A recent post about the late, great J. Douglas Edwards and the importance of questions in persuasion seemed to strike a chord… so this week I thought it would be fun to tackle one of the questions that arose in response to that article.
1. Daniel and anyone else that wants to jump in,
Great article. To me these seem more like closing questions… which are useful and obviously work.
What I’ve been trying to figure out as former “at the kitchen table” salesman is how to start head bobbing or qualifying questions much earlier in the sales letter.
And by qualifying I do not mean sorting I mean where they begin to self qualify for your product/service.
That’s a great question, Sean. And the obvious answer “always be closing” is probably not exactly what you’re looking for. And to be fair, there are important differences between closing questions and opening questions.
To illustrate my point, let me tell you a little story …
When my son was a little boy, he used to hate vegetables, especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Of course that’s no big deal nowadays, but when I was a kid, you damn well ate what was put on your plate.
And so my wife used to make our son sit at the table for a half an hour or more trying to get him to eat his broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Until one day he puked all over his plate.
So the next time we had broccoli and Brussels sprouts, without even mentioning the fact that he wasn’t eating them, I smiled at him and right out of the blue, I asked,
“Would you like to grow up big and strong like daddy?” His reply was of course, “Yes.”
“Do you want to be able to run faster than all of the other kids at school?”
“Would you like to be able to throw a football farther than anybody else in the playground?”
“What if you could beat the strongest guy in your class in an arm wrestle?”
“That’d be so cool.”
“How would that make you feel?”
“Like a million bucks, Daddy!”
“Would you like to know the secret?” I said, excitedly.
“Would I?” he replied, equally excited.
“Eat your broccoli and Brussels sprouts. They have muscle building vitamins and nutrients inside of them. When you eat them your bones get big and strong and your muscles expand. You can run faster. Throw farther. And if you practice just a little bit… I bet you can whip even the strongest guy in your class in an arm wrestle. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“Too cool Daddy. But (grimacing)… do I have to eat my broccoli and Brussels sprouts?”
“Well that’s up to you”, I said. “You can grow up to be a 90 pound weakling who gets pushed around for the rest of his life or you can eat your broccoli and Brussels sprouts — what’ll it be?”
And down they went. And he grew to like them.
So what does this little story tell us about using questions effectively at the beginning of a sales letter or conversation?
Allow me to draw the analogy…
Few people enjoy spending money. It’s kind of like eating broccoli and Brussels sprouts …
So start with an agreement frame that’s non-threatening… that’s not blatantly tied to the broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Then just as you would in any casual conversation, mix in a few statements with the questions to keep things flowing. So for example:
Have you ever wished someone would untangle the techno mumbo jumbo and complexity that’s holding you back from making money online?
Imagine having a proven plan that annihilated the need to learn a lot of mind-numbing web voodoo… a plan that blew the idea of spending your hard earned money on pricey web designers and programmers right out of the water.
Wouldn’t that help you get to the CASH — a whole lot SOONER?
Allow me to cut straight to the chase…
So we’ve got a nice little yes-set going here in our opening, don’t you agree?
And it begins with a qualifying question: Have you ever wished someone would untangle the techno mumbo jumbo and complexity that’s holding you back from making money online?
The second paragraph, Imagine having a proven plan that annihilated the need to learn a lot of mind-numbing web voodoo… a plan that blew the idea of spending your hard earned money on pricey web designers and programmers right out of the water.
That’s a call to go inside and imagine something agreeable and something agreeable again. So that’s three yeses. Notice how the second and third ones build on the first. Note how the picture of “who’s this for?” gets clearer and clearer.
Then a question: Wouldn’t that help you get to the CASH — a whole lot SOONER? If you were paying attention to the post on J. Douglas Edwards, you’ll recognize this as a rhetorical tie down question. It ties down the first three yeses with a fourth.
And then finally a command Allow me to cut straight to the chase… that again, they’re going to say yes to. Who’s going to say “no”, please ramble on for another 18 paragraphs?
So you don’t have to fire off the standard machine gun round of benefit oriented questions to get the bobble head bobbing and the prospect self-qualifying. You can create a natural give and take between statements and questions.
You can get commitment almost as easily from statements (particularly useful in copywriting) as you can questions. And that’s ultimately what you’re after — commitment.
Here’s a yes-set comprised entirely of statements:
Every one of us has had successes and failures in our copywriting careers. You have a batting average all your own. And you’ve worked hard to nail your share of successes.
You’ve cut your teeth on the mean streets, probably working for free or little pay in the beginning to prove your worth with those first few clients.
And you’re proud of the reputation you’re building… and looking forward to the day you’ll be able to command the big bucks.
But here’s the problem …
Do you see how I just racked up 6 yeses without asking a single question? And the effect is three-fold.
First, it’s a rapport builder. Each yes response brings us closer together.
Second, it helps the prospect self-qualify. It says this copy is for you IF you’re looking forward to the day when you’ll be earning the big bucks. If that day’s already here, well you can excuse yourself from reading any further.
And third, it sets up a habit of agreement. Each agreement makes it more difficult to disagree later on when I start introducing pivotal ideas that I need you to accept. This is particularly true if I’ve loaded any of these earlier statements or questions with yeses that you would later have to contradict if you wanted to reject my pivotal idea.
If I could show you a way to build your reputation as a copywriting rainmaker faster, so you can command the big bucks sooner… and you’ve already agreed that these ideas are points of pride and anticipation for you… then aren’t you much more likely to remain consistent with those ideas, and take me up on my offer?
When my son told me he wanted to be big and strong like Daddy, how could he remain consistent with those stated desires without eating his broccoli and Brussels sprouts?
Type the word “yes” in the comment box if you see how that works.