL can’t get past the obstacle.

What’s the problem?

People get in their own way. They often prevent themselves from doing what’s in their own best interests:

  • They don’t believe they can really accomplish the long-awaited goal. Maybe their peers, but not them
  • They become addicted to their identity as a non-attainer – they like being “starving artist,” failed inventor, or mediocre performer. People sabotage themselves ALL THE TIME. They want to succeed, but not more than they want to keep doing the same things that guarantee they won’t succeed
  • They’re scared of what it would mean to succeed (i.e. CHANGE)
  • They’re worried about what their spouse or their friends will think about them
  • The topic you’re talking about isn’t a priority for them, even though it should be
  • Etc…

How do you get people to suspend these limiting (dis)beliefs?

Instead of head-on argument, give them raw material to come to draw their own conclusion in your favor.

“Without a doubt, we are more committed to what we conclude than what we are told. If we come to believe something is false, virtually nothing will convince us it is true. If we come to believe something is true, virtually nothing will convince us it is false.” ~ Blair Warren

1) Be the kind of character people WANT to believe in and trust. This is rarely done by coming up with a catchy catchphrase. It takes demonstration, consistency and clarity of message.

Strong personalities take us on journeys and activate the imagination. Polarizing figures force us to make choices. Authoritative experts engender trust. Enthusiastic people are contagious. Don’t you feel like you know the characters and celebrities personally?

  • David Blane
  • Elon Musk
  • Stephen Curry (NBA’s 2015 MVP)
  • Warren Buffett
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Rick Grimes (from Walking Dead)

2) Stack the value – and don’t leave out the cost of inaction.

Let me use an example from my world. John Carlton touts himself as “the most ripped-off and respected copywriter on the planet.” And he probably is. You wouldn’t take that at face value, but after reading his stuff, listening to him and seeing how many other people esteem him, you’ll come to the conclusion that he’s legit.

If you’re looking for a copywriting mentor, he’s right at the top of the list. If you COULD hire him, the value is clear. If you’re thinking about hiring someone else, it is implied that such a decision will cost you unspeakable sums in lost profit.

Believe me, Carlton’s public persona is no accident.

Think about a simpler proposition: the George Foreman Grill. The value stack is making delicious food quickly and easily with less fat than other cooking methods. The cost of inaction? Rubbery burgers swimming in pools of liquid cow fat on your dinner table.

3) Exude confidence, both personally and in your messaging. Make big enough, bold enough promises to ignite desire. Draw a specific picture in the mind of your should-be customer, one he can see himself participating in.

4) Offer undeniable proof to alleviate fear and justify their desires with logically.

It should go without saying that a proposition MUST be believable if it’s going to work. Proof elements (testimonials, scientific or clinical evidence and demonstrations) help clear away doubt. People don’t buy when they don’t trust.

5) Make it easy to take the first step.

6) Dig in for the long haul. In many cases, the first exposure may not do the trick. The more a person is exposed to an idea, the more likely he is to believe it (look up the illusory truth effect and mere-exposure theory).

To Conclude

In a movie theater, people voluntarily hit the pause button on their disbelief and skepticism.

In business, that is not your customer’s job. It’s your job to make it desirable and easy to suspend their doubts.

Helping your should-be customers get out of their own way and believe your USP is a two-fold duty: inspire desire and earn trust.

Easy for me to say, right? Of course it is. But I also help my clients achieve this goal in their own marketing efforts.

“Belief is today’s most overlooked yet most powerful key to boosting… Harness it and you unleash the core atomic power for exploding response. Because the hunger for belief is so vast in every market, so deep-seated in human nature itself, you can tap into it again and again—infinitely—to make yourself and your clients rich.”     ~ Gary Bencivenga

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The Belief-Based USP

What is the real power behind powerful USPs? How can you harness that power to craft a monster USP of your own?

Most entrepreneurs and marketers have a serious misunderstanding about USPs. Frankly, most teachers on the subject haven’t taught it correctly. But then again, most of them don’t understand what makes USPs really work, either.

Unique. Selling. Proposition.

As with so many other things in society, we’ve tried to make USPs tangible and mechanical. Scientific, even.

A+B=C

Target Audience + Problem + Solution = USP

“Hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free.” (Am I the only one who’s tired of this example?)

In the process of making USP formulas, we’ve missed the point.

Despite the name, a USP isn’t good simply because it is unique. Customers don’t buy a product just because it’s different. They buy because it’s uniquely suited to fulfill a desire.

“Consumers have access to a multiplied and multiplying range of choices, so classic brand loyalty has been replaced by search for and expectation of the thing that is precisely, perfectly appropriate. The market for all manner of goods and services is greater than ever before. The attraction of wealth in this environment has little to do with somehow “locking up” a limited portion of a limited market and everything do with directly connecting with individuals and meeting their needs and interests.

~ Dan Kennedy

A USP’s magnetic attraction comes from within the would-be buyer himself and from the product, service or company.

“We see people and things not as they are, but as we are.” ~ Anthony de Mello

Customers see your products as THEY are. Their desires and beliefs dictate how they perceive your business and your USP.

Now, I don’t want this to become some scholarly dissertation. I know you don’t want, that either. So let’s make this clear and practical. News you can use.

This article is entitled The Belief-Based USP because belief is an essential element in getting people to take action, but the power of belief rarely makes it into discussions about what makes a strong selling proposition.

(Again, most people don’t understand this. That doesn’t mean no one ever stumbles into a compelling USP. Understanding what makes people do what they do gives you an immense advantage over you competitors, no matter how big and well-established they are.)

What You Need to Know

1) USP is a reality, not a goal or dream, not a clever-sounding statement. It is the underlying core of your offering.

For example, Tim Ferriss is the 4-Hour guy. He’s obsessed with finding shortcuts and productivity “hacks” to help his audience get better results quickly in various area of their lives. Regardless of the flack he gets, he’s world famous and known specifically for this personal USP.

When you think about Tim Ferriss, one thought automatically precedes all others: 4-Hours. He’s helped countless people (or so I’m told) improve their business and personal lives

The big question is, how did he get such a large group of people to believe his USP?

2) USP is a decision – or at least it should be. Decide what you’re going to do and who you’ll do it for/with. Then resolve to be world-class in that area.

“You must work extremely hard on what comes easy to you.” ~Jeffrey J. Fox

Harry Houdini dedicated his life to becoming the greatest escape artist and showman on the planet.

Domino’s decided to deliver pizza in 30 minutes – and they put their profits at risk if they couldn’t keep that promise.

3M really put their money where their proverbial mouth was when it came to their security glass. (Supposedly) $3 million dollars’ worth…

UVP USPImage from 3m

The point? Your USP isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do for your customers.

3) In conjunction with Point 2, you must decide who your ideal customer is in order to make a meaningful claims. No single feature or benefit appeals to everyone. When you have clarity about who you’re serving, you can

  • get very clear about the most profitable use of your time and resources
  • determine what products and services will be most valuable to them (and lucrative for you) and
  • how and where to promote your offerings to be most effective.

If you don’t pick your audience, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and working on things that don’t matter much to anyone.

Why Negativity is Essential

What your business does is important. What it doesn’t do is probably just as important.

Peter Drucker once said that “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” Monomania is a crazed focus on ONE THING and the ruthless exclusion of anything else that would compete with or dilute that focus.

What are you maniacal about?

I think this is truly the most difficult lesson when it comes to finding your USP. Why? Because it takes clarity to know what you should focus on, courage to dedicate yourself to mastering that thing and conviction that you’ve chosen the right path. Any distraction is dangerous.

Examples:

Strategic Coach – you cannot become a member if you don’t have a person income of $100K per year. Their organization works exclusively with high-achievers (defined by dollars earned).

FarmersOnly.com – the name says it all.

I’m a happily married man, but when I heard the jingle for FarmersOnly.com, I couldn’t help myself. I had to check out the website. The uniqueness of their angle took me by surprise. Competing in a very crowded space dominated by a few major players, FarmersOnly has a singular focus. The name itself tells you who their customers are – and who they absolutely will not help. The tagline (“City Folks Just Don’t Get It”) excludes a huge segment of the potential market. Just the way they like it.

The in-crowd psychology is powerful. When someone in the target audience sees their marketing materials, he instantly knows “this is the place for me.”

If there’s nothing you won’t do, and no one you won’t work with, what does that say about your business?

Belief and Your Ideal Customer

“We choose what we choose because we believe in it…

“Who we think we are is why we do what we do.

“We live in our stories, and we live according to them. We wear clothing and drive vehicles, which are consistent with who we believe we are and who we are trying to become. We chose relationships and information as ways of subconsciously validating our beliefs, to make us feel good about our points of view. Our treasured books and music embody us. Our closest friends are our kind of people.

“Ultimately, we expect to find meaning in our lives by editing our stories, by freely mixing and matching our decisions to create an authentic narrative that represents who we believe we are, to ourselves and to others.
~Tom Asacker, The Business of Belief

People buy products, join memberships, read emails, etc., because of their beliefs. What does your potential client believe about

  • himself – What kind of person does he see himself as? How does he want the world to see him? What does he aspire to be?
  • you and/or your business – What kind of experiences has he had with you up until now. How have you positioned yourself in the marketplace? What kind of reputation do you have?
  • your industry in general – Does he trust doctors implicitly or fear Big Pharma has tainted everything? Does he think all coaches are quacks?
  • similar products/services – Is this his first experience with a product in this category? Has he been burned by previous purchases? Has he been frustrated about NOT being able to find a solution? Have you created a brand new category? What is he already familiar with that he will associate you with?
  • what’s possible and impossible – What ideas have been drilled into their brains by education, society and the media? If you’re making unique claims, you’ll need some proof to substantiate them.

How does working with you fit into his “story”? Do the values you represent resonate with his values and beliefs? Do your claims inspire the desire to believe?

You can see why it’s easier and more convincing to choose a well-defined target market! According to The Business of Belief (quoted above):

“We hunger for direction and inspiration. We want what’s important to us to get better – our bodies, work, home and relationships. We want to imagine ourselves transforming our lives and the lives of others. We want to feel good about our evolving narratives. It’s why we read books, scan the Internet, and flip through magazines. We’re looking for the before and after stories. We want to feel the pull of possibility, of moving beyond our existing reality…People are drawn across the bridge of belief by their anticipation of a better experience and a better life. Effective leaders ignite people’s imaginations by painting vivid, compelling, and personally relevant pictures – ones that move them.” ~ Tom Asacker

Does your USP do that? Does your favorite USP formula show you how to do that?

Practical Path to a Belief-Inspiring USP

A great USP makes an ideal prospect want to believe. It connects with a specific desire and offers a glimmer of hope that he’ll get it.

To put it simply and succinctly, a powerful belief-based USP promises to produce a specific result your ideal customer really wants, then offers evidence to make it easy and safe to believe.

Here’s how you get started:

Stay focused on your ideal customer’s desires, not so much on your own “uniqueness.” Of course, you have to offer something valuable. But you might be surprised how often products with no real uniqueness perform remarkably well in the marketplace.

Example: Beats Audio devices. Marketed as the handiwork of legendary hip hop producer Dr. Dre (the proof element), these headphones and speakers promise to let you hear music the way the artists intended for it to be heard.

Are they the best headphones available? That’s arguable. But many music lovers have paid between 2 and 10x more than they would for other headphones with the hope of experiencing the difference.

Beats devices have since become a status symbol and fashion accessory, broadcasting to the world how much the wearer loves music.

Have the courage to stand for something meaningful to your target audience. Be an advocate and champion for that cause.

“Music deserves to be heard this way! If you care about music and the artists that create it, how can you settle for hearing a distorted version through those ‘other’ headphones?”

Or in the case of Evernote:

“You’re busy, always on the move. Capture everything, organize your thoughts, ideas and notes beautifully and securely (much better than scribbling on crumpled napkins) and keep on moving. You’re smarter and more productive that way.”

Be specific. Generalized statements don’t move anyone.

Be bold. Under-promising is marketplace suicide.

Tom Morkes’s website homepage says this: “In the past 12 months, I’ve launched 6 books to bestseller, generated over 48,000 in first week book sales, and tens of thousands in book launch revenue. Want to see how I did it?”

For any author who’d like a successful book launch, this promise seems irresistible – especially when he finds out Morkes also offers a free e-course on the same topic.

Share your “reason why.”

“Given our goal of achieving a strong relationship with the prospect, it’s vital to know what the inner layer is…shared values are the foundation of strong relationships. ~ Jim Signorelli, StoryBranding

Why do you care about the work you do? Why do you want to work with your target audience? What makes you think you’re “their kind of people?”

Offer “proof.”

Back up your claims with evidence. With Beats Audio, Dr. Dre is the proof element. He’s a well-known and respected music producers and cultural icon.

Testimonials, endorsements, reviews, media appearances, certifications, awards, etc., make it easy for the brain to rationalize the desire and strengthen the hope that the promised results are forthcoming.

Remember, these are supporting elements. You’re not bragging, but reassuring your buyers.

“The desire to believe is a little-understood, extremely powerful force that, when consciously and deliberately harnessed, can lift an ordinary man or woman to great heights of influence, fame and fortune, and fuel the growth of a business like nothing else.

“…providing reasons to believe is a rather ordinary, commonly understood exercise in persuasion, but it is ‘low power’ unless and until it is paired with an inspired desire to believe.” ~ Dan Kennedy

–Postscipt–

“People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.

“…Here’s what’s missing: YOU.

“There isn’t a word about your wants, your needs, your hopes or your concerns. There isn’t a word about your offer or proposal. There isn’t a word about what you think. It is all about the other person.

“…People write books about how to frame your ideas, how to present yourself, how to ‘put your best foot forward.’ And yet, all that people really care about is themselves. Can you imagine how much energy you will free up if you stop focusing on yourself and put your attention on other people? Can you even imagine how much more charismatic you will become when you come to be seen as the one who can fulfill some of their most basic emotional needs?

“… there is one thing you can count on: your family, friends, customers, clients and even everyone you have yet to meet will have these needs met by someone. The only question is, will it be by you?” ~ Blair Warren

 

Don’t forget to check out the flipside of this coin, the Disbelief-Based USP.

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Selling Lessons from the Trenches: Interview with ClearSales

Selling Lessons ClearSales

Selling is a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another.

This is one of the common definitions of selling — and it’s a good one. It’s the job of the salesperson to connect the inherent benefits of a product or services with the needs and desires of the potential customer. For the buyer, getting what they want is something they can get excited about. The person doing the selling oftentimes has to find the enthusiasm-inducing elements and bring them to the top. And the more impassioned he is about those benefits, the more persuasive his presentation will be.

We’re all selling something. We might as well get good at it.

Last month, Ash Patel over at ClearSales interviewed me about big lessons I’ve learned selling products and services face-to-face and through the written word. I answer sales-related questions for people who find themselves in selling situations but don’t always think of themselves as salespeople.

The interview lasts 40 minutes:

You can take a look at the raw transcripts in the ClearSales blog.

Ash delineated 11 separate takeaway lessons:

  1. Personalize sales message (generic is BAD; any sales conversation should feel one-to-one)
  2. Focus on the customer, not on yourself, your company, or even primarily on the product itself
  3. Keep following up
  4. Sell the outcome, not the tool itself. This sounds obvious, but I’m constantly surprised by how many entrepreneurs, marketers and salespeople revert to selling their “thing” rather than the transformational results it produces for the buyer
  5. Avoid jargon and corporate talk, unless that’s the language your customers speak. A conversational tone usually works best
  6. Educate your prospects. It’s a great way to share value and position yourself as an expert at the same time
  7. Be strategic
  8. Spend at least as much energy converting and retaining clients as you spend on chasing new ones. The best new customer is a satisfied old customer
  9. Sales don’t happen by themselves.
  10. Recognize your own value. Confidence is a huge factor in successfully transferring enthusiasm
  11. Communicate that value. It’s not bragging if it’s true, right? Plus, you’re not bragging — you’re helping potential customers see all the ways you can make their lives better. Don’t be shy about making the world a better place in your own unique way.

Enjoy the interview!

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Your Should-Be Customer Say “No” Because… (Pt. 2)

marketing criteria

[Read Part 1]

When people who should say yes to “you” say “no” instead, there is one overarching cause. Borrowing a few words (and an image) Dr. Harlan Kilstein shared someplace in cyberspace:

“The only reason you hear “no” when you are selling is because you haven’t connected your product to their highest ranking criteria.” Couldn’t’ve put it better myself — so I didn’t even try.

If what you’re offering doesn’t gain a position of ranking priority in your potential customer’s mind, you’re gonna hear a lot of nos. That shows up in a few different ways, one of which we discussed last week. We talked about how sales messages miss the mark if they don’t appeal specifically to the self-interest of the prospect.

Another reason people who should be your customers will reject you is because change is hard. When we’re selling our products and services, we’re asking people to

  • change from inaction to action
  • change from one course of action to another
  • change brands or providers
  • change their thinking
  • change their habits

People generally do not like to change and we usually try to avoid it, even when we know the results will be good.

Please, take 96 seconds to watch this video that illustrates the point wonderfully:

As the saying goes, we usually change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. And this is really the key to overcoming this reason people reject our selling messages.

Many times, we try to persuade tough prospects by piling on benefit after benefit and bonus after bonus. What we don’t realize is that the problem is not a lack of value (although extra value is rarely a bad thing). We oversimplify the persuasion process.

When people make decisions, they have to weigh multiple factors. As marketers, it is easy for us to only address two main categories: payoff of taking action and the cost of not taking action, i.e. the benefits they get from buying and what they miss out on if they don’t.

What we fail to consider is that, in the mind of the potential customer, there are HUGE benefits to inaction.

Changing is hard; your prospects most likely aren’t going to do it just because you offer a better alternative to what they’re doing now (which could be nothing). You’re going to have to paint the picture, taking into consideration the payoff of inaction and the cost of action.

how sales persuasion happens

Recognize that change is difficult for the prospect (just like it is for you). Acknowledge the fact, but put it in its proper perspective. “It feels good to smoke a cigarette when your coworker gets on your nerves, but is it worth shortening your life because he’s a jerk?”

The Cost of Truth

Sometimes we’re stuck in our ways. We like our way of doing things and seeing things. Even when we learn about a better way, we’re not trying to hear it. I was that way with the Dewey Decimal system. The Library of Congress classification traumatized me.

Speaking of books, how many book publishers, newspapers and magazines have gone bankrupt because they didn’t want to change along with the digital revolution?

“Everyone—yes, everyone—has an emotional attachment to their view, no matter how trivial. Some attachments are more easily severed than others. But they are still there.” ~ Abdu Murray

We have to realize that there’s more behind the “nos” we hear than a lack of value on our part. We have to explore ways to facilitate change.

Can that be done through marketing? Absolutely. We’ll get deeper into that in the future.

[Check out Part 3 now!]

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Why Selling Is So Hard?

No Trespassing. No Selling Allowed

Most people won’t say this in public, but behind closed doors and in their innermost thoughts, you hear it with staggering frequency:

“Why won’t these dummies buy my product?? They know they need it! I’ve clearly shown them how much better their lives will be when they start using it.

Selling is HARD! Argg!!

Yes, selling is hard. The reason is simple: it is impossible to change someone’s mind. Literally impossible.

But you still have to get people to say yes or click a button for your business or career to survive. How do you do it? Why is there a small percentage of people who make selling look so easy? How do I become one of the ones who make it look easy?

Your prospects have “No Trespassing” signs posted at every one of the entrances to the mind. The guards are very selective about who they allow inside the gates.

If you try to punch a hole through their mental defenses, you’ll soon find out how ineffective (and exhausting) that can be. Using hype and high-pressure tactics is a foolish approach — no matter how cool the Wolf of Wall Street makes it look.

Here’s what it boils down to:

There are things that your would-be customers really want to do, but for numerous reasons they can’t bring themselves to take action.

They want to start investing so they can retire comfortably. They want six-pack abs. They want to meet their soulmate.

Your job is to give your customers the psychological, emotional and volitional strength to get out of their own way.

To empower them to grab hold of their better future.

That’s what we’re going to talk about during Monday’s Irresistible Offers teleseminar.

We’re going to tackle the topic of persuasive selling based on how the brain works…how human emotion works…how language works.

There is one psychological reality that puts all the pieces of the persuasion puzzle into a single, cohesive concept.

Instead of long lists of complicated techniques and formulas (which all talk about different things), you’ll discover a simple but incredibly enlightening illustration of the how the mind works and what makes persuasion work.

You’ll learn why people say ‘yes’ and you’ll learn what it takes to get more yeses from your sales and marketing.

Everyone who makes selling look easy leverages this reality, consciously or unconsciously.

This session is going to be a real eye-opener, with research gathered from

  • the U.S. Army
  • the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • the latest psychological and neuroscientific studies
  • social movements
  • millions of dollars of direct marketing testing
  • and Hollywood, possibly the greatest influencer of culture on the planet.

If you’re an entrepreneur, salesperson, marketer, copywriter or anyone who needs to be more persuasive, you don’t want to miss this call. The insights you’ll gain could change everything for you.

Understanding what makes people tick and learning to make offers they can’t resist — now that’s a good investment.

My promise to you:

The teleseminar starts from 8:00pm Eastern on Monday, August 11th. The cost is $58.

I’ve condensed the best insights I have on selling in person, print or pixel into an hour-long. I’m not holding anything back. I’ve only spoken publicly about some of this information once in the past 2 year (at my paid workshop in June). Parts of it I’ve never shared before, which is why the teleseminar is more expensive than the workshop.

At $58, it’s a freakin’ steal. I guarantee you’ll get 99 times more value than what you spend or I’ll happily give you a full refund — before I go to bed Monday night.

I can’t stand sitting in on presentations and listening to the “same old, same old.” Don’t you hate that? I’m not going to put you through that torture. If you don’t learn something brand new, I’ll give happily your money back.

Let me help you get past your customers’ “No Trespassing” signs. Sign up for the Irresistible Offers teleseminar here.

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Steve Lahey Picks My Brain About Stealth Selling and Copywriting

Small Business Talent Podcast with Stephen Lahey

Over the years, it seems like I’ve sold almost everything: Swiss watches, cell phones, warranties, coffee grinders and even plain old advice. You’ll never hear me say I’m a natural salesman. I wasn’t even always good at sales.

In 2012, I wrote Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals, an ebook revealing my personal selling philosophy along with insights and advice I’ve picked up along the way.

This week, I had the privilege of appearing on Steve Lahey’s Small Business Talent podcast. He asked me about stealth selling, ethical persuasion and life as an entrepreneur.

I even performed a live dissection (guess that would make it a vivisection) on his new service page sales copy.

It was fun and I’ve received a lot of great feedback. If you have about half an hour, I’d be thrilled if you listened to the interview here.

By the way, the Steve’s podcast is always excellent. If I were you, I’d check it out every week.

I’m also working on making a second edition of Stealth Selling. Up until the time I release it (hopefully by the beginning the end of April), you can pick up the original for $5, which the lowest price I’ve ever offered (a large percentage of buyers paid $19 for it). I’ll also send you the updated version as soon as it’s ready, free of cost.

If you’re interested, click here.

One more thing: if you listen to my interview with Steve Lahey, leave a comment and send a screenshot of the comment to db at donnie-bryant dot com, I’ll give you the book for free. Why? Because maybe what Steve on Twitter is true:

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Marketing Lessons from a Snowstorm

We had our first real snowstorm in the Chicagoland area yesterday.

While I was outside removing snow from the sidewalk and driveway this morning, I felt a little pride. Shoveling is not my favorite activity, but I think I did a pretty good job. I took care of it early so that the kids waiting on school buses wouldn’t have snow invading their shoes, making their Monday morning socks cold and wet. (Mondays are tough enough on school kids anyway, right?) The walkways are well-cleaned and salted to prevent slippery ice patches.

Yeah, I did a pretty good job. I don’t like to brag, but I might even be the best on the block.

Despite the high quality of my work historically, no one’s walked up to me and offered to pay me to shovel the sidewalk in front of his house. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, either.

The same is true for your business. No matter how great what you offer is, having a customer randomly approach you with cash in hand is not very likely. Your product or service may even be the “best on the block.

This is why marketing is so important. You have to tell people who you are, what you do and how choosing you will improve their lives. They need to know why they should do business with you.

A few other thoughts popped into my freezing cranium while I was taking care of my winter duties this morning:

  1. There’s never a shortage of people willing to pay to avoid pain. I can’t think of any surer way to position yourself to win in the marketing game. I mean, who likes to have people ringing their door bells early in the morning? But when he’s offering to relieve you of the necessity to face frostbitten toes, he’s a pretty welcome sight. Think of ways to solve problems or erase pain for your prospects, and you’re well on your way to success.
  2. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to be the only person who does what you do, either. How many industrious individuals are out there making money cleaning up snow for other people? Quite a few. There’s plenty of action to go around. Don’t let the fact that you’re not one of the “big dogs” stop you. Davids beat Goliaths every day. Even if they don’t wipe them out completely, lots of them get big enough pieces of the pie to make it worth their while. Never let competition scare you off from chasing your aspirations. Find a chink in their armor, and go for it.
  3. Finding a “hot” market is the best way to go. A snowstorm like this one produces all the ingredients of a hot market. There’s a large group of people facing an ugly problem. Almost no one wants to deal with this problem (who doesn’t hate shoveling snow or scraping ice?), but it has to be resolved. The few people willing and equipped to take on the task have an immense potential to profit. Do you provide an solution to a pain, problem or fear that your core audience feels acutely? Are there enough people in that group for you to generate the kind of revenue you are looking to earn? If so, you have a very solid foundation.

December is a funny time of year. Depending on your seasonality, this could be the busiest time of year or your slowest. But no matter what, targeted marketing gives you opportunities to gain ground as a business, even if it’s just planting seeds that will begin sprouting a few months down the line. Keep at it.

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The Universal Appeal of Shortcuts

When Robert Frost wrote about the two roads diverging in the woods, he failed to mention a significant detail. The main reason the more-traveled road was so popular was because it was paved, well-lit and it had signs laid out by the people who made the trek back when it was one of the less-traveled paths.

Those courageous people were entrepreneurs like you.

If you think about it, every single product, service and business is built around providing its customers with shortcuts. They enable their clients do what they want and need to do faster, better and with less effort.

You don’t need to learn about internal combustion engines; you can take your car to the mechanic. Who needs to chop vegetables and boil chicken broth when you can buy a can of soup? Forget driving all the way to the library. Google is waiting for your search inquiry.

People like fast and easy. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what comes easy to some may be incredibly difficult for others. That’s opportunity. Work hard at what comes easier for you than for other people. Use your gifts to help others who aren’t gifted in those areas. Free them to focus on their own strengths and passions.

Very few people want to take the road less-traveled (even if it does make all the difference).

The question is, are you positioning your product or service as the shortcut to the good life? Do your sales and marketing messages help your prospects see all the time they’ll save, all the toil they’ll avoid and the improved quality of life they’ll enjoy when they take the shortcut you provide?

Your homework for the week is to think about how you can clearly communicate this idea to the people you want to do business with.

Go on, get started.

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Isn’t Selling to the ‘Lizard Brain’ the Goal?

In The Art of Planting Ideas, we talked about how the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the human brain goes dormant while watching movies on the big screen, television shows and sometimes even marketing videos.

Understanding people, how they think and why they do what they do is the foundation of marketing. Knowing why certain tactics and triggers work makes you much more effective at applying the what and how of selling and marketing.

Why does the relative inactivity of the PFC even matter? Don’t people always buy based on emotion? Isn’t the goal to sell to the “lizard brain” anyway? First, let me say that I find the term “lizard” or “reptilian brain” ridiculous (although the phrase itself is both visual and visceral, making it a great use of language). This part of the brain – the limbic system – is not some genetic hand-me-down of an evolutionary process. (In fact, the “three-brain theory” has been largely rejected by modern neuroscience. Most marketing educators are clinging to old, invalidated information.)  I find that the radical self-interest of the human race can be traced back to choices Adam made back in Eden. The more I learn about psychology and neurology, the more clearly I can explain why marketing works from a Biblical perspective. (Maybe we’ll talk about that another time.)

I prefer the term “old brain” instead of “lizard brain“?

Back to the point…

The desires that drive our decision-making, including purchasing decisions, do come from the old brain. They’re more emotional than intellectual. That’s why we focus on appealing to the emotions in sales and marketing.

But the prefrontal cortex is still in control of the executive function, i.e. the ability to guide thought and action in accordance with internal goals. We aren’t lizards! Desires still have to make it past the PFC, which processes the logical outcomes of acting on that desire. This is the reason why “reason why” advertising works.  Marketers have to provide the necessary ammunition to rationalize the purchase. Check out Simon Sinek’s 2009 TEDx presentation explaining why “why” matters. (I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but it’s still worth watching.)

Ultimately, desires are rooted deeper than logic and rationality, but the PFC almost always has the final authority.

Have you ever wanted to punch someone right in the mouth? Have you seen yourself do it in your mind’s eye? Most of us have. But most of us don’t act on that desire. That’s the executive function at work, overriding emotion.

That means you sell to the emotions, but you can’t neglect the intellect in the process.

So, is the PFC-paralyzing power of video good or bad? It is inherently neutral. It can be used for evil purposes, e.g. the Nazi propaganda film “The Triumph of the Will.” It can also be used for good. In either case, it’s effective.

A good story can have a similar effect on the brain. When you’re engrossed in narrative, the brain makes its own mental movie to watch the story unfold. Robert Collier said it well: “The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the reader’s mind by your words is worth a thousand drawings, for the reader colors that picture with his own imagination, which is more potent than all the brushes of all the world’s artists.”

 

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Learning Salesmanship from a Kid’s Toy

Today’s lesson is inspired by and based on a 31-second video. (None of this will make much sense if you don’t watch it now.)

Why Does This Ad Work?

I wasn’t able to find any verifiable figures on how this particular device is selling (or how much can be attributed to this 2-week old commercial), but according to Inc. Magazine, the company that created nabi, Fuhu, is the fastest growing privately-held company in America this year. With 42,148% growth over 3 years, they’re clearly doing something right.

Let’s go with what we know. This commercial is:

1) Laser-targeted. Fuhu knows precisely who the main buyers of these tablets are: parents (mostly mothers) of children in their Pre-K and early school years. This commercial makes its appeal directly to them. They’re not trying to win over any other audience. The commercial is running on channels where Mom, in full parenting mode, will be most receptive to the message.

2) Emotionally-driven. The classroom drama plays on the heartstrings — and does so mostly without words. It isn’t about tech specs; it’s not even about the device itself. The quick plot focuses on the triumphant end result: your child is fearless, unstoppable, even when her peers tremble.

3) Visually compelling. Again, the words are almost an afterthought here, although they do strengthen the visuals. But if you play the video again with the volume off, it has just as much punch. Video is powerful that way.

Viewers who don’t have kids can still appreciate the impact of the message.
Parents who see the commercial are deeply moved.
Parents with kids struggling academically…well they’ve probably already gone to buy the thing.

You can make your message visually compelling even if you’re not using video. Good copy can create the exact same effect in print or audio. Robert Collier said it well:

“The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the reader’s mind by your words is worth a thousand drawings, for the reader colors that picture with his own imagination, which is more potent than all the brushes of all the world’s artists.”

Your Action Steps

1) Get to know your target audience. I sound like a broken record, but this point can’t be stressed enough. You can’t make a truly persuasive marketing message if you only have a vague idea who you’re talking to and what they care about. If you don’t get anything else from this newsletter, I’d make this the thing you pay attention to.

Your ideal client is like your spouse: you can never know her too well.

2) If you are intimately familiar with a promising audience, consider customizing a product or service for them. Fuhu saw a big opportunity to market kid-friendly, drop-proof tablets (you know you always cringe when your little one grabs your iPad with his slippery, slimy fingers). They went from $279,000 in revenue in ’09 to $118 million in 2012.

Maybe there are some 9-figure doors waiting for you to open them.

3) Add emotion to your messages. Aim for those heartstrings.

You’ve got a great product with all the bells and whistles. Who cares? Potential customers want to see their own triumphant end result. Paint that picture.

4) Make sure you have a good copywriter on your team.

5) Get your laser-focused, emotionally-charged message out in places where your best buyers will see them — and be in the right state of mind to listen attentively. Maybe it’s a radio ad during drive-time. Maybe it’s an snail mail letter from someone they trust. (That’s another one of those things you’ll have to figure out with study and testing.)

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