Using Manipulation, but in a Good Way

I was listening to the radio the other day, and there was a segment about the ways in which people and companies use persuasive tactics to communicate with and sell to their customers and prospects. Today, I want to focus on one of the three ideas. If I can remember, I might visit the other two in a future blog.

This one is called “Foot in the Door,” and the idea is that you open the dialog with a neutral topic that is designed to put the person at ease, maybe even catch him/her off guard a little bit. The example used in the radio program was a panhandler who approaches a target asking for the time. The person being asked is more likely to stop and engage because he is just being asked a question.

After getting the answer, then the panhandler asks for money. Having already stopped to answer the question, the person is apparently more likely to give up some money. The radio person did not quote any statistics about effective rates, but it worked more often than just coldly asking for money.

So how can we apply this to our selling approach? For the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on cold calling.

I often hear from clients that it is getting harder and harder to get a prospect on the phone today. People hide behind voice mail and use caller ID to screen who they speak with and when. So, when we are lucky enough to get a suspect on the phone, we really have to pull out all the stops in order to make the most of the opportunity.

Here are a couple of ways to use the “Foot in the Door” tactic.

• Ask a question.

You could say something like, “I have a question about the role that print currently plays in your marketing strategy.” The idea here is to get the person talking about what they are doing, not how or with whom. Once you get him/her to talk for a while, you can launch into who you are, what you do, and how you might be able to help.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • Deborah Corn

    Hi Kelly! I have to totally agree with the "panhandler" example – it works on me pretty much every

    I always wonder when the term "customer" is used – who is the customer is being referred to? For example, I could see asking a Marketing person the questions you pose, but a Print Buyer like me would be annoyed by them and also wonder if the caller had any clue about what I did.

    I think your approach is spot on in that a conversation about something relevant vs "Hi Im Printer X… Do you have any projects I can quote for you" is way better, but they key is relevance.

    I always suggest before you call a Print Buyer you have looked at their work and talk to them specifically about that. First, we like talking about our work, and second it shows you did a little research. If you notice there are no direct mail projects, then you have the opportunity to inquire if I knew why, and even offer to send over some DM stats for me to share with the Account Team and samples of pieces you produced with some great ROI case studies. Now you have opened the door for a follow up conversation, and since I have agreed to accept your info and package, your foot is in the door.

    If you are calling a Marketer, or a company that has a person in that role, then yes, they like talking about strategy and how they can increase ROI for their customers/companies. But the conversation should still be relevant and specific to them. Citing DM stats based on mailings by the auto industry may be of little relevance to the insurance industry for example. Again, offer to send something over and open the door for the follow up.

    You mentioned prospects hide behind VM and use Caller ID to screen calls. While hide isn’t a word I would necessarily use, I am 100% one of those people, and I don’t know many Print Buyers who aren’t. Personally, I think cold-calling has run it’s course – like martini lunches. However, to your point, if you do get a prospect on the phone be prepared, be relevant, and don’t waste the opportunity!

    Wow, you got my synapses firing – and on a Friday no less! What time is it btw? 😉