Here’s a quick post for you on an intriguing sales concept that caught my eye recently…
Tapping into your prospect’s inner drive
…instead of pushing (ugh) or pulling them into a sale.
I’d read about this a while back in Dan Pink’s excellent book To Sell Is Human, and stored it at the back of the ol’ brainbox.
Then recently it appeared again in a discussion with a friend, and I suddenly started thinking about how this concept could be used in sales copy.
This might be particularly interesting for coaches and consultants – or any entrepreneur who needs their prospect to think more deeply about learning a new skill, or doing an activity they might have some initial resistance to.
Here ya go:
Two Irrational Questions
Michael Pantalon is a clinical psychologist and Senior Research Scientist at Yale School of Medicine. He does great work in the therapeutic and addiction recovery fields.
He’s developed a technique of using two ‘irrational questions’ to move people to action.
(Action doesn’t necessarily mean moving people to buy, but I think there’s something useful here for smart marketers who value the conversations they have – online and off – with their prospects.)
Why two irrational questions rather than a pair of rational ones?
Well, in Pink’s book, Pantalon says “I’ve found that irrational questions actually motivate people better”.
The two irrational questions Pink uses to illustrate the theory in his book go something like this:
Suppose a student is resisting studying for their big algebra test. You can’t push them into studying – they need to be motivated themselves to do it.
So you ask them these two irrational questions:
1 – “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning ‘not the least bit ready’ and 10 meaning ‘totally ready’, how ready are you to study?”
After they offer an answer, follow-up with question 2:
2 – “Why didn’t you pick a lower number?”
Think about that for a moment…
This second question is designed to catch people off guard…
It’s not a trick. It’s not sleazy NLP stuff.
Instead it’s a catalyst for getting someone to think analytically about why they’ve come to a particular conclusion.
As Pink explains:
Most people who resist doing or believing something don’t have a binary, off-on, yes-no position. So don’t ask a binary, off-on, yes-no question. If your prospect has even a faint desire to move, Pantalon says, asking her to locate herself on that 1-to-10 scale can expose an apparent “No” as an actual “Maybe.”
And the crucial thing is, the person you’re asking the question of starts to explain their belief to you.
For instance, let’s say you’re a fitness coach.
Your prospect is thinking of joining your program, but they’re not sure if they have what it takes to get fit.
They’re umm-ing and ahh-ing instead of taking action.
So you ask them the irrational questions:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how capable are you of losing weight over the next couple of months?”
They answer cautiously: “I guess around a 5 or 6.”
You follow up: “Ok. How come you didn’t pick a lower number?”
They pause. And think.
Now you’ve got them thinking positively – about overcoming the objections in their mind. If they didn’t answer “Zero” (they shouldn’t, if you know your market), then you’ve got something you can build on.
Their answer should be revealing…
They’ll say something like:
“Well, because I managed to lose weight before so I know it’s possible… and I’m not in terrible shape to start with. Also my brother had a coach a while back, and he said it was much easier to get fit once he had the right guidance…”
Now they’re being rational, and giving you their reasons for saying why they think the objective is possible, rather than flat-out saying “it’s impossible.”
You’ve engaged them in a conversation about why they think you can help them, and the best part is, they’re doing all the talking.
They’re overcoming their own objections.
They’re clarifying their motives for wanting to work with you, and you haven’t done any pushing or pulling.
You’ve simply reframed the concept in a way that taps into their inner drive.
Can you see how this could be useful to your marketing?
I’m already working on how to use this technique the next time I work with a coach or consultant on their messaging.
Pretty sure there’s a way you can use these two irrational questions to move people in your world too…