When I was a youngster I had a reputation for arguing with people.
I seemed to take great pleasure in trying to convince everybody that I was right. And as a result I was an obnoxious little bugger.
Plus I couldn’t understand for the life of me why my aunts and uncles, teachers and buddies at school refused to bend to my will.
Until one day my grandfather sat me down on his proverbial knee and said, “I see you’re having a little trouble getting along with people. And getting what you want from them.
“Did I ever tell you the story of the Japanese Judo master named Takahiro?
“The man was little more than 5 feet tall, but was easily able to defeat men twice his size and weight.”
Like most adolescents I loved fighting stories. “How did he do it,” I asked?
My grandfather looked at me with his big compassionate eyes and said, “By using their own weight and motion against them, grasshopper.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he said. “I was right there in Peking, in The Forbidden City, as a giant fighter from the North of China lunged at Takahiro with a killing blow.
“The master simply ducked the huge fist, grabbed his opponents thrusting arm while at the same time swinging his hip forward into the larger man’s midsection.
“And the next thing I knew the giant was lying flat on his back, defeated.”
Then gramps looked me straight in the eye and said, “Why don’t you learn to deal with people more like Takahiro?” And he walked away.
I was used to having my grandfather talk to me in these little parables, and I had come to realize that it was my job to figure out the lesson in the story. Sometimes I was puzzled and would come back to him and ask questions, but this time I understood right away.
I realized my grandfather often used a very gentle approach with people he spoke to.
No matter what they said he would find a way to agree with them. And then he would use the momentum of their own ideas against them — just like Takahiro.
I watched him get out of speeding tickets… get special deals at the local co-operative… and sweet talk my grandmother out of giving me a good licking for being so damn argumentative.
And the real beauty of watching him in action is that people actually seemed to be thrilled to go along with whatever he suggested.
You see, people are naturally resistant to other people’s ideas.
Especially when those ideas come from people they are unfamiliar with.
By the same token, they are almost defenseless against new ideas that seem to be coming from inside their own heads.
In watching my grandfather closely, I began to notice he would often say things that seemed to go against his own self-interest.
When negotiating with the local farmer he wanted to hire to clear snow he would say things like, “this is the fairest deal I’ve ever seen,” before wrangling the man down.
When a cop pulled him over for speeding, he would congratulate the officer for pulling him over. And then proceed to wiggle his way out of the ticket. It was the damndest thing I’d ever seen.
He had this way of putting words together in such a way as to pleasantly startle people. And as I watched I realized these little shocks that he would administer had a wonderfully disarming effect.
They seemed to open people to his point of view. And break down their habitual resistance.
And it’s true.
In a state of surprise, the mind becomes fluid and more open to change …
The existing pattern of thought is interrupted, creating a momentary vacuum that sucks in the very next reasonable suggestion that comes along.
Years later I began using similar ideas in selling. One of my favorite techniques for dealing with resistant prospects was to spout these odd sounding anti-selling statements or questions and watch their reaction.
I’d say things like: “Why do you want to upgrade your phone system this month?” “Are you sure you need all that computing power?”
I found these kinds of questions that seemed odd coming out of a salesperson’s mouth built trust… yielded valuable information about buying criteria… and got the prospect to verbalize their desire for making the purchase. Later on I could refer back to these statements when closing the sale.
People can easily disagree with something you say. They find it much more difficult to disagree with something they said.
Here are a few more examples of un-salesman-like utterances that helped me to close sales with resistant buyers …
“I don’t want you to go ahead with this until you’re thoroughly convinced it’s the very best decision you could possibly make.”
“This option is for advanced users, you’re probably not interested in that, are you?”
“By all means, go ahead and check out the competition before we go ahead with this. The more hours and days you spend investigating them the greater the likelihood you’ll do business with us.”
“Maybe you should let this problem get a little worse before you get serious about solving it. Are you sure you’re ready to tackle it right now?”
“Don’t decide now. There’s plenty of time for that.”
The common thread in all these phases is that they leverage the buyer’s resistance. The only way the prospect can resist them is by doing what you want them to do. They can either take the bait and fall into the trap, or reveal a hidden objection you can then deal with once it’s out in the open.
This strategy comes in handy in copywriting, too …
Your prospects are almost as wary of advertised claims as they are of salespeople. So anything you say that at first blush appears counter to your interests as a seller can be very persuasive. It makes you look honest, and opens a little rift in the prospect’s innate skepticism, allowing the copy immediately following to be considered more fairly.
Here are a couple of quick examples of this from my swipe file.
This is the opening line from a Joe Sugarman ad: We’ve developed a new consumer marketing concept. It’s called “stealing.” That’s right stealing!
Does that get your attention? Does it interrupt your pattern of thought about what an advertiser should say to sell you a product?
I bet you’re wondering how Joe gets out of that one.
We’ll he takes his sweet time. Here are the next few paragraphs: Now if that sounds bad, look at the facts. Consumers are being robbed. Inflation is stealing our purchasing power. Our dollars are shrinking in value. The poor average consumer is plundered, robbed and stepped on.
So the poor consumer tries to strike back. First, he forms consumer groups. He lobbies in Washington. He fights price increases. He looks for value.
So we developed our new concept around value. Our idea was to steal from the rich companies and give to the poor consumer, save our environment and maybe, if we’re lucky, make a buck.
And then Joe goes on to explain how his firm buys defective merchandise for ten cents on the dollar, fixes it up and sells it for half the original retail price with a superior guarantee. The ad is a work of art.
And one of the things that made it work so well is this shocking statement in the opening paragraph. It breaks the expected pattern, opening the mind of the prospect to Joe’s revolutionary new merchandising idea.
Here’s a different sort of example taken from a closing section of copy …
If you want to generate a $10,000 monthly income in the next 30 days – and potentially much, MUCH more in the months ahead – you’re going to have to make a substantial full time commitment to this.
Even if you’re not ready to jump in with both feet, and simply want to make a few thousand extra dollars a month while you continue to work away at whatever you’re doing now… it’s going to take some effort and persistence on your part.
If you’re the kind of person who says they want to be successful, but doesn’t want to do what’s necessary to achieve success… I have to level with you… this program probably isn’t for you.
What a refreshing change from the usual hyped up, push button promises you typically see in this genre. It communicates honesty, confidence and forthrightness. And because it’s unexpected, it has that mind-opening effect, laying the stage for the copy that follows.
So the next time you’re writing, perhaps to a skeptical market, or about a potentially contentious idea, or to counter a really tough objection… stop for a minute and think of the Judo master Takahiro.
Can you shock the prospect by coming out in agreement with the opposing view? Can you steal its force and energy and then redirect it toward the conclusion you want your reader to make?
Sound off in the comments box below.
Until next time, Good Selling!