It’s persuading nobody.
And yet, it’s everywhere.
What is this dog-awful disaster I’m talking about?
It’s ‘junior selling’.
Well, it’s kinda like what John Carlton means when he talks about “selling from your heels”…
And it happens when marketers go half-assed into their sales copy, sounding like they’re already expecting to fail.
So, a startup’s landing page might lead with something hopeful, like:
We’d love for you to try our new widget!”
Which is practically begging for the sale before they’ve even mentioned anything of value for the reader.
Or when a consultant advertises their services with an apologetic approach, like:
I may not be the most experienced, but my rates are cheap and I’ll work weekends…”
Dude. That’s not the way to reframe your noob-ness. You’re not washing cars here, you’re meant to be the expert.
Here’s the problem:
When this occurs, smart people can smell the lack of faith in the product or service as it seeps out between the lines.
And that smell is poisonous to sales.
Another ‘junior selling’ symptom is when startups stuff their USP full of buzzword-bullshizz and jargon, to make themselves sound more important…
You know, all “leadership” this and “strategic” that…
Take this well-meaning – but baffling – example I saw recently:
We deliver your information via a secure cloud-based business intelligence suite complete with bespoke dashboards tailored to ensure the key information is presented to each level of your organisation. This combines (name removed)-developed methods for storing, organising and analysing data with best-of-breed business intelligence tools, providing a sophisticated yet low-cost solution.”
…wait, you do what now?
‘Junior selling’ online is when sales copy just goes through the motions, when it needs to take charge.
It’s what Joanna Wiebe memorably called “word-shaped air”.
But hey, at least there’s a sales message of some sort going on… and anything’s better than nothing, right?
Sales copy must be clear, compelling, laser-targeted and memorable…
And, at the very least, entertaining.
Otherwise, it’ll harm your sales and damage your rep.
I’m not saying there’s no room for modesty and likeability in sales copy, of course. Your prospects still need to know, like and trust you.
But ‘junior selling’ scuppers that balance by seriously undermining the trust factor.
I saw a classic example of ‘junior selling’ in action the other day at the supermarket.
I feel mean even mentioning it, because it was actually kinda sweet – and funny.
But in the spirit of learning from the mistakes of others, here goes:
The salesman involved was all of, I guess, ten years old…
…making him younger even than your average Silicon Valley tech founder ; )
…and he took a pretty good swing at his sales pitch, flawed as it was.
Here’s what happened…
In a scene familiar to many parents, the son of the guy ahead of me in line at the checkout approached his dad with a last-minute impulse-addition to their basket.
Kid: “I’ve picked up these brownies ’cause Mum said she likes to snack on chocolate sometimes. They’e 3 for 1.”
Dad looks unimpressed by this opening, and glances skeptically at the pack of brownies.
Dad: “Oh. So, you’re getting those with your pocket money?”
The kid looks unprepared for this challenge – he’d obviously hoped Dad would just accept the brownies as essential to the grocery order and stump up himself.
So he thinks for a moment, his eyes and lips moving as he searches the junior sales manual in his head for the next step… and answers the sales objection by repeating his opening.
Kid: “…Mum says she likes to snack on chocolate sometimes.”
Dad looks, unsurprisingly, unmoved by this ‘counter-argument’, and plays along without enthusiasm.
Dad: “Right. So, they’re 3 for £1 you said?”
Kid: (sheepishly, literally selling from his heels now) “Um… they’re 3 for 1. So, you pay for one, but you get all 3.”
Dad looks at the pack. He knows he’s being hustled, because this ‘3 for 1’ deal is actually just… a 3-pack of brownies. And not a cheap pack either.
Dad: “That’s just a pack of 3. It’s not ‘3 for 1′ – I’m still paying for 3 brownies.”
The kid looks almost beaten… but not quite.
He’s still got one more card up his sleeve. Maybe he can get dear ol’ Dad to spring for these goodies after all…
Kid: “I heard that sometimes, old people need sugar because they get weak.”
Uh, nice try, Willy Loman…
Dad turns his back and hands his basket to the checkout guy. The kid looks down forlornly at his brownies, and puts them back on the shelf.
I catch sight of the ‘what went wrong?’ look on his face as his Dad starts to pay for the treat-free shopping.
So, what did go wrong?
What went wrong, wee fella, was that your sales pitch was hole-ier than the Swiss cheese in Dad’s basket.
First up, you repeated your “Mum likes snacks” lead rather than following-up with a second sales point.
Your positioning was flimsy (“they’re 3 for 1”) and your prospect saw through it right away.
A better angle here might have been “there’s 3 brownies, so we can eat them together as a family”.
Or even “they’re £1 cheaper than buying 3 separately” – but then that would only make sense if Dad was considering buying 3 brownies in the first place.
And the kid’s biggest mistake?
His final, desperate attempt at pulling a persuasive argument out of the bag with some half-remembered ‘research’:
“I heard that sometimes, old people need sugar because they get weak.”
Good gravy, man – don’t insult your prospect!
Always keep an eye on your target market’s likes and dislikes.
One thing over-worked, sleep-deprived parents do NOT like to be called is “old people”.
Still, there’s plenty of time for this young punk to develop his hustle. And at 10 years old, there’s no shame in ‘junior selling’.
Out in the wonderful world of bizniz however, these kinds of mistakes can scupper your sales faster than you can say “brownies”.
But we can learn from the nipper’s mistakes, too…
Here’s 4 simple rules for successful selling:
1 – No selling from your heels
You’re selling something cool, right? Great.
So, plant your feet firmly on the ground and show that you believe in your product – and your qualified prospect’s desire for it.
2 – Have a strong USP, but…
Yes, a strong USP is a major part of your marketing strategy. But it shouldn’t be your only selling point.
Be sure to shine a light on a handful of must-have benefits of your product, and don’t get caught re-hashing your lead to counter a buyer’s objection.
3 – Make your offer irresistible
All the fancy copywriting tricks and clever positioning in the world are just smoke & mirrors if you don’t have an offer that makes people stop in their tracks and go “wow, that’s actually a bargain”.
4 – Know your market
I know. Bum-numbingly obvs, but always, always true.
Nothing kills a sale colder and faster than your reader getting the feeling they’re being ‘sold to’ by someone from ‘the other side’.
Be like them.
Use empathy, the right language – and yes, insider jargon where necessary.
And if you’re lucky enough to be younger than your target market, don’t call them “old”.
They won’t like it, they won’t buy from you – and they may even tell you how much nicer young people were in “their day” (just kidding).
Need some help getting your brownies in baskets?
When I’m not stifling laughter at families in supermarkets, I write persuasive copy that moves people.
If that’s something you could use, let’s talk.