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I work as a therapist and marketer for my company's products, which might sound diverse, but is actually very similar. In both cases, you are trying to get your customer to change their behaviour in a specific way.
Both have their roots in psychology and motivation.
So, I often think about making the sale in the same way as I would carry out a therapy session. Which is...
1) Build Rapport with the person... you have to let the individual know that you understand their position. The more powerfully you do this, the more likely you are to get a result. This is numero uno, unshakeable rule. It's like taking them by the hand.
On the web, this translates as:
i) Talking to your customer in terms of their own current difficulties or requirements. Which is why you have to know who your customer is.
ii) Listen to them. Difficult on the web, but it's still possible to give people the feeling they're being listened to. Questions for headlines can be good for this - they have the added bonus of being good attention-getters.
iii) And leading on from ii - get as many 'yes's as you can. Of course we see this being done clumsily all over the place. "Would you like to win a million pounds" type questions. But it can be done more subtly in the form of stories that the customer can see themselves in, better questions and 'negative agreement' - "Nobody would want to lose a million pounds, would they?"
This is a well-known sales technique that has been backed up by a nice piece of recent research.
Students were played music through headphones - half of them were asked to nod in time, half to shake their head in time. Afterwards they were asked a question about whether they agreed with student grants. The proportion of the nodders who agreed was much higher. Nice.
2) Once this rapport is built (and not before), you can make a suggestion to them to act. The best thing is to get them to do something small that carries low risk.
3) Once you have done this, then you can ask for the sale.
Of course, there are many different takes on this process, this is just mine. And it's all leading up to a question...
I was wondering if we could come up with some ideas for 2)?
Small things you can get your customer to do on the way to the sale:
click on a link
sign up for something with their email address
Any other ideas?
Anything that a customer can interact with that has less perceived risk than either providing an email for a mailing list or actually making a purchase.
People like to interact, and like to feel confident in their interactions. They also like to know that their interaction is successful, and can provide what they expect.
The act of voting in a web-poll can build confidence on many levels for the visitor.
People also like to compare their own opinion against that of others. People like to feel normal, yet enjoy seeing how they differ from others.
Incidentally, after posting this, we have just implemented a questionnaire on one of our sites. The main aim is to collect data, but I'm seeing interesting results in the conversion rate too. :)
The other thing that would justify asking a lot of your customers would be a large percieved benefit (giving away a piece of software for free, but only if you complete the questionaire, or offering a large discount, up to 100%, on a piece of consumer electronics upon successful application for an account)
It has been shown in several social psychology experiments that people will give more to charity when they are told they have been identified as more charitable than average.
It seems there may be a way to incorporate this rather vanity-manipulating approach into our online questionnaire.
Another interesting sort-of-related fact that springs to mind is that when tested, the type of music that gets people to spend the most in restaurants is classical.
Disclaimer: All these techniques are for intellectual stimulation only and should never be incorporated into a real-world marketing campaign, lest you be accused of manipulation. Doing it by accident is, of course, OK.
The first time someone used these methods on me was an encyclopedia salesman in the 1980's.
I almost physically kicked him out the door when he tried to sell me a "free" set with overpriced updates.
The second time recently with chiropractor that wanted to me to pay $x,xxx.00 for a year worth of services upfront and then had the nerve to show me how much I would save by marking up the standard cost.
Anyone with any experience dealing with sales people see through this type of leading sales technique.
Anyone that has valuable product does not need to lower themselves by using this approach. In my opinion it is scummy.
Really in in the end it call comes down to how subtle you are with your sales pitch - after all the most powerful motivators are sub-conscious and just need to be pricked!
Like you, I have a very adverse reaction when these techniques are transparant - but look behind ANY advertisment and promotion - and you will see all of these at work - famous brands for example have become cash generators through their use of almost subliminal cues to associate a brand with purchase triggers like envy, pride, lust, gluttony etc..
Advertisers and copy writers are almost always not even aware themselves of the way they are appealing to these motivations.. its just natural for them.
I like the idea of a call to action. We appraise the sucess of our sites and pages not by the number of views, but the number of bookmarks, newsletter sign ups, email enquiries etc. They suggest that a viewer has in some way been motivated to become more than a passive viewer, and they become good prospects for us.
Key is that these actions need not involve a lot of effort, a simple bookmark, or a simple free newsletter sub is enough for us as a content site funded by sponsors and a small amount of advertising. Our goal is to 'brand' our sites - to make people feel involved, and to build an identifiable, and positive brand experience for our visitors. As we get better at it, the more th returning visits, and the more this gets reinforced.
I tell you, if you're a telesales person and you call me, you'd better be good, simply because I am more aware of these techniques than most people.
As you say, people only tend to become irritated (or irate) at these tactics when they spot them.
The point is, if these 'techniques' weren't natural parts of human communication, they wouldn't work!
Naturally persuasive people use them unconsciously. When you are marketing a product, you can't really leave it to chance.
I repeat my disclaimer from above. ;)
Not true, IMHO. Consumers are dumb. I mean way down, irredeemably, tooth-grindingly stupid. Consumers in general can't tell a quality product from a chocolate teapot. Many companies in the world rely on this fact to keep them in business.
I know, I have worked for some of them (usually VERY briefly).
Every company that wishes to sell things needs to attract potential customers attention somehow. Then they have to create the desire to buy in the prospect.
For you minnapple, a hard-sell approach would probably fall flat. You'd spot it and resist.
A soft-sell, listing the benefits of the product, casually tossing in the fact that you qualify for the trade-in scheme, or first purchase discount as applicable, may work better (provided the sales person doesn't fluff the lines)
Lots of people are susceptible to the hard sell though. Some people wont buy without being "sold to" because otherwise they don't believe its a worthwhile product
Consumers are dumb. I mean way down, irredeemably, tooth-grindingly stupid.
The overwhelming fact of the internet is that good information is what people want, and I think that can be consistent with ChromeYellow's points.
Whether you are selling laptops, insurance, or holiday vacations, the notion is to give them something (usually lots of information they didn't have before, a pleasant experience, a resolution to their problem or concern, an attractive price, etc) and when they feel grateful, or indebted to you for what you have freely offered, they will reward you with their business.
At least that is what works on me.
That there can be some art to the process is not inconsistent with this premise, and some interesting ideas mentioned above.
I dunno, SmallTime... I usually reserve that list for people who refer to me as "way down, irredeemably, tooth-grindingly stupid." :)
TallTroll - I actually agree with you in principle.. though I tend to see the customer as too busy and goal driven to perhaps appreciate some of the finer advantages of the product *coff*
Consumers are dumb. I mean way down, irredeemably, tooth-grindingly stupid.
In the 70's I worked for a company (now known as Unisys) that spent plenty training me re marketing and -more specifically- making "the close." Sad to say, "techniques" work extraordinarily well. Trust me, everyone from the tooth-grindingly stupid (hehe! love that phrasing) to the most astute Fortune 500 CEO has a hot-button and will respond in knee-jerk reaction when it's pushed.
I have one large site (chiyo knows the one) where I gain the visitor's confidence by making cynical and derisive comments about the site itself (it's ugly). It gets good reviews as a destination guide, plenty of reciprocal links, and everyone pokes fun at it. I'm laughing along with them, particularly when I deposit the checks. Visitors evidently feel comfortable with it and, even though affiliate links represent a tiny fraction of the content, it converts sales (room bookings) daily.
Consumers in general can't tell a quality product from a chocolate teapot.
Still laughing. :D
I worked for an American sales expert in the UK some time ago on telephone campaigns and he said he had had to alter his approach drastically on coming to the UK.
His words were 'Americans expect to be sold to", while the Brits will run a mile if they smell a sales pitch.
His company is now the most successful of its kind in Britain - probably due to my influence ;)
I also read once that if your sales technique isn't generating at least some complaints, you aren't selling hard enough.
In all sales situations, and particularly on the web, you have to stereotype your customer in order to sell to the majority of the market. Of course some people aren't going to like it. They simply don't fit the stereotype well enough.
This is the kind of contempt that I would expect from corner lot, sales at all cost, used car salesman. Of course their are people of all grades of intellect, but because someone purchases an item through a calculated sales pitch, this does not make them stupid. Consumers in general are not stupid, but ignorant - there is a vast difference.
In a field that I am very familiar with, high end stereo equipment, most consumers are very savvy and knowledgable about their purchases, often spending hundreds of hours researching and listening to equipment before laying out 5, 10, 50 thousand dollars. Cute sales pitches sway them very little in their final decisions.
But of course for someone who just wants a decent surround system at a reasonable cost, they will mostly go to a big box store, armed with little or no knowledge of sound equipment. They neither have the time or interest to invest in becoming a knowledgable consumer for this particular product, and must rely on their common sense, and trust the salesman will meet their needs and wants. In actuality they are ignorant of sound systems, not stupid.
This attitude that consumers are stupid reminds me of the saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." To shysters consumers are nothing but stupid suckers, to be manipulated out of their money. To an ethical salesman consumers are customers who may require additional knowledge and expertise so they can knowledgably purchase items that meet their goals.
We cannot all be experts at everything, and when we set out to purchase something that we are not knowledgable about it would be best to attempt to avoid sales and marketing people who view us only as stupid. A salesman with this sort of contempt will not have the consumer's best interest in mind, but only the sale, and the parting of another sucker from his money.
Even if you are obvious, as long as you're good it's largely irrelevant. Proffessional buyers (and I know I'm a litlle OT but hope it's ok) will slam the phone down on you if they even think that you're inexperienced or just stupid.
Many people in my opinion know full well they're being sold to but this is not really a bad thing. The bad thing in sales is getting to the close and finding your prospect hasn't a clue what's going on. (This should never happen of course but the worlds full of crap sales people)
A customer that knows from the outset that you are there to sell them something but, if they don't like it/doesn't suit them they can just say so is much more relaxed and much easiier to sell to.
I've never sold anything online though I'm working on it but I think this next point may well apply very well to what's being discussed here:
The thing I've found about sales over the yrs is that it's not about persuading people who don't want your product to buy it. It's about finding those with an interest and captitalizing on that interest. Perhaps the surveys and questionaires are a good qualifier?
Proffesional telesales people (ie: big ticket stuff and no 'inbetween jobs folks') that are genuinly good at it make on average 2-4 times as many calls as the muppets. They don't waste time with people they don't hit it off with in the first 30secs and they don't waste time with maybes. They spend the whole day looking for those 3-4 people who respond positively to them and will talk for as long as it takes on those calls.
Maybe those little observations relate to selling on the web in terms of qualifying prospects (or rather having them qualify themselves) step by step with an option to buy at each step. When they've qualified/convinced themselves enough they'll buy?
Exactly. You have to give them something. It DOESN'T MATTER whether yours is the best product on the market in your sector. If you sit there just letting the quality of your superior merchandise speak for itself, you may not go bust, because a small but significant %age are discerning, but you are unlikely to get rich.
If you are addressing a mass market, treating the general public with contempt can really bring in the $$$. I'm going to swing off topic a shade here to make a point.
Trainers (sneakers for the US contingent) makes an excellent example.
Its a shoe. You wear it on your feet. Some of them are quite advanced, and will protect your legs from some of the abuse you give them, or enable you to get enhanced grip on a tricky surface, which may give you the edge.
At the top level, where price per pair is in excess of £60 ($90 ish), there isn't a lot to choose in performance. Its all about brand. People KILL for the right pair. Its a shoe.
Successive marketing campaigns have (fairly cynically in my view) elevated certain brands to status symbols, without which your standing with your peers will be diminished. Its a shoe. You put them on your feet, so you dont get glass and stuff in them.
Most of them are made in Third World countries, at labour rates you would be embarrassed to pay the boy who cuts your grass, in conditions that should horrify you, if you think about it.
But hey, trainers are cool. Never mind the exploitation of the workers, forget the massive advertising expenditures that are keeping the prices high (the main manufacturers routinely spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year each to push their products), forget that the direct labour cost on a pair that retails for $90 is about $1.30, because no one cares. The general public is SO STUPID, GREEDY AND VENAL that they either don't know these facts, or more likely know them and don't care.
But, the marketing is so good, that the inflated price tag has actually become part of the appeal of the product. How dim, as a species, are we?
>> So who are these consumers?
All of us, every one of us. Trainers are a fairly extreme example, but more or less the same points apply to most things we buy to some extent.
The average intelligence of a group of human beings is usually inversely proportional to the number in that group. If you bear that in mind, and apply it to your target market, you can't go far wrong.
To relate some of this back to the original question, I see it this way.
If you are dealing with a small, niche target group of discerning potential customers, treat them with respect, pamper them, involve them, let them send you feedback (and act on it).
If are aiming for the mass market, be cynical, go for the lowest common demoninator, assume the worst of your potential client, and you still might find you've aimed too high
deejay : lets make no bones about it, in large groups, humans are scary. Think of all the negative conotations to phrases like "mob rule", "lynch mob". Note that I don't think its all bad. We've come a long way in the last few thousand years, but the path is longer yet.
I saw a great bit in a "Dilbert" book. Mr Adams theory goes like this :
We are all, in some way, an idiot, every day
He goes on to recount a story where he buys a pager, I think, and the thing refuses to work. He takes it back to the shop, and the salesman turns the batteries round, fixing it. What a moron. Remarkably, the same moron had managed to successfully operate and navigate his car from home back into town WITHOUT KILLING ANYONE.
Moral : Just because you are an idiot some of the time, doesn't mean you are an idiot all of the time. Just don't have high expectations