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How to Sell Your Stuff to People With Shriveled Heads

Did you ever notice, on your way to work, your head shrivels up… Literally, I mean. And a new one grows in its place…?

You didn’t?

Funny that. …so if you have the same head whether you’re at work or not, I reckon those brain cells inside that head of yours are the same ones that bounce around in your head just wherever you are…

Some academic types say we’ve been at ‘full behavioral modernity’ for around 50,000 years – that’s just a fancy way of saying us humans – we can handle complex ideas, and we’re creative – to a level beyond that of other species… and we’ve been up to no good with our little schemes for 50-odd millennia.

Quite some time then.

So why did Bob – I’ll call him Bob – why did he Skype me yesterday and say: Hey. Listen Richard. You got our annual report from last year – didn’t you. Right. So here’s what I want you to do: will you write the president’s message for the front bit of this year’s report…?

And I say: Ok. But you know that thing you sent me – it’s crap – you know that don’t you? So I’ll write you something a bit different – something that’ll perk people up. I’ll talk to your president and get to know his voice – and I’ll get to know a bit about the people who’ll be looking at the report. I’ll give ’em something that’ll wake ’em up…

And Bob – who I’d never before worked with, by the way – Bob says: Er. Well. That sounds great. But you know we need this to sound professional – don’t you?

Professional? What does that mean?

Does it mean you want to appeal to this:

…some fella in grey breeches and a head full of grey thoughts fiddling about with figures in a spreadsheet, not interested in the hips on the lass clopping past – because what this fella really needs, to greyen up his grey day a bit more, is a boring piece of crap to read in an annual report…

Doesn’t this guy ever have sex?

Or is this fella only grey on your first glance? And if you were the invisible man and if you sat and watched him, you’d see his eyes flicking about all over the shop – a fair bit at the lassies around him. And you’d see this fella’s head thinking about that choccy biccie he has all lined up ready to plonk into his coffee. And you’d see him – sometimes – in his imagination – when it all gets a bit much – you’d see him chucking his fecking computer through the fecking window.

Who are you selling to?

He’s wearing grey. But wasn’t this fella once a 5-year-old kid? Didn’t he once say Mammy, I’m going to be a space-rocket driver…? Didn’t he play doctors and nurses? Didn’t he ever go a bit tooo mad on a night out? Maybe he ended up so drunk he slept in a bush one night – I’ve done that – a bush manicured to a near-perfect sphere, and when I got up in the morning – and trotted off home – that bush was manicured near perfect into the shape of an armchair…

The guy is not grey. And even if he is, under that, there’s a space-rocket driver that needs to get out. And you won’t wake up that space-rocket driver with grey words…

…but this is not just about grey words. It’s also about how we can drive people to know your product is the one. Because when we start communicating like a human bean (sic), we also start thinking like a human bean…

…I once wrote a sales letter for a guy who sells stuff to IT managers (I don’t usually write for that type of a product). I dug a bit of jargon into this letter, to keep the guys feeling comfy, but I wrote to these fellas as human beans. And one of the main ‘psychological drivers’ I focused on was just-imagine-how-your-boss-will-love-you-when-you-have-this-to-keep-things-ticking-smooth – and that letter outsold my client’s previous letter (approx) Double. That’s (approx) 100K worth of extra business per year he’s getting just because of the way I focused the letter… (and his other marketing materials)

…behind that focus, by the way, is the realisation that decisions people make in business are not pure rational. People are very emotionally-driven. In offices and not in offices. If you’re doubting that: what do you think office politics is?

Overgrown school kids

…so don’t you think that fella reading the president’s spiel will want the words he looks at to perk him up; make him smile; don’t you want him to maybe point out some of those words to his mate; don’t you want something that might jolt a brain cell…make an impression… something he’ll remember?

Because when you give him something like that, he’ll be more open to the ideas you want to get into his head.

That guy is not, fundamentally, a different animal at work to the animal he is in the swimming pool, or when he’s stir-frying his dinner – or whatever. And by the way, what the hell is ‘business writing’…?

And why does so much ‘business writing’ sound like it’s been squeezed out of a camel’s backside in a shitstorm…?

…it’s because ‘everybody else does it like that’. And a ton of people are afraid to do something different. And in a sea of sameness, what do you think is going to stand out?

Well, a bit of real human communication will stand out. People will latch onto it.

And the fact that so many people are trying to sell with grey, just makes it easy to stand out…

…yes: our expectations of businessy communications are different to our expectations of the stuff we’ll see in a novel, or in an ad for ice pops, or… or whatever else. And yes, we don’t want it to feel ‘wrong’…

But you know what?

You’re talking to full-behavioral modernity. You’re talking to people. Way way way before you’re talking to ‘business people’.

The same rubbish happens with newsletters – most of ’em: people might read an issue or so. But if (usually) they are boring… Boring. …they get dumped. People don’t read ’em.

And newsletters have so so so much potential. Because people don’t think of them as being advertising. So if you do up your newsletter really well, it’s like you’re sliding the ideas you want to impress on people, under the radar – into their heads. Newsletters can be really powerful selling shrapnel. But you need to make them so people want to read them…

So what am I on about?

Probably this – we’ll call it Idea Number 1: You won’t bore people into buying. Whether you’re trying to sell them a product, wanting them to think a particular thought, or whatever.

And if you’re selling to ‘business people’, fine: no need to get ’em thinking they’re dealing with a lunatic. But you’re selling to people. And the things that drive people, drive ’em wherever they are. Unless they sprout new heads on their ways to work.

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