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My toddler perfects your sales pitch

Meet Gabe. Gabe is almost three. He loves trains, the movie Cars, dinosaurs, and M&Ms. He’s not so sure about meals, bedtime, or his little sister.

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I’ve never met a customer as hard to convert as Gabe. He won’t eat when he’s hungry, and he won’t sleep when he’s skipped his nap and is beyond tired at bedtime. He needs to be sold on the idea. He’s really not that different from most of your customers who clearly have a need for what you’re selling.

But I don’t like ice cream and NEVER want to eat it again

You can’t just tell Gabe that he’s hungry and you’ve made all his favorite foods. You also can’t just tell your customers that you’ll save them 20 hours, thousands of dollars, and get a free prize for signing up.

Those are great bullet points to keep on your page, but they won’t work unless:

  • They feel like they can trust you.
  • They feel as if you’ve spoken directly to them.
  • They feel you are empathetic to their needs.

Emotion trumps logic. Without these feelings, everything else is a meaningless feature bullet that doesn’t exist to them. With Gabe that means getting down on his level, looking him in the eyes, and explaining:

“I understand how you feel. Daddy’s hungry too. Being hungry can make you sad… and I know you don’t like crying. Remember yesterday when you were sad and food made you feel better? Let’s go eat together.”

I didn’t mention the buttery goodness of grilled cheese. I didn’t offer a “FREE” M&M. I didn’t just tell him I’d solve his problem. Creating emotional connections is a basic pitch style with proven effectiveness you can use for anything. You need it in addition to a logical set of value propositions.

What if you pretend they are little dinosaur poops?

It’s hard to predict with Gabe what’s finally going to get him to commit to something. I do know that what works on him doesn’t always work on his friends.

Last night Gabe, again, needed convincing about dinner. We’d already made the emotional pitch and got him to sit down… but sometimes even that can’t convince him to eat his peas and carrots. Then my wife found the hook:

“What if you pretend the peas and carrots are dinosaur poops… and you ate them… and you didn’t tell Daddy what he was eating. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

This pitch worked because:

  • It created an association to something we know he likes.
  • It created the feeling of exclusivity because of the secret.
  • It made him envision having fun eating his peas and carrots.
  • He’s two. Customers in that segment think poop is super funny.

You might need different hooks for each customer segment. You may also need one hook to get someone into a free account and another to convince them to make a purchase.

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Going to “trampoline land” would be a bad idea for me.

If Gabe doesn’t understand what you said, he believes it’s a bad idea. He doesn’t know what a trampoline is so he doesn’t believe that it would be fun going to a room full of them.

You have to use words and terminology your customers will understand. Realize that you are probably an expert in your field. Your customers know far less about your industry than you imagine. For Gabe, that means selling him on “a room where you can bounce and jump all night long.” That’s something he understands.

Remember that the average adult in the U.S. reads at an 8th grade level. How would you pitch your product to a middle schooler?

It’s time for BIG… TRUCK… RAACCEESSSS!

Gabe craves ritual and consistency. Every night before bed, Gabe gives everyone in the house a truck and a stuffed animal to drive. We have to race two laps around the house… sometimes Gabe takes 3 or 4. Then he’s happy to read two books and generally go to bed.

If we try to skip a ritual, it could take twice as long to get him down to bed. It just throws off his world. Your potential customers aren’t any different. It’s fine to stand out and try new things from time to time, but if you have an e-commerce site selling cat products, people expect:

  • Product descriptions and pictures that accurately describe what they are ordering.
  • A shopping cart and a clear way to add items to it.
  • Trust indicators that clearly state they could return the items, it will ship quickly, etc.
  • A chance to review their order before they commit.

They don’t expect blog posts about dogs and a lengthy checkout process. To understand which rituals are important for your business, you need to look at the market leaders and your competition.

E-commerce sites, for example, should just let Amazon do 90% of their usability because they’ve created and tested the online checkout rituals of consumers today. Neglecting rituals will make selling something twice as hard as it should be. Rituals create comfort.

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It’s just a big blue truck.

Today we were driving and Gabe asked me: “What’s that truck?”. I explained “It’s a big blue truck. It delivers furniture to people and has a cartoon dog on the side. It looks like a Peterbilt.” I don’t know why I said all that. I thought he’d care. Here was his response:

“Daddy… that’s just a big blue truck.”

That was all he heard and all he cared to know. People have short attention spans. Whether it’s your tagline, the background image, or logo… something is going to grab their attention and that’s all they are going to remember. The rest is fluff when it comes to first impressions.

Tell me about our day, Daddy.

Gabe loves to review everything he’s done during the day. Fun he’s had, lessons he’s learned, etc. In that spirit, I encourage you to:

  • Compliment facts and features with an emotional connection that builds trust with your customers.
  • Build hooks specific for each of your customer segments. Your hook should make people picture how happy your solution will make them.
  • Make sure you aren’t forgetting basic rituals customers expect from a service like yours.
  • Use terminology your customers will understand. Don’t try to impress them with your expertise.
  • Sometimes it’s just a big blue truck. What do you think someone sees in the first 2 seconds of your landing page?

What have your kids taught you about selling? What parenting lessons could you apply? Feel free to leave a comment below.

– Josh


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